Blood Highs: A Call for Fair Trade Dope

Mar 21, 2011
Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice.

Getting high is not for everybody, but to the multitudes that do indulge, here’s a factoid to harsh the glow: chances are that someone died for your buzz.

More than 10,000 drug war orphans were created in Mexico alone during 2009. On any given single day, south-of-the-border death tolls linked to narco squabbles can reach alarming totals of 40 or more—alarming and also commonplace.

The factors triggering these deaths are simple and obvious. Even a blazing pothead won’t be surprised to learn that non-corporate drugs are illegal. By definition, everyone involved in the DIY drug industry is a criminal. Criminals carry and traffic guns. And guns kill people.

The view from inside police headquarters at Praxedis G. Guerrero, a town near El Paso, Texas, that is on the front lines of Mexico&39;s drug war. (Photo: Gael Gonzalez/Reuters)

If self-prescribed drugs were decriminalized in, let's say, the world’s biggest market for them, then activity around producing and selling those drugs might also be far less criminal. Hostile takeovers could be handled by teams of lawyers rather than by squads of pistoleros in Ford Lobos.

Let’s refrain from labeling the United States as the world’s biggest market for illicit dope. But at an estimated $141.5 billion spent per year, America's criminalized drug consumer base is big enough to make an impact. Freeing all those users from the stigma of illegal activity would, for instance, alter the charter of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Reports suggest that the DEA has come to function as an international militarized wing of the U.S. Department of Justice. Under-armed governments throughout the developing world are said to rely upon the DEA as a de facto enforcer in controlling insurgent populaces. As reported by the New York Times, the DEA now has 87 offices in 63 countries and is seen by many regimes as a more effective ally for internal intelligence than the CIA.

If drug use were attacked with harm reduction rather than with war, the U.S. would need a fresh rationale for keeping the DEA around.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) is an organization comprising former heads of state, global policymakers, the Elders, and Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson. The Global Commission’s goal is to find “humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs to people and societies.”

Statistics can lie, but not when they positively conclude that the American-led war on drugs is neither humane nor effective. To this day, every individual dose of illicit drugs that reaches the peaceful, well-intentioned stateside consumer arrives with the probability that someone has been killed, or bribed or incarcerated somewhere along its route.

Perhaps one day the vast consumer base of U.S. drug users will embrace its country’s official policy of prohibition. On that day, the illegal drug market will dry up, territorial killings will cease, democratic institutions will function with less risk of corruption and military intervention, and illegal arms smuggling and the global drug networks will go the way of Blockbuster Video.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy is not holding its breath, and neither should anyone else who cares or is involved (except maybe to maximize the effects of a bong rip).

The GCDP next meets on June 2 and 3 in New York City. It is expected to outline steps toward implementing international drug policies that emphasize harm reduction. The report will not present a fair-trade, conflict-free high for addicts or social dabblers. But it may very well present common-sense, humane alternatives to a cruel and entrenched policy that has, so far, succeeded best at supporting criminal behavior and quasi-military government agencies.

Watch for the report and pass it along—to your friends, to your colleagues, and to your elected servants.

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