Before I moved to Mexico, it would have been hard for me to say I would ever speak favorably of legalizing drugs. Just didn’t seem like anything good could come from it. Well, unless you count the buzz I suppose?? But now that I have lived in a country that has been almost decimated because of illegal drugs, I’ve come to take a different perspective on legalization, and in particular, in contrast to where the “war on drugs” has left the world, some half-century later. I’m not sure, but I’m coming around to the idea that nothing good actually came from that war. Perhaps it is time to take another look at it all, and legalization, something being looked at all over Latin America now, is a key part of that.
Let me be honest, I inhaled (Come on Bill … pleeeeeeze). I grew up in the 70’s and drugs were everywhere and almost all did them at some point. I can’t say I tried them all, but I did try my share. Enough to know one very important thing. None got me as high as alcohol or even some of the medicines doctors have given me. Both very legal, and very heavily regulated products. And that is my problem with all this. If alcohol is legal, so should most recreational drugs, because few will get you as high, or disoriented, and therefore dangerous to others, as alcohol. Not to mention alcohol is pure poison! You don’t die from a pot binge like you can an alcohol binge. You call out for double pizza and go to sleep, but you don’t die.
I ask people all the time this hypothetical; if you had to get into one of only four available cars, no choice, the bad guys are chasing you, and one driver had too much pot, one had too much cocaine, one had too much Oxycontin and one had too much Jack Daniels, list the order you would choose the car you would get into. Don’t say none, because that is not a choice. Most finally choose the pot guy first. They figure if he runs into something, he’ll be driving pretty slow. Any who have ever done cocaine, choose that driver as the second choice, because they know that cocaine, makes you euphoric, but not dangerously disoriented. Again, not someone you want driving you either, but out of the four, most take the coke guy second. The two legal products, Jack Daniels and Oxycontin, are everyone’s last choice. Opiate pharmaceuticals, legal and regulated, make you so you can’t even walk, much less, drive. Alcohol, even more so. So the two drugs that most find the least dangerous to others, are the illegal ones, and the legal and regulated ones, are the most dangerous. Hmmmm?
Having said that, when you look at most of the problems drugs do to the world, it is because they are “illegal”, which among other things, creates a black market. That black market is a source of so many of our problems, violence, being at the top of the list. It is really bad because, for the most part, Mexico is a very non-violent place and culture. Almost all the geographic area of Mexico has very low violent crime rates. Take out the border areas next to the US, the largest consumers of South American cocaine, and a few veins from both coasts, and the rest of the country is very safe and free of violence. But because of that violence, and it is really an enormous amount of violence in the areas it exists, it has affected all of us here in Mexico. Every day, there are people who will not get off their cruise ship because they are afraid of getting robbed, mugged or bandido-ed in some way. In Mahahual! Mexican Mayberry for crying out loud! The economic fall-out from that is much larger than its effects on me too, that is for sure.
In addition to the violence, the black market drug industry also creates a parallel economy outside of any country’s normal economy, unhealthy in so many ways. The sad reality that all must come to terms with, is that the money from the illegal drug trade has infiltrated the mainstream business economy to the point, it would be impossible to weed out the problem now. Giant corporations and banks are now part of the laundering process, and many are in that “too large to bust” category. If the US can bail out criminals at banks that were “too large to fail”, what’s the difference? The cost of cleaning up the dirty money would be far more than it would be worth. Again, perhaps it is time to look at making these drugs legal, and bringing most of that illegal money into the mainstream economy.
Making drugs legal will make a real industry out of what is now, just a black market. Just like alcohol, the makers and growers of what is today illegal drugs, will be tomorrows gazillionaires, like the ones who own Budweiser, Miller and Jack Daniels, and nobody will be shooting at them in the process. What’s the difference? The difference is that if it is legal, nobody is going to get killed or their heads chopped off, and CNN and Fox will have to move on to another important line of crap. The difference is that products like marijuana, a common product grown in Mexico, will become a cash crop instead, and used just like the corn and sugar we grow to make rum and whiskey. The difference is a cash strapped government like ours in Mexico, or those in South America that produce cocaine, would make revenue off these products instead of it going into a counter productive economy that benefits only a few. The difference is that people will get off the cruise ships and come into our wonderful and peaceful little town and not be afraid of a boogy man that in fact, doesn’t exist here. Oh, and did I mention, nobody will get killed, except maybe the guy who uses them irresponsibly. (Thinning the herd) Again, just like alcohol.
Between the fact that we have legal alcohol and pharmaceuticals everywhere, and the history of Las Vegas, I just keep going back to why are we making all this illegal. The Las Vegas model is the perfect solution toward moving all toward a more responsible way of dealing with drugs and the simple fact that people enjoy getting high. When we made booze and gambling illegal, look at all the crime is developed. Again, a black market does that. Make baby formula illegal and we’ll have people killing each other over that I’m sure. But when we said, okay, mafia, you can have booze and gambling, just let us regulate (tax) it, and all became fine. Today, boozing, whoring and gambling are legal and fine in Vegas and most pay their taxes, employ people, tourist are having fun, and most off all, nobody is getting killed. Not perfect but far, far better than before, so it works for me!
At the end of the day, I think the war on drugs was intended to make our society safe. People walking around, driving or working around others when they are high is not safe. It is understandable. But if the enforcement of laws needed to bring that about cause more problems than the drugs themselves, we might need to look at it again. Not sure, but it might be more like what Chris Rock says, “It’s not if you do drugs, but whose drugs you do”, than anything. One has to wonder, why is it when we have products like alcohol and pharmaceuticals that are legal, and can impair you far worse, are we only banning drugs by the “wrong” people? Have we legalized the drugs by the “good” people, Merck, Pfyzer, Miller and Jack Daniels, while Jose and Juan’s are somehow ‘Bad”?
Legalize and regulate drugs that are currently illegal in the same way we regulate all adult behavior and products is probably a better solution. When we decided as a nation to educate Americans about the concept of “drink responsibly”, we took a very dangerous product and got people to use it safely. Today, in spite of the gigantic amounts of booze consumed each day, we have fewer and fewer cases of people hurting others because of their use of those products. The Las Vegas model shows the same thing. My guess is the same public awareness about the dangers of drugs, would produce responsible drug users as well. The few who do abuse them, like alcohol, will still be many times less the effect on society as a whole, than the fallout we see today from making drugs illegal.
You do not have to be a drug user to buy into the legalization concept. You just need to be someone tired of the violence, costs and problems that illegal drugs cause us all. Legalization is not a perfect answer, but compared to the problems of today’s war on drugs, it looks like the best answer. That, or figure out why people like to get high and drunk and perhaps we can just get them to stop. Naw, I’ll stick to the just “legalize it” road.
Think about it.