Humans have a primal need to escape the limitations of mundane consciousness. Alcohol, drugs, music, dance and religion are just some ways people escape ordinary life and they will overcome any obstacles, legal or otherwise, to achieve the state of transcendence they crave.
Not for any religious or moral imperative, I stay away from tobacco, drugs, coffee and alcohol. One of my primary objections to drug use is this: of the various ways we can trigger a transcendent state, imbibing or injecting a substance is more addictive, less durable and more harmful than things like music, meditation, art, nature, and physical activity.
Still, setting aside personal preferences, it’s difficult to avoid the idea of drug legalization when considering the unmitigated carnage in Mexico. When severed heads on the side of a road or seventy bodies in a mine shaft are now seen as commonplace, it strikes me as an inevitable question: what would happen in Mexico if drugs were legal?
The legalization debate takes place largely out of the spotlight, since few politicians want to broach it. But there are thoughtful arguments on both sides and this one, linked to by Glenn Greenwald, is worth reading:
To many people, the “war on drugs” sounds like a metaphor, like the “war on poverty”. It is not. It is being fought with tanks and sub-machine guns and hand grenades, funded in part by your taxes, and it has killed 28,000 people under the current Mexican President alone. The death toll in Tijuana – one of the front lines of this war – is now higher than in Baghdad. Yesterday, another pile of 72 mutilated corpses was found near San Fernando – an event that no longer shocks the country.
Mexico today is a place where the severed heads of police officers are found week after week, pinned to bloody notes that tell their colleagues: “This is how you learn respect”. It is a place where hand grenades are tossed into crowds to intimidate the public into shutting up. It is the state the US Joint Chiefs of Staff say is most likely, after Pakistan, to suffer “a rapid and sudden collapse”.
So there is a growing movement in Mexico to do the one thing these murderous gangs really fear – take the source of their profits, drugs, back into the legal economy. It would bankrupt them swiftly, and entirely. Nobody kills to sell you a glass of Jack Daniels. Nobody beheads police officers or shoots teenagers to sell you a glass of Budweiser. And, after legalisation, nobody would do it to sell you a spliff or a gram of cocaine either. They would be in the hands of unarmed, regulated, legal businesses, paying taxes to the state, at a time when we all need large new sources of tax revenue.
The conservative former President, Vicente Fox, has publicly called for legalisation, and he has been joined by a battery of former presidents across Latin America – all sober, right-leaning statesmen who are trying rationally to assess the facts.
Every beheading, grenade attack, and assassination underlines their point. Calderon’s claims in response that legalisation would lead to a sudden explosion in drug use don’t seem to match the facts: Portugal decriminalised possession of all drugs in 2001, and drug use there has slightly fallen since.
Yet Mexico is being pressured hard by countries like the US and Britain – both led by former drug users – to keep on fighting this war, while any mention of legalisation brings whispered threats of slashed aid and diplomatic shunning.
Read the rest…