Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

-C.S. Lewis

Monday, May 23, 2005

War on Drugs

What exactly is the point of drugs being illegal in this or any country? Sadly, like most other social control laws, I feel it exists mostly to make those who pass it feel good about themselves. Honestly, is there a shred of difference between bootleggers during prohibition and the street gangs who sell drugs today? I spent a year living in Vancouver, B.C. working with street kids there. It was pretty sad to see the kids who were struggling with addiction. Even sadder to see the runaway kids who came to the streets without a drug problem only to be addicted as any of them just a few months later. But the most disturbing part of any of this was on welfare day. It was amazing to see the kids on that day because that’s when they had to turn all that getting clean rhetoric into action. All of a sudden they had money, and at that point each one of them had to decide whether they had already taken their last hit, or they hadn’t. Sadly, most of them opted for “one” more fix, so it was off to the dealers. So that money, fresh from the Canadian government, in one of the more efficient transfers of resources I’ve seen in my life, went directly to the gangs who controlled the drug trade.

I’m not sure how large a chunk of the dealers revenues came from welfare checks (or how much of the welfare in Vancouver went right to dealers), but for me that’s not really the point. What I saw was a struggle both sides of which the government was directly funding. The gangs were getting money from the government in the form of purchases from welfare recipients and I presume that the police get their salaries from the government, too. Now I say nothing about the rightness or wrongness or welfare payments here, merely the fact that this situation highlighted for me the inefficiency and meaninglessness of the drug war. I bet that somewhere there is a gun, purchased with government money, loaded with armor piercing bullets, purchased with government money, that killed an officer of the law, who was working, of course, for the government.

In my view, the worst part of the whole drug thing are the huge swaths of our cities that are almost completely disinvested. The gangs that control the drug trade have such a hold on their turf, that all other business and investment basically shuts down. If drugs were legal, I have a feeling that the gangs who fight over turf, kill their rivals, shoot at each other from cars, intimidate residents, and generally wield their power, would quickly become akin to the 4-H club. Without the steady stream of income, the drug dealing street gangs, just like the bootleggers 85 years ago, would completely dry up. Street gangs aren’t just crazy people running around shooting kids. They are well organized, extremely profitable, drug dealing businesses. Take away their source of income and they go away too. I'm not talking about the dawn of Utopia, just the fact that gangs do not do what they do for fun, they do it for money. When they go away, the fear goes away with them, and when the fear goes, the money and the jobs come back.

People will still do drugs of course, and I suppose there’s not much we can or even should do about that. I think education is valuable, but doing drugs to the point of self-annihilation isn’t about how much you know or don’t know, it’s about self-hatred. But I digress. The point being that in both scenarios, drugs legal or drugs illegal, addiction and all its attendant sadness and depair still exist, whereas in the drugs legal scenario, the whole “underworld” component just disappears.

Caruthers said...

This is exactly how I feel. Thank you Horatio for giving a voice to my inner feelings.

Peter said...

YOU IDIOT!!!! You hate America.

granny said...

Right, get it into a forum that can seep into the public conciousness.

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