Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Illegal Drugs - Dancing with the Devil

            This is not an easy issue. I’ve tried to put aside my biases and previously conceived ideas and to look honestly and dispassionately at this issue and all I can say is, sometimes you have to dance with the devil.
            Are you watching the aptly named ‘Border Wars’ on the National Geographic channel? If you aren’t aware of the war going on along the US/Mexico border, you need to get your head out of the sand. Every day cartels in Mexico attempt to ship huge amounts of marijuana and other illegal drugs into the US to feed the insatiable American demand. It’s a multi-billion dollar a year industry. It funds a shadow government of thugs and terrorists. Innocent men, women and children in Mexican border towns are unable to go about their normal lives for fear of being caught in the frequent cross-fires between rival drug gangs. I hope you won’t brush this off like one man I heard who said, ‘Well, that’s a foreign country’. His callous attitude left me speechless. Don’t brush it off. It isn’t a matter of there being cartels in Mexico and none in the US. The difference is that they’re more organized there. When criminal groups in the US start organizing and consolidating, as they surely will – the huge financial potential guarantees it, we’ll see dead bodies pile up in our streets, too.
            The illegal drug industry is a gushing faucet pouring billions of dollars out of this country every year and putting it into the hands of monsters who use it to buy political influence and to secure their murderous regimes. Why can’t we extract one of the fangs of that monster? Why can’t we remove marijuana from the list of illegal drugs?
            For the record, I don’t partake. This is not a self-serving position. Tobacco is my drug of choice and it kills more people every year than all the illicit drugs combined. And it’s legal. I say we should legalize marijuana. Standardize the THC content, educate the public as with the recent successful anti-smoking campaigns, regulate it like we regulate alcohol, and tax it.
            Is this a question of morality? Yes. Absolutely. Admit that we live in an imperfect world and that our choices are usually between imperfect alternatives. If you admit that you’ll begin to see that this is a question of whether it is more immoral to legalize marijuana or to continue to fund a vicious, murderous, criminal element. It’s impossible for me to see the issue as a choice between good and bad. I can only see it as a choice between bad and horrendous. We made that choice with alcohol, which may be a more dangerous drug than marijuana, and we made it with tobacco, which certainly is. I haven’t heard the term in years, but when I was a kid the tax on alcohol and tobacco was called the ‘sin tax’. It was accepted that people were going to consume substances which could be harmful to them. It was accepted that sometimes you have to dance with the devil.
            Moreover, we would all agree that our government has a moral obligation to protect its citizens, to provide for each of us a reasonable expectation of safety and security. But the policy of criminalizing marijuana has created a growing atmosphere of danger and insecurity, especially for poor inner-city communities. If we continue blindly down this path we can only make the situation worse. The argument could be made that, in order to protect its citizens, the US government has an obligation to legalize marijuana so as to deny gangs and cartels the opportunity to consolidate and become more firmly established institutions in this country. I sigh deeply as I hear myself saying that we should give government further institutional control, but in an imperfect world we have to choose between evils, and this is a lesser evil than allowing cartels to seize that power through bribery, coercion and murder.
            What if marijuana were legalized? Put emotion aside for a moment and consider the practical benefits. 1) It would partially disarm a powerful criminal element both in Mexico and in the US. 2) It wouldn’t be a shot in the arm for American farmers, it would be a transfusion. 3) It would pare down the government bureaucracy and save taxpayers millions of dollars. 4) The tax revenues would be a welcome addition to suffering local, state and federal coffers. 5) It would keep dollars in this country instead of shipping them to foreign hands.
            It’s a difficult issue. In a perfect world we wouldn’t have to make these choices. In a perfect world this wouldn’t even be an issue. This isn’t a perfect world. I come to the end of my argument and I realize that this isn’t, after all, a question of whether or not we will dance with the devil but a question of whether or not we will choose to dance with a lesser devil.
            Don’t stop here. Study the issue. Why is marijuana illegal? How many drug related murders occur in the US every year? How did Prohibition contribute to the rise of organized crime (the ‘mob’)? These are a very few areas to get you started. And remember William Drummond’s observation: “He that will not reason is a bigot; he that cannot reason is a fool; he that dares not reason is a slave.”

            Light a candle.