Thursday, November 4, 2010

A few articles on drugs

This is a poorly-edited but interesting piece on the politics of marijuana in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in the Caribbean. Beyond the references to constitutional amendments and referenda that I know nothing about, the article is an interesting expose on how drugs and the drug trade can become an important economic and social pillar of a country.

This next article speaks of California's Prop 19, a referendum to legalize certain uses of marijuana in the state (which was voted down in Tuesday's election). The article points out the difficulties entailed by the passing of such a law, namely that it would go against federal law regarding non-medical use of marijuana, in addition to the international drug laws to which the US is a signatory (and has spent 100 years promoting). The writer also points out that even a legalization of marijuana in California or the US would not make it very likely or possible that Colombia legalize cocaine. While many people (myself included) criticize the ineffectiveness of prohibition-style drug laws, no countries are considering the legalization of hard drugs like heroin or cocaine. And since international law only permits medical or scientific use of these hard drugs, a debate to change the law would have to touch on questions of what uses to permit, what effects are considered harmful or permissible, and who would be in charge of producing, distributing, and generally administering hard drug use. Given all this, the author insists that Colombia's only way out of its drug-related problems is to stop blaming only the demand generated in the US and Europe, and start strengthening the social norms and laws to discourage the profitable but illegal and immoral drug trade.

This last article clarifies a few things about international drug conventions. First off is that there is no such thing as an illegal drug. The drugs regulated by international law simply have permitted and non-permitted uses. The article then traces the history of international drug laws. The origin of drug regulation dates back to the early 1900s, when a coalition of missionaries in Asia and anti-opium activists fought to regulate the opium trade. Thus illegal (non-medical) uses were prohibited for opium, and eventually other drugs like heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. Opiate factories were only willing to sign onto such laws if all their competitors did the same, and thus by the middle of the century drug production was limited to medical and scientific uses, and controlled by an oligopoly of companies. For the rest of the 20th century these laws were strengthened, even as illicit drug use became more prevalent in most countries. Though producer countries blamed consumers, and consumers blamed producers, eventually an agreement was reached in which the international community would fight against the illicit traffic of drugs. This fight was accompanied by alternative development measures, which are the financing of economic development projects to prevent people from planting drug crops for illicit uses. The article concludes that given the complex history and present that interweave all nations in the fight against illicit trade in drugs, Colombia cannot continue to place the blame for drug prohibition on the sanctimonious policies of the United States. It also points out that California's Proposition 19 would thus not "legalize" marijuana, but merely regulate its production and sale by individuals. Thus it would have represented an expansion of international drug law such that not only pharmacists and doctors are able to control the use of marijuana. Finally, the author suggests that Colombia look into the legal global trade in narcotics, so that the country might profitably participate in it. This is similar to an idea I had a few months ago, to declare that all Colombian cocaine is destined for legal, medical uses.

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