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War on drugs – Call it off say leaders


The War on Drugs has now been on for 50 years. No success. (Cartoon by Barry Deutsch; Courtesy - leftycartoons.com). Click for larger image.

The War on Drugs has now been on for 50 years. No success. (Cartoon by Barry Deutsch; Courtesy - leftycartoons.com). Click for larger image.

A high-level international panel slammed the war on drugs as a failure. Compiled by the Global Commission on Drug Policy, the report concludes that criminalization and repressive measures have failed with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. It called on governments to undertake experiments to decriminalize the use of drugs, especially marijuana, to undermine the power of organized crime.

The 19-member commission includes former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia, Greece’s prime minister, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former U.S. officials George P. Schultz and Paul Volcker, the writers Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa, and British billionaire Richard Branson.

At a news conference launching the report, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who chairs the commission, said ending the war on drugs does not imply complete liberalization.

Instead of punishing drug users, the commission argues that governments should “end the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.”

Cardoso said the commission called for regulation rather than legalization “because we don’t think that’s the moment’s come for legalization.” Even regulation and decriminalization are not a solution, he said, unless they are accompanied by information, publicity campaigns, and improved health care and treatment. (via High-level commission calls drug war a failure, recommends legal regulation of marijuana – The Washington Post).

Options, anyone?

With 2 crore (20 million) drug users in the USA, prisons overflowing with more than 20 lakh (2 million) prisoners, the American policy establishment is stuck for answers. The 2 crore (20 million) figure is more than 16% of the working-age, labour population of the USA – which stands at 16 crores (160 million). Similarly, when drugs became cheap and abundant in China, thanks to the British, China became the largest consumer of opium in the world.

But …

Interesting case

Why has drugs never become a big problem in India? Even, as Indians are significant producers, Indians themselves are not high on consumption lists – or have significantly profited from it.

2 million prisoners - and another 5 million on trial, parole etc. Does this war make sense? (cartoon courtesy - hightowerlowdown.org). Click for larger image.

2 million prisoners - and another 5 million on trial, parole etc. Does this war make sense? (cartoon courtesy - hightowerlowdown.org). Click for larger image.

The police actions against drug cartels have given little benefit. The heavy-handed legal approach of criminalizing possession of drugs too has yielded no results either.

in the past 40 years, the U.S. government has spent over $2.5 trillion dollars fighting the War on Drugs. Despite the ad campaigns, increased incarceration rates and a crackdown on smuggling, the number of illicit drug users in America has risen over the years and now sits at 19.9 million Americans.

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair declare(d) last week that the Mexican government had lost control of its own territory. President Felipe Calderón responded by pointing out that his nation shared a border with “the biggest consumer of drugs in the world and the largest supplier of weapons in the world.” (via The War on Drugs).

Touché!

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  1. Galeo Rhinus
    June 15, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    An important article and I don’t want to marginalize your primary argument with a secondary quibble – but I need to state it nevertheless.

    —-

    I’d be careful in claiming that Indians did not profit significantly. The supply chain of opium was as follows:

    1. poppy seed farming – farmers – (farmers were general farm labor – handful of owners owned large tract of land)
    2. poppy seed purchase – local merchants
    3. poppy seed delivery and resale to opium factories – merchants
    4. opium processing – manufacturers
    5. opium purchase from opium factories – merchants
    6. opium transportation to calcutta/bombay – transporters
    7. opium purchase from transporters – calcullta/bombay merchants
    8. opium sale to EEIC/Jardine… et cal – calcullta/bombay merchants

    9… on to China

    notice that the English very deliberately did not participate in the first seven transactions at all… these were all Indian license holders. The Indian farmers, the first in the supply chain, were farm workers… the profits were largely made by the land owners – who had grabbed the land. As the opium volume aggregated and the value increased, more money was made. The parsis were involved in #6. Clearly the English made significant profits from #8 and #9. However, #7 is significant, and little is written about them… perhaps because, they were also the financial backbone for the Congress party and later promoting Gandhi.

  2. June 16, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    A really obtuse quibble.

    Indians were and are skilled agriculturists – who have a repertoire of more than 1000 agricultural products which is the largest in the world. They are used to adult, responsible, usage of these products. Not addiction, senseless usage. They cannot be blamed for misuse of their products. An electricity utility cannot be blamed for electrocution deaths due to careless users.

    In all the Eastern, Western, Northern, Southern, Middle Kingdom narratives that I have read, used and linked to, everyone, but everyone one, has credited the British, French and few Americans for the huge opium exploitation in Asia. The one and only case, where Indians are being held culpable, is by you.

    You, after writing Operation Red Lotus and comparing the British drug operations to the Medellin cartel, say this? Anyway, may I remind you: –

    1. Indian peasants had been dis-possessed of their lands by the British.

    2. These acquired lands by the British were auctioned to the highest bidder – by the British, for growing opium.

    3. The highest bidder, the zamindar, had to cultivate opium. Explicitly – and only opium.

    4. The zamindar let out these lands to the now ‘unemployed’ peasants to grow opium.

    5. Indian traders bought this opium from these hapless growers, and sold it to the EEIC. End of Indian involvement. They made a pittance. Subsistence. Not even peanuts, by current expensive standards.

    6. EEIC auctioned this opium to the highest bidder – and these opium traders were given protection and encouraged by the British to sell this opium to China. Indians not involved.

    7. Mostly British traders were parts of this destructive ‘trade’ – a few Parsis also.

    8. The stupendous fortunes and massive destruction, the wars happened after the opium reached China. Indians not involved.

    9. I am yet to find anything which contradicts this sequence of events. If you have a contradictory source, narrative, data, I am all ears.

    लगता है विदेशी हवा का अभाव प्रभाव है

    However, #7 is significant, and little is written about them… perhaps because, they were also the financial backbone for the Congress party and later promoting Gandhi.

    I presume speculation – which is a bad idea. Specially, if you consider that Gandhiji and his backers and promoters, did not control global media, academia, publishing to ‘hide’ their role in possibly one of the greatest carnages on Earth.

    I presume you believe that the Chinese were also ‘bought’ by Gandhiji and his backers and promoters. Was that the ‘secret mission’ on which Dr.Kotnis went to China and died. Later glorified, falsely? (poor man, why do I use him to counter such a point).

    But anyway, no pablum. Data … data … data.

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