Sunday, August 29, 2010

Political and Social Reasons Not To Do Drugs

I thought I would take a few minutes to share my thoughts on why, aside from the health and personal problems, and legal risks, anyone, but especially the socially liberal, should not use illegal drugs.

Keep in mind that as a Libertarian, I acknowledge that most of these reasons are more related to the ridiculous War on Drugs and the unconstitutional prohibition on recreational narcotic use in the United States.  Until, however, our current drug policy changes, there are several political, social, and moral reasons why anyone (but especially leftists) should refrain from illegal drug use.

First of all, the violence.  Both on the streets of the United States, and across the world, the drug trade is full of violence and death.  How many people died in the process of growing, processing, packaging, and relocating the bowl of pot that you just smoked?

More important to the leftists, however, is that drugs are really a weapon in class warfare.  I mean that in several ways.  First of all, when was the last time the head of a major cartel or street gang was imprisoned?  I can't remember.  The "major" busts that we read about on the news involve the discovery of large quantities of drugs and money.  Well, in the world these cartels operate in, both drugs and money are replaceable.  So are the poor, who are usually the people (whether in America or abroad) apprehended with the money and drugs.  With technology and financial options becoming more enhanced, when was the last time someone at the top of one of these criminal organizations was stopped?  Even when they are, they serve out their sentences in white collar prisons.  Or, in some foreign countries, like Colombia, where Escobar served, in prisons that are more like personal palaces.  Do you think that anyone was shuttling the street level pushers who went down for selling Escobar's coke to and from soccer games?

Let's look at the classist aspects of the illegal drug trade from start to finish.

Production.  Poor farmers are the most likely to be tempted (or pressured) into growing coca, heroin, and marijuana.  In fact, the class war aspect of this goes back beyond this decision.  Many drug producing regions are the victims of protectionist U.S. agricultural policies.  For years, Latin American countries enjoyed thriving exports of sugar, bananas, and coffee to the United States.  Suddenly, when Asian countries could produce the same products, and gained "favored nation" status, the Latin Americans couldn't compete.  When American countries moved directly into East Asian nations (i.e. Thailand, Indonesia, etc.), often subsidized by the United States governments, Latin American farmers were left high and dry.

These are the farmers targeted by the wealthy individuals behind the Latin American end of the drug trade.  They don't have much to lose, and have a lot to gain.  Because of U.S. subsidies to its farmers and manufacturers, even many products used in their own countries are imported from outside the region.  Due to U.S. and Latin American subsidies, the small farmers cannot afford to compete with the large, corporate farms.  They have small family plots which they are risking, but the gains can be huge.  It is, in fact, these farmers, not the Escobars, Ochoas, or other cartel-heading families, who suffer when fields are fumigated or burned.  The cartels will move on to the next farmer.  The rural poor have lost their crop and their only source of income.

In trafficking, money, drugs, and big players are kept as separate as possible.  This means that the individuals actually carrying drugs across international borders are unlikely to be the wealthy individuals responsible for either the U.S. or the international aspects of the business.  At one time, they were likely to be fairly wealthy, as they probably owned boats or planes.  With improved enforcement of the U.S. border, however, the methods for trafficking drugs have changed.  It is now far more likely that an individual will be driving a car with false panels, or even carrying drugs inside their body.  The "mules" who are recruited to do this are usually poor and desperate individuals, either looking to make fast cash and a paid-for vacation, or looking for the financial means to enter the United States.  At the very least, they put their freedom in jeopardy.  At worst, they engage in physically dangerous methods of transporting narcotics, including swallowing, or inserting into their body in other ways, condoms and balloons filled with highly toxic chemicals.  Meanwhile, the cartel leaders sit at home at either end of the route collecting the payouts.  The violence has erupted (again) in the border cities of northern Mexico.  Do you think the real movers and shakers in the drug trade are anywhere near this border?  Were any of their daughters disappearing on bus rides home from maquiladores in Juarez for the last 20 years?  Were any of their heads found on the steps of an Acapulco night club?  No.  The poor along the Mexican border, and throughout the coastal states of Mexico, are the ones suffering right now.

When drugs hit the streets, again, the drugs, the money, and the key players are kept separate.  The violence of street gangs is directed at other low-level players in the game, and the police often apprehend these low level players, since they are the ones actually making physical transactions involving the drugs.  Meanwhile, gang leaders sit at home and collect the money.

Even drug use is classist and prejudiced.  While middle aged, middle class white users, along with celebrities and star athletes, use the (relatively) safe and pure drugs (cocaine, marijuana, abusing prescriptions, etc.); people of color, gays, and the youth often wind up caught up in more synthetic, processed, and therefor dangerous drugs, like crack cocaine, crystal meth, and ecstasy.

Even enforcement is skewed along racist, homophobic, ageist, and classist lines.  The penalties for crack, crystal meth, and ecstasy use are relatively harsh compared to those for other drugs, with ecstasy (used by the youth, but mostly the upper-middle class white youth) having strangely lenient requirements for crossing from misdemeanor "personal" use to felony "commercial" use.  This leads to a cycle of young, poor people of color being killed by and incarcerated for drug use at a higher rate than their older, wealthier, straighter, and whiter counterparts.

In fact, the imprisonment for drug use among poor youth, and in particular poor youth of color, could very well be seen as perpetuating the racial gap in this country.  Poor teens of color are put into prisons and juvenile detention facilities for relatively minor, nonviolent crimes associated with drug possession.  There, they are locked up with and surrounded by killers, burglars, rapists, and other violent criminals.  To survive, they often must turn to prison gangs.  These prison gangs teach them how to become hardened criminals.  When they are released, they have new knowledge, new skills, and new connections, which enable them to enter deeper into the world of crime.  We send away young black men as kids who may have experimented with, or even sold a bag or two of, drugs.  When they are released, they are criminals, with few options, and fewer inhibitions.

What proponents of drug use need to realize is this.  The real culprits here, and the ones making the real money off of all of this pain and suffering, are not the street level dealers.  They are successful business men, sitting in mansions in California, Florida, New York, Chicago, and around the world.  They have stash houses full of cash, and bank accounts with lots of zeros.  And they are all connected.  So when you smoke a bowl of your (you think) guilt free pot, or do a line of your (you think) safe cocaine, you are actually supporting the same network of wealthy, middle aged men who are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Again, I acknowledge that the ultimate responsibility for many of these deaths actually lies in the oppressive prohibition on personal choice which has been imposed by the U.S. government when it comes to drugs.  We spend millions of dollars, and take millions of lives, in an attempt to control our individual choices.  My first suggestion would be that everyone advocate for a sensible drug policy in the United States.  Until that happens, however, anyone who leans to the left politically, or who is socially and morally conscious, should stop using illegal drugs.

No comments:

Post a Comment