Monday, March 23, 2009

moral handicaps

Alex Rodriguez. Michael Phelps. Whoopi Goldberg. Jon Stewart. Ashton Kutcher.

Sounds like the week's lineup on Larry King Live.

But there is a deeper connection. And it involves a conversation America needs to start having -- and soon.

Nancy's suggestion, I signed up for Google alerts to track internet activity for Mexico. An interesting blog post popped up: Michael Phelps and the Violence in Mexico: Connect the Dots.

Sergio Troncoso takes Michael Phelps, Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Stewart -- and, by inference, the rest of American opinion makers -- to task for trivializing the use of marijuana, while ignoring the very real impact that the marijuana trade is having on violence in Mexico. Thus -- "Connect the Dots."

His point is, no matter what is causing the border drug wars, innocent people -- including children -- in that area are dying because of the drug trade. And smug celebrities are essentially saying: What is the big deal if Michael Phelps or Alex Rodriguez use drugs? This from the same people who love sporting full-spectrum ribbons whenever transnational shoe companies hire a teenager in a third world country.

Troncoso and I have one big difference. He is not an advocate of drug legalization; I am. But I do agree with him that glamorizing the use of any drug -- including marijuana -- hides the true impact of its use.

My concern is not for the user. Everyone has to make his own choice on using or not using. My choice has been to never use it.

But that is not the end of the matter. Bullets are not flying in Juarez simply over the cocaine monopoly. Marijuana drives the war as much as any other drug.

Mexico is the world's largest grower of marijuana, and the largest supplier of marijuana to the United States. In 2007, the crop yield was 15, 800 metric tons. And that was an increase.

If Jon and Whoopi and Ashton want to be a constructive part of the conversation -- and not just celebrity mouths -- I have a little suggestion. Use that curiously-earned clout you think you have to help resolve the underlying problem.

If you believe certain drugs should be illegal, stop acting as if using them has no moral and social consequences to people far away from the users. If you believe that drugs should be legal, say so.


Larry in Mazatlan said...


I suspect we're going to see the problem intensify. From what I've been reading, marijuana importation is increasing to offset the loss of cocaine to the US market. It's all about money.

It would appear that Europe is on the upswing in cocaine use and that the South Americans are dealing more directly with European middle-men. All at a loss to the Mexican cartels.

I'm afraid their (European) time may be coming.


Steve Cotton said...

Larry -- I think you are correct. Hard times often lead to increases in drug and alcohol usage. And I readily admit that legalisation will result in an increase in the problem. We sawa that happen following prohibition. But the cost of the current policy is just too high.

Laurie said...

Interesting post. I recall my days living in Guadalajara. There were whole mountains and valleys dedicated to marijuana fields. It was very dangerous and difficult to get out of that business if one felt the need to do so.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting if someone could quantify the marijuana "problem." Like, what exactly is the problem?

It's not addictive.
It's not something that even the devout smoke all that much of, unlike tobacco which has very well-documented problems.
Marijuana overdose is almost unheard of. In fact, it may be entirely unheard of.
No one dies or gets sick from marijuana use.
Is it intoxicating? You bet! But people in a free society have the right (or should at least have the right) to intoxicate themselves responsibly.

In contrast, alcohol causes all kinds of evils, from domestic violence to carnage on the roads. And despite its "over 21 only" status, it seems to be readily available to teens.

OTC analgesics kill more people every year than marijuana.

But does it serve any useful purpose? Does Disneyland serve any useful purpose?

So, it would seem that the biggest problems that marijuana causes stem directly from the government's efforts to suppress it.

Hmmmm..... that would be an easy problem to solve. If only clarity of thought and a rational discussion of the costs and benefits of said substance could be had. For such clarity, see The Economist of a couple weeks ago. They argue rather clearly that drug legalization represents the path of least harm,not only to our society, but to Mexico, which is struggling mightily.

Further, if it were legalized, there'd be no reason that America's farmers couldn't grow a fine, domestic cannabis crop. Certainly it'd be a small help to the trade deficit too.

Thanks for taking a rational stand, Steve.

Kim G
Boston, MA
Where apparently you can smoke weed on subway platforms without being bothered.

P.S. I'll state it: I think marijuana should be as legal as alcohol is. Minus the ridiculous, two-step, state-by-state distribution system.

Felipe said...

The moronic drug war came out of America´s Puritanical Streak. People will always smoke weed, down peyote buttons and those wonderful mushrooms. We Mexicans were tripping the light fantastic for eons before the Gringos dropped this sanctimonious Drug War lunacy in our laps. Hasn´t worked. Won´t ever work. Won´t work in a million years of Sundays.

Kim points out something you don´t hear often. Many of these materials are not even addictive. LSD, peyote, mushrooms, the drug misnamed ecstasy (should have been empathy), none of these things are addictive.

Steve Cotton said...

Laurie -- I suspect that legalization would not do away with some of the nut case growers. But that is true of other crops, as well.

Kim -- The addiction issue does not bother me. If that were the case, we would treat a lot of other substances in the same ludicrous manner we treat drugs. Of course, the government is now taking a similar approach to banking: control will make everything better. Don't buy it with drugs; don't buy it with financial regulation.

Felipe -- And now Hillary is agreeing with us -- in part.

norm said...

Make drugs legal and move on, it is about the money right now, nothing moral in the war on drugs. There is big money in keeping people in cages, it is like a food chain, all dependent on telling other people what is good for them. The nanny state has its place at times but drugs and their control has proved a failure.

Steve Cotton said...

Norm -- I would agree with everything but the nanny state reservation. Of course, my nanny state may be the next man's libertarian society.