The War on Drugs has been going on for many decades now in the United States and has produced exactly zero tangible results. Many of you will know that we tend to be libertarian free-marketers, and therefore believe drugs should be legalized, or at least decriminalized.
For those of you who think we’re living in la-la land, we’d like to remind you that Portugal decriminalized ALL of its drugs in 2001, at the time sparking great fears of “Drug tourism” and a huge increase in diseases such as AIDS. However, in the past 10 years none of this has occurred. 95% of those caught with drugs were Portuguese, drug users went from constituting 56% of HIV to just 20%, and the number of drug dealers has dropped by 30%.
The United States, however, followed a different route. It declared war on drugs and shut down the caribbean cocaine route. This transferred most drug dealing through Mexico instead. Now Mexico has started fighting back, which means more and more activity is flowing further South, to Central American states. These states are considerably weaker than Mexico and don’t have nearly enough resources to deal with these drug barons (Mexico hardly does itself).
All this drugs activity is done, of course, to provide the United States with cocaine. So, yes, American drug users are financing the drug gangs and, yes, American gun merchants are arming them. So, as the Economist put it: “failing American policies help beget failed states in the neighbourhood.”
In the 1970′s and 80′s the United States recognized that it would be better to have friendly democracies in Central America rather than chaotic dictatorships. It is time they recognized this again. They could provide help in rebuilding infrastructure, or in security, or in keeping democracy alive. But all of these would just be temporary band-aids, for as long as drugs are illegal, users will have to be supplied by outlaws living in chaotic countries. Only the legalization of drugs in the United States would hit at the root of the issue.