Pubdate: Sun, 16 Dec 2012
Source: Jamaica Gleaner, The (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2012 The Gleaner Company Limited


If the years of Prohibition taught the United States nothing else, it
should have been that laws for which there is little, or no, popular
consensus are not only likely to be treated with disdain, but also
breed corruption.

So, during the ban on alcohol, speakeasies flourished and mobsters
like Al Capone 'owned' law-enforcement officers and public officials.
Dry America was a boon for the Mafia.

Nearly 80 years after the lifting of Prohibition, America is fighting,
and losing, another of these battles of morality. Only, this time, the
fight has spread far beyond its borders, with deleterious consequences
for many of its neighbours, including Jamaica.

It is high time, therefore, that America resolve its internal
differences and find a better way to manage the demand of its citizens
for narcotics, rather than its interminable, and ineffective, War on
Drugs. There are, perhaps, lessons for the federal government to learn
from how an increasing number of states have sought to regulate the
sale and consumption of marijuana, or ganja, to most Jamaicans.

America, per capita, is perhaps the world's largest consumer of
narcotics. And, as is the case with most other products, it is a rich
market - made more lucrative because of the premium for illegality -
in which foreign suppliers want to thrive.

America's influence and power keep these drugs illegal not only in its
national territory, but in supplier nations. The result is the
corruption and violence that have engulfed many of America's southern
neighbours, of which Mexico is now the extreme example, as
narco-traffickers of cocaine and other drugs jostle for market supremacy.


Jamaica, whose geographic location makes it a significant
trans-shipment point for narcotics heading from South to North
America, and elsewhere, also knows the consequences of this
crime-fuelled competition. Many of the illegal guns in Jamaica are
linked to the narcotics trade.

Indeed, narco-criminals threaten the stability and security of many
Latin American and Caribbean states. This situation is unlikely to
change once demand for drugs remains high in the United States and the
reward for taking risk of supplying it remains extraordinary.

In the case of alcohol, criminality surrounding its distillation and
sale receded when Prohibition was lifted and its manufacture and
marketing became normal business activities. To help compensate for
the health and social risks associated with the consumption of
alcohol, its sale is subject to regulation and often high taxes.

It is a similar approach that has been taken by Washington state and
Colorado, which have made the recreational use of ganja legal,
although possession and use of the drug remain federal offences. More
than a dozen other American states have decriminalised marijuana use.

The fact that marijuana is not considered to be in the same category
of hard drugs like cocaine makes it a good starting point for a new
American conversation on, and rethink of, its War on Drugs and the
collateral damage that it leaves in countries like Jamaica - guns,
crime, instability.

A perhaps important point to be noted by America's federal lawmakers
is that the US is close to self-sufficiency in ganja, most of it grown
in small quantities by individuals. That, we believe, should tell them
something about how Americans feel about the prohibition of the drug.
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