Thursday, November 20, 2003
I saw this story and sighed.
First of all it's amusing that they make such a big deal about the value of the stuff. The only reason it's worth that much money is because it's illegal. If the government banned Ivory soap and then made a big deal about seizing '12 bars worth $1200', you'd laugh right? Well that's about what this is. Agriculturally speaking pot is roughly similar to corn, in terms of expense and difficulty. How much money would 1000 pounds of corn be worth? A few hundred dollars at most.
Why is pot worth so much more? Prohibition.
ABC had an excellent article on the subject.
"We know the terrible things drugs can do. We've seen the despair, the sunken face of the junkie. No wonder those in government say that we have to fight drugs. And polls show most Americans agree. Drug use should be illegal. Or as former "drug czar" Bill Bennett put it: "It's a matter of right and wrong."That leads to another question. If drugs cost what cigarettes do, would the sterotype of the non-functional addict hold true anymore? If a job at McDonalds could support your habit would there be any crack ho's?
But when "right and wrong" conflict with supply and demand, nasty things happen. The government declaring drugs illegal doesn't mean people can't get them, it just means they get them on the black market, where they pay much more for them.
"The only reason that coke is worth that much money is that it's illegal," argues Father Joseph Kane, a priest in a drug-ravaged Bronx neighborhood in New York City. "Pure cocaine is three times the cost of gold. Now if that's the case, how are you gonna stop people from selling cocaine?"
Kane has come to believe that while drug abuse is bad, drug prohibition is worse — because the black market does horrible things to his community. "There's so much money in it, it's staggering," he says.
Orange County, Calif., Superior Court Judge James Gray agrees with Kane. He spent years locking drug dealers up, but concluded it's pointless, because drug prohibition makes the drugs so absurdly valuable. "We are recruiting children in the Bronx, in the barrios, and all over the nation, because of drug money," he says.
Besides luring kids into the underworld, drug money is also corrupting law enforcement officers, he argues.
Cops are seduced by drug money. They have been for years. "With all the money, with all the cash, it's easy for [dealers] to purchase police officers, to purchase prosecutors, to purchase judges," says Oliver, the Detroit police chief.
The worst unintended consequence of the drug war is drug crime. Films like Reefer Madness told us that people take drugs and just go crazy. But, in reality people rarely go crazy or become violent because they're high.
The violence happens because dealers arm themselves and have shootouts over turf. Most of the drug-related violence comes from the fact that it's illegal, argues Kane. Violence also happens because addicts steal to pay the high prices for drugs."
Of course there are all kinds of issues as far as whether an addict would be able to hold a job, blah blah etc. A lot of that would depend on the person and the drug involved. I think that several useful analogies could be drawn to alcohol. Lots of people use it. Some people are addicted to it. Some addicts can hold jobs, some can't.
Some drugs are physically addictive. Some aren't. Some impair you for a long time. Some don't. As long as we continue to do the same thing over and over and expect a different result, (someone once described that as the criteria for madness,) we can't have a meaningful discussion of these kind of issues.
Second, how many man-hours, at what salaries, were invested in this particular bust? How much money was spent finding pot?
I suppose you have to sit down and ask: would the resources that our society is wasting in the war on (some) drugs be greater or lesser than the resources lost if everything was legalized?
Of course an accounting of how much money is spent on the war on drugs would help. According to Cannabis News, (hardly an unbiased source, I know,) the feds spend 20 billion dollars a year and the states spend about the same. Now even if the true number is only half that, it's fucking outrageous.
If you want drugs you can get them so easily. If you've got $50 you can get an eighth within 24 hours no matter who you are or where you are.
This is after the US has spent... let's just call it 100 billion dollars for the sake of argument. Is this a logical policy? In light of the fact that this war has been going on for decades and yet there is not one inch of progress? What else could we have done with that money? AIDS research? Cancer research? A few new aircraft carriers? A pay raise for congress? More border guards? More cops? (Though would we really need more if the cops we have weren't chasing drugs?) Name a problem and ask if a few billion dollars might not have helped.
Prohibition didn't work with alcohol. It's not working with drugs. What on earth make anyone believe that it's a good solution?
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Hot Damn. A dressing down like only the brits can deliver. (link from instapundit)
"As slogans go, "Hands Off Nepal" has a lot to recommend it: it's simple, direct - and yet at the same time, touched with a certain exotic romance.Snap! Well it's not quite mainstream collective wisdom that the protestors are flaming hypocrites, but it's getting there. I wonder if anyone ever wrote a book following the people who wanted to appease Hitler and who were against WWII and what they did with the rest of their lives. I would think that being that profoundly wrong would have a huge influence on someone but perhaps I'm giving such people too much credit for introspection.
"What's going on in Nepal?" I asked one of the two compact men carrying the banner on which the slogan was painted.
From behind the cloth stepped a good-looking young man in a long blue coat. "A people's resistance movement is battling the Nepalese government." What's that got to do with Iraq and President Bush, I asked him. The United States, he replied, was backing the government.
Oh, I said: "Are you from Nepal?" He replied that he was from Turkey. What about him, I asked, jerking my thumb at one of the banner holders. "He's from Turkey, too."
"Are there, in fact, any Nepalese here at all?" I asked him. "Not as yet, but" - he hastened to assure me - "we are expecting some Nepalese friends later."
The anti-Bush demonstration in Lincoln's Inn Fields was called for six o'clock, but at the appointed hour, journalists and camera crews substantially outnumbered protesters.
I joined a line of 14 journalists to interview a shapely woman dressed as a beauty contestant: "Miss Flaming Planet". Then, I was introduced to a man named Phil, the organiser of the event. He was wearing a woolly hat. I asked him how he kept an event like this on-message.
Before Phil could answer, a sharp-faced man directly behind him intervened." Why do you ask that?" he said suspiciously.
"Why do you think it's an improper question?"
The sharp-faced man was not diverted by my answer-a-question-with-a-question technique. He returned to his main point." I just think it's an interesting question to ask" - "interesting" evidently being a euphemism for "just the kind of dirty trick I'd expect from The Daily Telegraph".
"OK," I said. "Isn't it the tragedy of the Left that it has historically allowed itself to be infiltrated and captured by tiny sects with extremist ideologies? Aren't you worried it could happen again?"
The sharp-faced man answered with a superior air. "When you have a mass movement like this, it's impossible for it to be captured by a small group."
I looked up and down the south side of the square. The "mass movement" extended barely half the length of the railing. I'd seen larger crowds at poetry readings.
And, in fact, the people looked very like the crowds you see at poetry readings: mostly white, shaggy but clean in appearance, polite and vaguely bookish in speech - the last inheritors of the landscape-loving English radicalism of William Blake, Thomas Paine and William Morris.
I thought of the tens of thousands of marchers I'd seen at the big anti-war demo in October 2002, chanting Islamic slogans from under their caps and hijabs.
They had not been bookish or polite. There was nothing woolly about them.
But they were young and fierce - and numerous. It is they, not these ageing men and women carefully tucking away their litter, who represent the future of the British Left - if, that is, a politics that pooh-poohs the crimes of Osama bin Laden and rallies to aid the last-ditch struggles of the Ba'ath party of Iraq can in any meaningful way be called "Left" at all.
The war on terror has glaringly exposed the moral contradictions of contemporary political radicalism: a politics that champions the rights of women and minorities, but only when those rights are threatened by white Europeans; a politics that celebrates creative non-violence at home but condones deadly extremism abroad; and, perhaps above all, a politics that traces its origins to the Enlightenment - and today raises its voice to protect militantly unenlightened terrorists from the justice dispensed by their victims. [emphasis mine]
A woman pressed into my hands a mimeographed sheet touting the merits of the Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.
"You do know," I said, "that Dean now says that American troops must stay in Iraq?"
"But of course," she said in a lovely French lilt. "Now that we - I mean you - are there, we must stay to clean up the mess. There is no choice."
Good point. But not as good a point as this one I heard from a young member of the Socialist Workers Party, standing underneath a clutch of red banners. I goaded him a little: "Wouldn't Trotsky describe your allies in this coalition as religious obscurantists? And isn't the history of the Middle East that religious loyalties count for a whole lot more than ideology?"
Mike (the name he gave) shrugged me off. "People in the Middle East are fighting because their own governments are repressing them. They come to feel that they have no alternative - and the mosque is always open.
"But I can't help thinking that it's just not very realistic that people are going to kill each other because they say my God is better than your God. Give people freedom and an opportunity for something better: that's what they really want."
I said: "You know, you sound exactly like Paul Wolfowitz." He flinched.
At this point, another of those sharp-faced monitors slipped into the conversation - this one a shortish young man with East Asian features and angry eyes. "Be careful what you say: it's the press. They'll distort your quotes."
"Here," I said. "I'll open up my computer and type the quote right in front of you. You can see it for yourself and correct anything I get wrong."
"You can quote the content but still distort the context."
I agree that context is everything, and the context of this week's events is that many thousands of British people intend to converge on central London to protest against the overthrow of one of the most cruel and murderous dictators of the 20th century - and to wave placards calling the American president who ordered the dictator's overthrow "the world's number one terrorist".
It's a deeply shameful context, and though I would not quite endorse the verdict of the taxi driver with the poppy stuck in his dashboard who dropped me off at the demos ("Not many of them traitors out tonight, I see"), he at least saw something that they, with all their apparently abundant education could not: that the two leaders they most scorn are the latest in the long line of Anglo-American statesmen whose willingness to use force to defeat evil secured them their right to make bloody fools of themselves in Lincoln's Inn Fields and through the streets of London to Grosvenor Square."
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