From a fantastic op-ed in Huffington Post written by Cesar Gaviria, former president of Colombia and member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy; Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico and member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy; and Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Brazil and chair of the Global Commission on Drug Policy:
Our second core recommendation — which is more complex but just as important for ensuring peace and public safety — is to encourage experimentation with different models of legal regulation of drugs, such as marijuana, in similar ways to what is already done with tobacco and alcohol.
Research has consistently demonstrated that marijuana is a less harmful drug than tobacco or alcohol. Regulation is not the same as legalization. This is a critical point. Regulation is a necessary step to create the conditions for a society to establish all kinds of restrictions and limitations on the production, trade, advertising and consumption of a given substance to deglamorize, discourage and control its use.
The stunning reduction in the consumption of tobacco in the Americas shows that prevention and regulation are more efficient than prohibition and punishment.
Regulation cuts the link between traffickers and consumers. It is this link that enables traffickers to impel people to use ever more harmful drugs. Since marijuana is by far the most widely consumed illicit drug in the world, regulation would also significantly reduce the vast resources — and thus the vast power and influence — generated by organized crime in the illegal drug markets.
So what did our Vice President, Joe Biden, have to say about that strategy last month when he visited Latin America? You know, Joe Biden, who as senator was the man who brought us mandatory minimum sentences, the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity, the abomination of civil asset forfeiture, and creation of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (aka The Drug Czar)?
(Drug War Chronicle) “It’s worth discussing, but there is no possibility the Obama/Biden administration will change its policy on legalization,” he said after meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
“It’s worth debating in order to lay to rest some of the myths that are associated with the notion of legalization. The debate always occurs, understandably, in the context of serious violence that occurs with the society, particularly in societies that don’t have the institutional framework and the structure to deal with organized, illicit operations,” he said in remarks reported by the Associated Press and McClatchy Newspapers.
Ah. It’s only a “legitimate topic for debate” so the administration can tell us how wrong we are. Go on…
Biden, who said he had spent “thousands of hours” at Senate hearings on the issue, said that while drug legalization could do positive things like reducing prison populations, it would lead to more drug use, health problems, and even more bureaucracies.
“It impacts on a country’s productivity. It impacts on the health costs of that country. It impacts on mortality rates,” Biden said. He added that legalization wouldn’t work “unless you are going to not only legalize but you are going to provide a government apparatus for the distribution of the drugs.”
Productivity… you mean like the tobacco addicts who are allowed a 15-minute break every two hours to go get their nicotine fix? You mean like the alcoholics who call in hung over? Health costs… you mean like the health costs associated with lung cancer, emphysema, cirrhosis, and drunk driving? Mortality rates… you mean like the 400,000 who die every year from tobacco use and 85,000 who die from alcohol use? Why are these legitimate arguments to ban the marijuana that doesn’t kill, addict, or permanently harm anyone, but not legitimate arguments to ban tobacco and alcohol?
And why does Joe Biden think we’d need a government apparatus for the distribution of drugs? (Again, notice: “drugs”, not “marijuana”.) I see no government apparatus for the distribution of alcohol and tobacco, save the few states that have state-run liquor stores. Is he trying to say that a violent Mexican drug gang and an inner-city teenager is preferable to a government-run dispensary and a public employee dispensing marijuana?
Because it’s a culture war, that’s why. There is no other reasonable explanation. Marijuana use (drug use) to Joe Biden is simply bad and must not be tolerated. It matters not that there are 26 million using marijuana this year and 17.4 million this month – they are all bad for doing so and must be coerced into no longer being bad. So it doesn’t matter if you can pile up a gajillion data points showing how objectively awful alcohol and tobacco are and another gajillion showing how benign and even beneficial marijuana is, people who are drinking and smoking are not bad, pot smokers are bad. In fact, drinking is good – we dedicate entire movie franchises to alcohol overdoses and sitcoms to alcoholics. Smoking is bad, but it’s users aren’t considered bad, they’re considered pitiable folks who deserve out empathy for making a bad choice as a kid and getting hooked by cigarettes.