Before I begin let me make two things clear: One, I believe every drug – from marijuana to crack cocaine –should be legalized. For inspiration we can look at Portugal, which decriminalized every narcotic on July 1 of this year.
Two, during my youth I consumed a wide variety of drugs. I mention this for the sake of intellectual honesty.
Now that I have mentioned these two points, I can get to the subject of this week’s column, namely, the case against drug use.
My own experience with illegal drugs, coupled with my own research and writing on the topic, has led me to conclude that the consumption of narcotics has a detrimental impact on society. It’s not that I believe that drug use is morally wrong per se, nor do I subscribe to the reefer madness school of hysterical thought. Rather, my criticism of drug use is based on the political, social and economic consequences that flow from the narcotics trade.
To clarify my point I will use Nike as an example. Social activists constantly tell the public not to purchase Nike products because of their misuse of third-world labour. The argument works something like this: by purchasing Nike goods you are contributing to a system that encourages exploitation. Thus, by boycotting companies like Nike one can help fight for social justice.
What I find curious, however, is how activists tend not to use similar logic with the drug trade. A pacifist who buys ecstasy from a street dealer, for instance, runs the risk of funding a criminal system involved in the arms trade.
Similarly, I have known many drug-using activists who want to make a positive impact in the world. But by using drugs they undermine the very society they want to protect. I say this with the full knowledge that my own previous use of drugs helped finance a negative force in my community.
When it comes right down to it, drug use can be viewed as a form of imperialism. For example, rich countries like Canada and the United States snort mass amounts of coke, while poor countries like Colombia – which is being wrecked by a civil war fuelled by narco-trafficking – grow cocoa.
Again, let me reiterate, I don’t think drug use per se is wrong. Moreover, my own research has led me to conclude that governments around the world have repeatedly lied to their populace about the harmful effects of drugs. The result is that many people don’t believe the state even when its anti-drug information is correct.
But you don’t have to give moral or health arguments to make a case against drug use. All you have to do is make a connection between drug consumption and social consequences. Criminals buy guns, engage in the sex trade and corrupt the economy with drug money. On an international level, countries like Colombia and Jamaica have been wrecked by drug-related violence. Drug use helps finance this negative system.
Now, if we were to legalize drugs, the criminal underworld would lose an important cash crop. Moreover, to quote a friend of mine who was only half-joking, if somehow users could engage in fair trade drug dealing – e.g. buying pot directly from a farmer rather than a street dealer – the negative social impact of drug use would greatly diminish.
But until such a day arrives, we must be aware that snorting coke, smoking hashish or dropping acid is in most cases just as bad as encouraging sweat shops. In fact, I would argue that the drug trade is much worse.
Alejandro Bustos made it to twenty-six. And will soldier on. Bet.