Uncle Sam's global campaign to end drug abuse has empowered criminals,
corrupted governments and eroded liberty, but still there are more addicts
than ever before.
On June 6, 1998, a surprising letter was delivered to Kofi Annan, secretary
general of the United Nations. "We believe," the letter declared, "that the
global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself."
The letter was signed by statesmen, politicians, academics and other public
figures. Former UN secretary general Javier Perez de Cuellar signed. So did
George Shultz, the former American secretary of state, and Joycelyn Elders,
the former American surgeon general. Nobel laureates such as Milton
Friedman and Argentina's Adolfo Perez Esquivel added their names. Four
former presidents and seven former cabinet ministers from Latin American
countries signed. And several eminent Canadians were among the signatories.
[continues 1188 words]
continued from Part 1a:
The precedent for international drug prohibition had been set in
conferences in 1909 and 1911. At the time, a few nations, notably Canada
and Britain, were interested in international regulation of opium, but it
was the United States that instigated these conferences and prodded the
talks away from mere regulation toward total criminal prohibition. The
First World War delayed this process before prohibition could be made
internationally mandatory, however. American plans were further hampered in
the inter-war period by the refusal of the U.S. to join the League of Nations.
[continues 3777 words]
Billions Spent, But Drugs Still Sold, Used
Every society in history that could grow plants had drugs. These drugs
weren't just for stanching wounds and healing the sick. They were also
psychoactive drugs for altering sensation and consciousness. Few things can
be said to be practically universal among human societies. Psychoactive
drug use is one of them.
The Incans chewed the leaves of Erythroxylin coca, the coca bush, to
release the cocaine within. Ancient Egyptians, Romans, and many others grew
the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, which oozes the sap that becomes
opium, morphine and heroin. Buddhist Indians celebrated what we call
marijuana. Some North American aboriginals had peyote; others had
tobacco. Europeans had alcohol.
[continues 822 words]
The U.S. boasted that defeating Colombia's cartels would end the illegal
drug trade. Instead, things got worse.
BOGOTA, Colombia - They are only dark memories now, but in the 1980s and
early 1990s, Colombia's drug lords loomed large in North American
nightmares. Pablo Escobar, the ruthless chief of the Medellin cartel, was
the most infamous of all, the personification of the cocaine plague.
In 1989, pressed hard by Colombian authorities, Escobar declared "total and
absolute war." A horrified world watched as the drug lord launched an
unprecedented campaign of terror. The Colombian government responded with
its own brutal force. For the first time, the "War on Drugs" became a
[continues 4593 words]
Politicians try to solve the drug problem by destroying the source plants.
Here's why they always fail.
Cocaine, heroin, opium, marijuana: as strange and threatening as these
illegal drugs appear to most people, they are made from quite ordinary
plants. Why not destroy those plants in the field and therefore stop
dangerous drugs from ever being made?
That's a beguiling idea, and a very old one. In the 16th century, the
Marques de Canete, the Spanish viceroy of Peru, was bothered by the extent
to which Indians were chewing coca leaves, a practice that delivers a small
amount of the same drug users take when they snort cocaine today. The
Marques ordered a limit to the amount of coca that could be planted. He
even set up financial incentives to get farmers to substitute food crops
[continues 3190 words]
Mexicans call the violence and corruption spawned by illegal drug
trafficking 'Colombianization.' And they fear it could undermine their
country's progress towards becoming a developed nation.
Dan Gardner The Ottawa Citizen
TIJUANA, Mexico - Driving to work one morning in 1997, Jesus Blancornelas
entered a scene from a Quentin Tarantino film.
A car had wheeled around and blocked the street ahead of him.
As Mr. Blancornelas, a renowned Mexican newspaper editor, watched from the
passenger seat, the windows of the blockading car were rolled down.
[continues 3273 words]
U.S. Customs agents at the world's busiest crossing have an impressive
record in busting smugglers. But, the U.S. admits, 'drugs still flood in.'
SAN YSIDRO, California - The broad sidewalk is filled with pedestrians
streaming north. Alongside, across 16 lanes, hundreds of cars are lined up
to drive in the same direction.
Uniformed agents pick their way through the idling vehicles, their dogs
sniffing for the drugs that are almost certainly here, somewhere, in this
river of machines and people.
[continues 2554 words]
WAR ON DRUG SMUGGLING 'DESTRUCTIVE' AND 'SENSELESS'
A Former U.S. Drug Warrior Says The Billions Spent Battling Traffickers
Should Go Toward Treatment For Addicts And Community Development.
NEW YORK - When retired Lt.-Cmdr. Sylvester Salcedo decided to protest the
American War on Drugs, he wasn't quite sure how to go about it. No American
veteran of the fight against drugs had ever before done what Mr. Salcedo
wanted to do. So, taking his lead from veterans of the Vietnam War who
protested by returning their medals, Mr. Salcedo last November dropped his
navy Achievement Medal into a FedEx envelope and mailed it to U.S.
President Bill Clinton.
[continues 3568 words]
DO OUR DRUG LAWS HARM US MORE THAN THEY HELP?
A growing number of doctors and public health officials say criminal law
is, at best, useless in stopping the damage to health caused by drug use.
Early one morning in 1993, Alan and Eleanor Randell were startled by the
sound of the doorbell in their Victoria home. At the front door were two
police officers. "As soon as I saw them," Eleanor Randell says, her voice
shaking even now, seven years later, "I knew that there was something wrong."
[continues 4951 words]
Wiretapping, 'Reverse-Stings' All Diminish Citizens' Rights
Patrick Dorismond probably never knew that the men who killed him were
police officers. Standing on a New York City street corner one night in
March, Mr. Dorismond and his friend, Kevin Kaiser, were approached by
three men who, Mr. Kaiser later recalled, looked like "derelicts." They
asked Mr. Dorismond if he had any marijuana.
The men were undercover police officers. They didn't know Mr. Dorismond or
his friend. They had not seen him do anything suspicious. They were simply
approaching people based on a vague "profile" of where pot dealers might be
found and what they might look like. Mr. Dorismond, a black man, fit the
[continues 4353 words]
Banning Drugs Inflates Their Value. As A Result, Organized Crime Grows More
And More Powerful
On Feb. 14, 1929, three men in police uniforms and two others in civilian
clothes approached a Chicago garage known to be a shipping centre in the
illegal alcohol trade. They found seven men inside. Pointing their
machine-guns, the police ordered the men up against a wall.
As the seven stood with their hands in the air, the officers opened fire,
killing them all.
[continues 4301 words]
Trying To Enforce Drug Laws Can Sometimes Bring Out The Worst In Even The
One of the worst police corruption scandals in American history began with
3 1/2 kilograms of cocaine.
That's what Los Angeles police officer Rafael Perez stole from a police
evidence room. When he was caught, in August 1999, he agreed to talk, not
just about the theft, but also about the shootings, robberies, ferocious
beatings and other corrupt practices that were standard operating procedure
for many of the officers of his police station.
[continues 2566 words]
Evidence shows no link between the law and rate of drug use.
Most Canadians, I am sure, strongly support the criminal prohibition of
drugs such as cocaine and heroin. I am equally sure those Canadians share
one assumption about drugs that, more than anything else, is the reason
they want drugs banned. It is the idea that criminal prohibition keeps the
rate of drug use and addiction down.
Prohibition may not stop all drug use, people think, but if it were lifted,
drugs would be much cheaper. Users wouldn't fear arrest. Inevitably, drug
use and addiction would soar and society would suffer.
[continues 2287 words]
Legalization isn't perfect, but it's better than a drug ban.
Humans have used psychoactive drugs in just about every society in every
time in history. There has never been, and can never be, a "drug-free world."
If drug use will always be with us, it follows that the harms drugs can
cause will also remain. There is no "solution" to the drug problem.
That might sound resigned, but it's not. We still can, and must, make
important choices: Which drug-related harms will society cope with? Some
are worse than others. Given the range of possible drug policies we could
adopt, which policies will produce the fewest and least destructive harms?
We can't choose solutions, but we can, and do, choose our problems.
[continues 2154 words]