Friday, June 15, 2018

Still Losing the Drug War

Today's El Tiempo reports the boom in coca leaf cultivation.
It should be great news. Production of this Colombian product has more than tripled in the last several years. But unfortunately, we're talking about an illegal harvest: coca leaf destined for cocaine.

Nobody's sure why coca leaf cultivation has boomed in recent years. Perhaps the FARC encouraged farmers to plant more, with promises that one day they'd be paid to erradicate their own crops? Well, if the Marxist FARC are capable of such a capitalist wonder, then the government should put them in charge of turbocharging other parts of the economy, such as the beleagured textile industry.

The reality. Coca leaf acreage
is booming.
In fact, the only reasonable explanation is that more demand generates more supply. Evidently, traffickers are succeeding in smuggling cocaine out of Colombia. In Europe, for example, cocaine prices have been stable recently, but purity has increased.

Colombian and United States anti-drug warriors, who have poured billions of dollars and untold numbers of lives into the war against cocaine, are recycling the same old ideas which have failed before: manual and aerial erradication and encouraging alternative crops. The government also proposes deepening the military's role as an anti-drug force - an arrangement which will confront soldiers against the same poor population which they mostly come from.

But even if those strategies did work, they'd only push more coca leaf acreage into Peru and Bolivia,
The fantasy: Colombian plans
to reduce coca leaf acreage.
as has happened before.

In Afghanistan, another nation with tremendous U.S. influence, a different drug crop - heroin - has also boomed.

Isn't it time to admit defeat, legalize these substances, and reduce their harm?

The boom in coca plantations is also one cause behind Colombia's accelerating deforestation. If coca plantations were legal, then farmers would lose incentive to chop down jungle to hide their plots, and the state and consumers could exercise at least some influence about how and where coca wase planted.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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