Thursday, March 12, 2009

How to win the war on some drugs

By Libby Spencer

The rising violence on our Mexican border is clearly driven by the black market drug trade. However, a military solution is not the answer. Adding more government soldiers to this 'war' will only cause more collateral damage among innocent civilians. Don't believe me? Well let's review.

In the beginning, there were a handful of very powerful drug lords who controlled the market. I don't know how many, let's just say there were five of them. There was some violence connected with these cartels, but it was contained pretty much within that community. In the last few years we jailed these kingpins and the violence rose, along with the supply of drugs. The current chaos is simply the manifestation of a very large turf war.

Jailing the kingpins didn't destroy the black market, it simply fractured it and now the jockeying for primacy among the lower level players has spilled into the streets and over the borders. The only way to end the violence is to shut down the black market. The only way to shut down the black market is to legalize drugs.

There is no way to eliminate demand. Surely if the present eradication/interdiction/incarceration model was going to work, it would have done so by now. The US alone has sunk hundreds of billions of dollars into this strategy for over 50 years and the problem is worse than ever. The only way to get drugs off the streets is to put them into a clinical setting and treat drug abuse as a public health problem.

The war on some drugs really can't be won, but it can be ended. As scary as it sounds, legalization is the safest strategy and the only one with any chance of success.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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