Many rich, powerful people have always wanted poor people out of their neighborhoods to reduce their political involvement, organization, presence, and awareness of economic inequities. And when money determines the outcomes of elections, legislation, court cases, and who lives and who dies, the rich almost always get what they want. Politicians are not getting most of their votes (or money) from poor people most in need of help, so they are not influenced by them. Furthermore, immigrants who don’t have legal citizenship, the homeless, people ruled “mentally incompetent” or “incapacitated” in court, ex-felons, and even entire ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations are barred from voting in many regions of the world.
According to US Census data gathered from November 2016, 69.4 percent of eligible black people reported they were registered to vote and only 57.3 percent of eligible Latinos reported they were registered to vote.1 As low as this sounds, this actually represented a significant increase in registration compared to previous elections. Many choose to abstain from voting because they are understandably so disillusioned with the whole political process. As stated the electoral college picks the President in the US anyway, not the public. But the fact that so many are simply unable to vote is illustrative of how racist, ableist, sexist, and classist the system continues to be.
Lawmakers allow big banks to turn poor cities into abandoned, foreclosed ghettos by giving poor people loans with incredibly high interest rates for homes they know they can’t afford, and when they are kicked out of their houses, many either become homeless or are forced to relocate to sparsely populated regions where housing is more affordable and they will be unseen by the rich. Banks will then put their old property on the market for virtually nothing, knowing rich investors (sometimes aided by companies like “Condo Vultures”) will buy the property, refurbish it, and resell it to mostly wealthy, white people for an enormous profit. This process of gentrification pushes minorities and the poor to the outskirts, and it is aided by a system that allows poorly-funded schools to go bankrupt while large US liquor companies and gun manufacturers are subsidized. It is also a system that more harshly punishes minorities and the poor for their drugs of choice than it does affluent white people for their drugs of choice. Black people and other minorities have been and still are often used as mere tools in America to increase the fear and hatred of illicit drugs by association. Illicit drugs have always been portrayed by the American government as a threat to capitalism, consumerism, “family values,” and their dogma, and rules.
The illicit drug trade is one of the only trades accessible to everyone. No education or experience is required to stand on a corner with a gun and a bag – just a willingness to take the risk. Of course, poverty changes people and it can motivate many to do desperate or dangerous things to stay alive. By criminalizing drugs and cutting their supply short, governments inflate their prices, and in the absence of good, alternative economic opportunities, some individuals see no other option but to sell drugs. Guns, the drug trade, despair, and the abuse and glamorization of alcohol and unhealthy lifestyle choices destroy poor neighborhoods. Murders, bankruptcies, foreclosures, and arrests often increase until there is not much left.
The war on drugs plainly has nothing to do with public safety or drugs and everything to do with the people using them, as well as the money prohibition creates. The war on drugs, in fact, kills hundreds of thousands (perhaps even millions) every year. The exact numbers are hard to ascertain because while overdose deaths can be counted, deaths from drug wars aren’t always. The drug war also causes a great deal of immeasurable pain and suffering. People from all walks of life are affected. Families are destroyed by the deaths and addictions of their family members and there are losses on all sides. The prohibition of drugs has increased nearly every type of crime because illegal markets feed each other. The criminalization of drugs has also pushed addicts into the shadows and turned their health problems into “crimes.”
The high prices drug dealers usually charge do not discourage most people who are interested or addicted to them from buying them. Most often they cause addicts to become impoverished faster and resort to more extreme measures to feed their addictions. Millions of non-violent drug offenders (who certainly don’t fall into one economic, racial, or social taxonomy) are also imprisoned for casually using non-addictive drugs like cannabis every year. These people can become violent in prison because most prisons are vile places that condition inmates to be more violent and hostile to defend themselves from the abuse of guards and other inmates. They don’t purposefully rehabilitate anyone. Only a few inmates ever “rehabilitate” due to their own personal strength, vigilance, and support. Any prison that still uses solitary confinement as a punishment (and almost all do in America) has no regard for the mental health of inmates incarcerated there. Many prisons even regularly use torture2 and sensory deprivation, so the idea that are “rehabilitation centers” is a bad joke.
Imprisoning drug addicts is a flagrant abuse of state power (not to imply there is ever a proper use of state power). If a drug addict commits a violent crime or drives while intoxicated, some kind of punishment (not meted out by the state, of course) or rehabilitation is reasonable because this behavior can put other people’s lives at risk. But this can be prevented by reducing the will for reckless, destructive and self-destructive behavior. The majority of drug addicts only harm themselves. These people do not deserve to be punished any further. Most people who use drugs are also not addicts, and they have no difficulty using drugs responsibly and in moderation. The majority of all drug users only use cannabis, which is one of the most harmless and beneficial substances on Earth when used in moderation. According to national survey data3 conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2016, of the 28,564 people surveyed who reported using an illicit drug in the last month, 23,981 of them used cannabis. Only 1,874 used cocaine, 667 used meth, and just 475 used heroin. The second most used category of drugs was prescription pills by a large margin.
The only reason people are incarcerated for using certain drugs is because the government wants to control and profit from them. The war on drugs is a war on people, and it is one of the most effective ways governments control us. Tobacco addicts and alcoholics do not go to prison simply for their addictions. So if the supposed function of drug criminalization was truly to ensure public safety, why would an exception be made for alcohol, tobacco and other harmful legal drugs, which kill far more people? The real reasons alcohol and tobacco are legal are not known by many people, but they are vitally important to understand to comprehend the internal motives for the war on drugs.
5.2 The Real Reasons for the Selective Criminalization of Drugs
According to the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, (21 USC 321) drugs are “articles recognized in the official United States Pharmacopeia, official Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States, or official Natural Formulary…and articles intended for the use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in man or other animals and articles other than food intended to affect the structure of any function of the body of man or other animals.” While tobacco and alcohol are drugs too, they are not recognized as medicine and they are not even considered drugs in this piece of legislation.
There is also an odd distinction made between drugs and food (and beverages), not just in this Act but in most cultures worldwide. Most people believe foods are somehow distinct from drugs, but most drugs can be absorbed by the digestive tract, meaning they can be consumed orally. Raw opium, psychedelic mushrooms, certain alcohol based or oil based marijuana extracts, and many other drugs that grow naturally can be eaten. Many products that are officially recognized as foods or beverages can have equally profound neurochemical effects on the brain as so-called “drugs.” Bovine milk and foods derived from it like cheese, for example, contain casein, (aged, expensive cheese usually contains more casein than cheap, young cheese) which breaks down into casomorphin, an opioid peptide, once ingested.
Certain sugars and chocolate can also have significant neurochemical effects. Chocolate increases neurotransmission of serotonin. Theobromine, the alkaloid of the cacao plant found in chocolate is a phosphodiesterase inhibitor. It is also made naturally by the body when caffeine is consumed. Caffeine, another drug/beverage, is a white crystalline alkaloid in its pure form and a psychomotor stimulant (like cocaine) that acts as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Caffeine also increases neurotransmission of acetylcholine, dopamine, serotonin, glutamate, and other neurotransmitters. Chocolate and caffeine both have medical uses and long term effects on health. Of course, alcohol is another beverage with significant neurochemical effects. It affects GABA, serotonin, nicotinic acetylcholine, and glycine receptors. It also inhibits NMDA and other channels. Exercise also releases natural endogenous opiates. Does this mean we should outlaw cheese, caffeine (this has been done), physical exercise, or the very chemicals made naturally in our bodies? Of course, we shouldn’t. (Everyone would have to go to prison.) The distinction made between legal and illegal substances is not a rational, scientific, or consistent one, but one forced on us in every state.
More than one billion people on Earth – nearly one of every six – smoke tobacco, and about seven million people die from tobacco-related illness every year4, which is about two million more than the number of people who died in the Second Congo War. Almost two million died from alcohol in 2011. Tobacco is the cause of 1 in 10 adult deaths, and it is the single most preventable cause of death according to the World Health Organization, yet every illicit drug combined only killed about 183,000 people worldwide in 2012.5
This disparity in the death tolls is not caused by the legal status of either drug or even by differences in their potential to cause physical harm. The real reason legal drugs kill far more people is because they are aggressively marketed and people are misinformed about their health effects by greedy corporations and politicians who will talk endlessly about the dangers of cannabis, a drug that no one has ever died from (because it is virtually impossible to do so6) and not say a word about alcohol, tobacco, or pharmaceutical drugs because they generate tax revenue.
Many “anti-drug” crusaders believe that if illicit drugs were made legal they would kill just as many people as licit drugs but as mentioned cannabis has killed no one, and illicit, potentially lethal drugs would only kill as many people if corporations sold these drugs in the same ways that they do liquor and cigarettes and politicians supported them with subsidies, as they do with tobacco and alcohol companies. Anti-drug fundamentalists fundamentally misunderstand why people use and abuse drugs, and there is a difference. People know they shouldn’t regularly consume something that could eventually kill them. The only reason they do is because they either don’t know how dangerous it is or they are in pain and they don’t care about their health.
We don’t need a law about meth addiction any more than we do a law about drinking bleach. We do not declare war on cleaning products just because some are lethal if ingested. People who feel they very much need a coping mechanism abuse drugs, both licit and illicit, and the only reason licit ones are more often abused is because they are widely regarded as safer and more socially acceptable. But making certain substances illegal doesn’t prevent people who don’t care about their health from using them. Being against drug abuse and the suffering it causes also isn’t the same as being “anti-drug.” Being mad at a substance is beyond childish. The problems that create the will to abuse drugs should be targeted instead. One can be staunchly against drug abuse and support their legalization because if drugs are legalized and distributed in responsible ways this would prevent drug abuse, addiction, and indiscriminate violence from spreading.
There is no reason anyone should be incarcerated purely because of an addiction. Alcohol and tobacco addiction are treated as public health concerns, not criminal problems, (even though alcohol consumption significantly increases crime rates as well,) and all drugs should be treated as such. Free information ought to be available about every drug, their effects, and their potential consequences as well.
Just as drug laws don’t prevent many people from using them, they also don’t prevent their sale. The threat of prison means little to a hardened, poor drug dealer living in a slum with no other clear opportunities. Good education is costly and often necessary to get a good job, so poor drug dealers can either risk their freedom and lives and make enough or work at retail chains for minimum wage. Those are the two most available, evident options in many poor regions across the world. They are not offered the abundance of lucrative and satisfying opportunities that those with money are afforded. Selling drugs is hardly the “easy way out” because of the risks involved and it’s not fair to judge dealers so harshly when they are faced with such grim options.
Drug abuse and the peddling of hard drugs are not deterred by threatening or punishing people in pain. They are deterred by showing compassion and reducing the will for these acts by improving people’s lives, and we need to take the crime out of the drug trade in order for there to be less drug-related violence and addiction. People need to be better informed about drugs, their effects and their differences, and they need to be given a reason to value themselves and feel less self-destructive. Not all drugs are the same, and the cause of most overdoses is the widespread misconceptions about the differences between licit and illicit drugs. If alcohol and tobacco remained legal, but were never advertised or glorified, casual usage and addiction would decline.
When some people imagine the legalization of drugs, they picture billboards for heroin and TV ads for methamphetamine and certainly no one would advocate that, (except perhaps for current drug kingpins who would not thrive in environments that don’t criminalize drugs). Police efforts to eradicate drugs do sometimes reduce their availability in some regions, but it is impossible to completely eradicate anything that there is global demand for. It is fairly easy to get any illicit drug right now wherever you live, unless you are reading this in the mountains of Siberia. They are almost as available (and in many inner-cities they are more available) than tobacco or alcohol. Tobacco is usually slightly more available and cheaper than illicit substances in some places, however, because tobacco can be grown in mass legally. The major difference is there isn’t much of a stigma attached to liquor or tobacco and they are widely regarded as safer than illicit substances because they are advertised and glorified while illicit substances are demonized.
Most people can enter a liquor store without shame, but because illicit drugs have been forced underground, obtaining them can be a degrading, dangerous process. The cleanest and nicest bars usually are best at preventing excessive drinking and the same would apply to facilities that could offer drugs. If they were social, supportive environments instead of poor street corners with no regulations on quality, we would see less abuse. We could make safe, clean environments that offer drugs but that discourage users (and addicts especially) from procuring the most dangerous ones and offer guidance and treatment when desired. Medicine and drugs are public health concerns, not products to be profited from.
Reducing drug availability through police eradication is often counterproductive. When a government agency makes a large bust in an area that already has a high population of addicts, the addicts and the rest of the community suffer because the demand and price for the drugs seized increases, which causes addicts to be more prone to committing violent crimes and theft to feed their addictions. The worst way to get sober is by discontinuing use abruptly because the withdrawal can be extremely painful and even fatal with drugs like heroin and alcohol. Rehabilitation is often most successful with the support of friends, family, support groups, counselors, and medication.
Alcohol and tobacco have different effects on people’s lifestyles than most illicit drugs do, and this is one the main reasons they are legal. Tobacco and alcohol have been legal almost worldwide throughout history because the rich and powerful who have criminalized certain drugs preferred tobacco and alcohol over other drugs for three major reasons: these drugs have predictable effects; they don’t usually affect your ability to work or fight, and they transcend all class levels. Governments need their constituents predictable to keep them working and fighting or else they would cease to be powerful, profitable nations. After the American Civil War the usage of tobacco became associated with power, wealth, and capitalism, and this is part of the reason it stuck. Tobacco growth was only restricted briefly in America to decrease the supply and thereby increase the demand and price. Tobacco fueled America’s economy before it even became independent from Britain, and it fueled Britain’s economy as well. The government saw no reason to ever criminalize it since it was never thought to render anyone unable to work or fight. It eventually killed millions of people, but it wasn’t known tobacco was the cause until more recently in our history. The state wants young blood for the military and workforce anyway, so they don’t care if cigarette smokers die prematurely after their “prime years.”
Alcohol and tobacco are used by both the rich and the poor. But drugs that can prevent users from being productive in the traditional sense and from taking orders have become associated with the poor and the underclass. The rich need to keep their wits in order to keep their wealth and stay in power. They usually have no reason to want to escape their lives because they generally have easier, more enjoyable lives than poor people, and they need to keep the masses violent and fractionalized to stay in power. In 18th century England, gin was made illegal while whiskey remained legal because gin was cheaper and poor people used it more often. Similarly, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 made the punishment for a “cocaine base” offense up to 100 times more severe than the punishment for a powder cocaine offense as cocaine was preferred by the rich. These types of trends exist the world over.
Tobacco is not usually used by individuals to escape their lives but is rather more often used to help maintain lifestyles, get through the day, and continue working. Tobacco can have stimulant effects in low doses, and improve motor skills and concentration, which is why some people say that smoking cigarettes helps them perform certain activities. China is the number one tobacco consumer in the world and they have one of the most productive, fastest growing economies in the world right now. (Tobacco isn’t the only cause for this, of course. China’s lax labor laws, slavery, child labor, and the state’s dogmatic obsession with “strong work ethic” play a large role too.) While alcohol may impair motor skills, casual use doesn’t affect your ability to do your job as much as most illicit drugs do. Alcohol can also bring out violent tendencies in people.
Most tobacco addicts have jobs and most people who drink have jobs too. There are even functioning alcoholics with jobs, but there are very few functioning crack or meth addicts because it is nearly impossible to be one, much less one who is also a CEO or politician. Most are unemployed. But the illegality of their addictions ensures they stay unemployed and that their problems only worsen.
Many governments fear that people will ultimately stop working and lose their will to fight if illicit drugs are made legal. But they make it harder for former and current addicts and even casual users convicted of drug crimes to get jobs and keep them. There are more addicts now than ever before because of very severe drugs laws, and most are poor and unemployed. Even cannabis, a non-addictive drug that doesn’t impair your ability to work (depending on your job) so much as other drugs do is illegal for the same reasons. Rightly or wrongly, cannabis is often associated with pacifism, dissidence, and lethargy, unprofitable attributes which governments do not want people to have. It is also far more potent than tobacco and its effects last much longer, which makes it a less lucrative commodity than tobacco. It only became extremely profitable because efforts to eradicate it reduced the supply, increased the risk of selling it, and thereby inflated the price. The same applies to all drugs.
Our political and corporate parasitical rulers did not criminalize drugs because they thought it would help people. They do not want to stop addiction or reduce the death toll from drugs. If they did they would constantly lobby against the harms of legal drugs. Nearly all of them criminalized drugs out of self-interest. However, they don’t always get what they want. There is inevitable damage on all sides. Cops and feds die every day too in the line of fire from a war they and our politicians say we “must wage.”
When governments criminalize drugs, the intention is almost never to increase public safety. Their true intentions are usually to “protect” the (mostly) white, upper-class and their profits by keeping them away from illicit drugs while generating revenue for the corporate state and themselves by exploiting the poor, using drugs as an excuse to target them. By criminalizing and demonizing drug use and minority drug users, this also serves to keep the majority disconnected from minority groups.
Even when politicians criminalize drugs because they genuinely believe it will cause people of all classes to abuse drugs less and increase public safety, it never has this effect. It was thought opium criminalization in China, for example, would have this effect, but it had the opposite effect. Britain was able to use opium to weaken China, and other governments have done the same with different drugs.
It should be evident that the public safety justification for the criminalization of drugs is just a flimsy façade. Cops usually react to these problems with their primitive, reptilian instincts, not with their minds or hearts and most politicians lack both. By criminalizing drugs governments can control the huge illicit market with “eradication” efforts and thereby dictate the demand, the price of drugs, the severity of drug related crime, and the number of addicts. Some cops and feds even sell the drugs they seize back to dealers, increasing the money they make off of them. It is all in their hands. Ostensibly, it looks like they are fighting drugs, which they claim, but bags of drugs are not indicted and sent to prison. They don’t feel pain when burned. In reality feds and cops are fighting against people, some of whom are severely struggling and they have no intention of helping.
Many cops, prosecutors, and judges who punish addicts may believe they are helping society, but the people at the top who make the laws know exactly what they are doing. Lawmakers who lobby for stronger drug laws know they are just fighting struggling poor people, for the most part, because they have no respect or consideration for them. They just want to have drugs as another resource they can exploit like oil.
5.3 Drugs and Terrorism
Many politicians attempt to justify the criminalization of drugs by claiming the most dangerous middle men who peddle drugs like “terrorists”, gang members, and drug cartel members are responsible for all of the violence of the drug war. But these groups are not created by drugs; they are created by the laws that put drugs on a market that is inherently bloody. Laws upheld by force will inevitably be met with forceful resistance. They are also created by the socioeconomic inequities that we see globally. People who are made desperate often take desperate measures, and drug abuse cannot be dealt with using violence or force or else the war will never end.
The propaganda narrative that “drugs fund terrorism” peddled by the DEA and other state agencies is highly misleading. A few drug users do fund some drug-peddling terrorists indirectly, but they would not if drugs were legal. Terrorists are mostly created by state and corporate empires, and these rulers unintentionally (and sometimes intentionally) fund them with the illegal drug trade.
Governments create their own “enemies” at home in the same way. They ignore the largest socioeconomic problems and they continue to spread them for their own benefit. Terrorists and gang members and about everyone else involved get to be the scapegoats, and the largest state agencies and corporations end up with the most drugs, money, and glory. The richest empires generally have very strict drug laws, and they fund terrorism with these laws by turning drugs into big business.
By criminalizing drugs in rich, industrialized nations, politicians (the individuals who impose the most real terror by sending millions to wars and bombing indiscriminately under the guise of the “fighting terrorism”) create huge demand for illicit drugs that is filled partly by terrorists because they are willing to put themselves and others in harm’s way. But it’s important to understand that terrorists do not generally grow drugs like poppy or coca plants. It is mostly nonviolent, poor farmers who grow them and they do not usually get rich, because these drugs are worth little in their countries of origin.
In Afghanistan where most of the world’s opium is grown, (thanks to the US military) the drug is worth a small fraction of what it is worth in rich countries like America. In a 2009 interview with a female opium farmer conducted by Integrated Regional Information Networks News headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, she admitted she only makes about six kilograms of opium per year, which she sells for $3000.7 That is $500 per kilo. In America one kilogram of opium is worth up to $35,000 according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2009 Drug Report, which is equivalent to about 1.5 million Afghani dollars.
Poppy plants grow well in Afghanistan because they are extremely drought resistant crops and Afghanistan is mostly very arid. Other edible crops that require more water don’t thrive there as well, so growing food to sell in the marketplace is not very sustainable or practical there. If destitute people in poor countries were given more opportunities, resources, and advantages, they would have no reason to contribute to a market that is soaked in blood because of its legal status. The farmers don’t generally see where the drugs end up or all of the people hurt and killed by drug abuse, the violent drug market, police, and feds. Even if they were able to, it would still be hard to judge them if they continued to grow drugs when they are trying so hard just to survive. Many poor people can choose to either grow drugs or live legally and risk not being able to afford a good education, food, water, or other basic necessities of life.
When drug enforcement agencies spray coca fields and poppy fields in foreign countries they are not hurting terrorists or drug dealers the most; they are hurting poor farmers, and ultimately driving up the price of these addictions in rich countries by reducing the supply. Our governments have no legal (much less moral) authority to destroy poor farmer’s crops in foreign countries. Far more people die from tobacco-related illnesses in less developed countries than Americans do from overdoses on illicit drugs, but less developed countries are not spraying American or Chinese tobacco fields or advertising their drugs here. Noam Chomsky referred to this crop destruction as biological warfare in his book, Rogue States: The Rule of Force in World Affairs:
“Just what right does the US have to carry out military operations and chemical-biological warfare in other countries to destroy a crop it doesn’t like? We can put aside the cynical response that the governments requested this “assistance”or else. We therefore must ask whether others have the same extraterritorial right to violence and destruction that the US demands.
The number of Colombians who die from US-produced lethal drugs exceeds the number of North Americans who die from cocaine, and is far greater relative to population. In East and Southeast Asia, US-produced lethal drugs contribute to millions of deaths. These countries are compelled not only to accept the products but also advertising for them, under threat of trade sanctions. The effects of “aggressive marketing and advertising by American firms is, in a good measure, responsible for … a sizeable increase in smoking rates for women and youth in Asian countries where doors were forced open by threat of severe US trade sanctions,” public health researchers conclude. The Colombian cartels, in contrast, are not permitted to run huge advertising campaigns in which a Joe Camel counterpart extols the wonders of cocaine.”8
Frequently, after coca fields are sprayed in South America, poor farmers there are forced into urban ghettos while their land is taken over by American corporations that mine the land for its resources. This is similar to what happens to poorer people in richer countries when their neighborhoods are gentrified, except they are driven to more rural areas or the outskirts of cities. This is more typical gentrification. But the idea is the same in both regions, which is to pilfer land from poor people and exploit it for those in power while pushing the poor further and further out of sight.
Opium addiction is less of a problem in Afghanistan than in neighboring countries, largely because it is seen as just another crop. Most Afghans can fairly easily obtain opium or hash as they are not socially taboo in most regions there and some drugs are even considered sacred by certain Afghan cultures. Ceremonial or religious drug use that is infrequent is welcomed in many regions, but drugs are not blindly glamorized. Overindulgence and hedonism are not respected there largely because of religious texts that condemn them. The population is forced to be mature about drugs and if they do become addicted, it is less likely they will end up impoverished since drugs are everywhere (and many already are impoverished). The same is true of cocaine and cocaine producing countries. However, these governments are hardly more progressive. Violent and corrupt militias, corporate armies, and “police” forces often control the drug trade in these narco-states. They wreak havoc on the general population, arrest growers, and cut down and burn drug fields without anyone’s consent. This all furthers the instability and volatility of the drug trade and the economy. Afghanistan’s total revenue from illicit opium was $3 billion in 2006, which was about 35% of the country’s gross national product that year.9 Neither the Afghan nor the American government wants to end such a profitable trade, because it mostly hurts the poor to their benefit.
The value of illicit drugs in different areas is determined by supply and demand, which is controlled by many factors including the proximity of the drugs to their places of origin, social norms and standards, socioeconomic inequities, population density, and the severity of the drug laws. Drug laws are usually most strictly enforced in the wealthiest countries, (the fairly wealthy country of Holland is one notable exception) because they have the money to buy the most drugs. America is the clearest example. It is the richest country on Earth and it has the largest prison population and the largest number of incarcerated drug offenders. The wealth of America attracts drugs and it has the money to carry out a full-scale “war on drugs,” while many poorer countries do not. However, some poor countries do have extremely severe penalties for drug crime. In fact, many poor countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia use the death penalty for certain drug crimes, including Syria, India, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Philippines, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. But they do not have nearly the numbers of police and feds that rich countries do. The US and China (the two richest countries by total GDP) also use the death penalty for certain drug crimes.
Most countries that produce addictive, illicit drugs are poor, and as stated they do not become valuable until they reach rich countries with strict drug laws. It is not lucrative to enforce strict drug laws in Afghanistan (which is why the US military protects poppy fields there) because most people there are so poor. In other words, our governments want these drugs to be produced and shipped to the richest countries and they often aid this process, despite their rhetoric and claims about doing the opposite. If the drug farmers remain poor, governments and other middle-men profit the most. It is most lucrative to have the strictest drug laws in the richest countries where people are paying the most for drugs since there is more drug money and assets to seize, and criminalizing drugs exploits the poor people who make the drugs in Columbia, Bolivia, Peru, Afghanistan, and Myanmar (to name a few) as much as it exploits the slightly less poor people in rich countries who want to escape the difficulty of their circumstances by using, abusing, or selling drugs.
These richer countries have created drug wars globally with death tolls rising every day, especially in Mexico where mass killings over drugs are very common. Some rich politicians, reporters, demagogues, jingoists, and executives have the gull to suggest that border security is the solution. They want to build fences around their borders to keep poorer people out. But this is not the answer, of course. The solution to humanity’s drug problems is to stop terrorizing the poorest people of the world, let people govern themselves and make their own decisions, leave their resources alone, and they can then help themselves. If poor countries are allowed to use their own resources in ways that benefit everyone in them, then few will resort to addictive drugs. In other words, we have to treat people like actual human beings deserving of basic rights.
The so-called “war on terror” (of which the drug war is often said to be a part) has nothing to do with terrorism in actuality. The war on terror isn’t fighting terror generally but it always is terrorism or violence with a political goal. It is far more likely to be killed in a car accident or by a legal prescription drug than in a terrorist attack in America, yet we hear more about the “threat of terrorism” than we ever do about prescription drugs or car accidents and we also don’t amass armies to try to prevent these deaths. The threat of terrorism in America is essentially non-existent, and it would be even less of a threat if governments were not using force to fight it. Real terrorist threats could be handled by voluntary militias made up of common people as opposed to unthinking, unfeeling soldiers drafted into the military industrial complex to feed its greed.
Drugs (licit and illicit) are one of the most powerful methods of controlling our actions, thoughts, beliefs, and our wealth. If drug criminalization were to function exactly as the ruling elite would like it to, there would be a global, medicated, police-state. What our rulers do not understand is that we need to give to individuals who feel they have nothing to lose. By “give” I do not just mean resources or money; I also mean friendship, affection, sweat, energy, time, and love. Addicts and drug dealers need to be given a reason not to be self-destructive and risk their lives, and the threat of punishment does not serve that purpose and often only makes them more self-destructive. If you tell people in pain they cannot have something that they believe will make them feel better, they are only going to want it more and take more desperate measures to get it.
Politicians and corporations (so long as they exist) need to be honest with people about all drugs. Drugs have real, demonstrable differences. They all have different addiction potentials and mental and physical effects. But if we generalize and lie about the effects of drugs, no one will be able to determine which drugs really are the most harmful and which drugs should be avoided entirely, and many will become and remain addicts because they are unaware of the alternatives.
It is a complete waste of time to try to eradicate all currently illicit drugs. For this to be even remotely possible all human freedoms (the few that are left that is) would have to be stripped away and we would have to be constantly monitored. And even in such a dystopian, police state, people would probably still find a way to get drugs. Prisoners in maximum security prisons can get drugs, so unless we want to live our lives with more restrictions than maximum security prisoners do, we cannot consider complete drug eradication a possibility or even a desirable objective.
Instead of arresting drug addicts, we should legalize drugs (so long as governments exist) and create legal drug distribution centers that educate people about the effects of drugs, care for them, provide them with rehabilitation if needed, and encourage them not to buy the most harmful substances and instead try to reduce their will to use them. Addiction would then decline greatly if done in conjunction with efforts to provide poor communities the funding, opportunity, and education they need, and there would no such thing as black market drug crime. This would also reduce terrorism and violence worldwide.
6 It takes a enormous quantity of THC, the main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis, to kill an animal. Cannabinoid receptors are also not located in the brainstem, which controls respiration, so it is practically impossible to die from the drug. According to the 12th edition of the Merck Index, THC consumed orally has an LD50 of 1270 mg/kg for male rats and 730 mg/kg for female rats. (There have been lower reports in different tests.) Although rat cannabinoid receptors are different than humans (and probably less tolerant of THC), we can estimate from this information that an average, healthy male who weighs 77 kilograms (169.75lbs) would need to consume 97.79 grams of pure THC (or 1955 grams of cannabis containing five percent THC) to die. It takes far less ibuprofen to cause death. THC also causes loss of consciousness at fairly low doses, so it is physically impossible to smoke that much. A lethal dose amount could be eaten, but in order to die, one would need to eat the lethal dose all at once, because if not, the person would again lose consciousness far before nearing the toxic dose. The point being it is nearly impossible to die from cannabis or its components. Cannabis is also self-regulatory in a sense because absorption is limited by serum lipids and some cannabinoids have opposing effects that balance each other out like THC and CBD.
7 IRIN: “Bitter-Sweet Harvest: Afghanistan’s New War.” Pg 37. July 2004. PDF.
8 Chomsky, Noam: Rogue States: The Rule of Force in World Affairs, (pg 99-100). Haymarket Books, 2000.
9 Glaze, John A. “Opium and Afghanistan: Reassessing U.S. Counter Narcotics Strategy.”) Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College. October 2007. Pg. 5. Journal.