Pubdate: Sun, 27 May 2007
Source: Independent on Sunday (UK)
Copyright: Independent Newspapers Ltd.
Referenced: Why the US Is Losing Its War on Cocaine


The worldwide "war on drugs" that relies on armies and police to
destroy crops and arrest traffickers has failed. The attempt to
suppress the Latin American drugs trade at source, first decreed by
Richard Nixon in the 1970s, has achieved nothing. Despite the spending
of $25bn(UKP13bn) of US taxpayers' money, cocaine production in
Colombia, Peru and Bolivia has increased, as has cocaine consumption
in the US and the rest of the rich world.

As Hugh O'Shaughnessy argues today, the world is finally beginning to
realise that you can't beat narcotics with machine guns and
policemen's truncheons. As this newspaper reported last month, in
parts of the world where the US is not the sole decider of the policy
of the international community, more hopeful approaches are being
tried. In Afghanistan, the British Government, responsible for
security in the poppy-growing areas in the south, may be prepared to
allow opium to be produced legally for medical purposes. If the price
can be set at the right level, Afghan farmers would prefer the lower
but more certain returns of growing a legal crop to those of an
illegal one. It would bring a large sector of the Afghan economy
within the law and make diversification and development more likely.

This is an increasingly urgent issue. As our sister newspaper, The
Independent, reported last week, poppy-growing is spreading in the
lawless badlands of Iraq. This reversal of the direction of causality
from that found in Latin America, where illegal drug production leads
to instability and lawlordism, only reinforces the argument against a
punitive approach to tackling the sources of narcotics supply. Once
illegal drug production is in the hands of gangsters it becomes
difficult to prise open their grip.

Of course, the legalisation of part of the supply chain of narcotics
is not an easy, cheap or complete answer to the psychological problems
of drug dependence of a tiny minority of Westerners. But, accompanied
by expensive programmes of education and treatment, it must be more
successful than the policy of suppression that has so signally failed
over the past 30 years. 
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