Best to lead of with a basic premise: our bodies are like very complex versions of those chemistry sets kids used to get as Christmas or birthday presents when I was growing up. That super double latte your drinking is a chemical reaction. Your breathing in O2 and exhaling CO2 is a chemical reaction. Enough; you’re not stupid (unless you’re reading this while a science-denying Republican). People have been putting “drugs” in their bodies since Eve said to Adam, “Here, try a bit of this fruit, Adam, the first bite’s free.” We went on to try ingesting a lot of other stuff, and some of it gave us different feelings, some of which felt real good. Drug wars are therefore in some sense a battle within ourselves, a battle between pain and pleasure, between happiness and depression, between life and aging, between the consciousness we have and the altered one that promises something better, between being quicker, faster and stronger at competitive sports to being a loser, between the immediacy of orgasmic ecstasy and the dangers of the “erection that lasts for more than four hours.”
Two critical things happened after we experience the altered state(s) of drugs: one, we want that feeling again (we prefer pleasure over pain)—that’s the addictive part; second, thanks to our greedy little capitalist gene some people will definitely get then idea, “Hey, let’s get control over the availability of this shit and boost the price.” Good ole Econ 101, “supply and demand” (more on than later). Which is what a lot of the argument about the so-called “Drug War” rages about. Drugs are just such good business in so many ways. All those billions, all those deaths in interdictions and wars between dealers, all those people in prison for supplying and using—all those ways in which justice, democracy, and just plain common sense are put to ruin because we are not just chemistry sets, but stupid, greedy chemistry sets.
So capitalism is also a really bad drug here, and market share is the prime active ingredient. Canadian journalist Dawn Paley, in her just-released book, Drug War Capitalism, chronicling the intents of the US-led and funded militarization south of the border in the name of destroying drug cartels, writes, “This war is about control over territory and society [and market share, cheap labor, mineral rights and profits], much more so than it is about cocaine or marijuana.”
The drug wars are really built upon a complex of loosely interrelated cartels. In addition to Big Pharma there is Big Booze, Big Snake Oil (phony vitamins, elixers etc), Big Drug Warriors (those addicted to the billions in taxes that is “industry”), and Big Penology, Testing and De-Tox. In short: it’s America, it’s capitalism, it’s business. If you can’t deal with it there is probably something you can take; just “ask your doctor.” Legalize or de-criminalize any of this and you throw a lot of people out of work, people addicted to drugs as surly as some junkie who would pimp his mother for a fix.
This is why part of that war is waged against the competitors to the corporate disperseries: the war against “illegal” drugs that is a huge business in its own right—not just for the producers and dealers but for the anti-drug interdiction, law enforcement and criminal punishment system . Big Pharma gets a nice kickback from the taxes it pays in the form of governmental protection. As drugs like pot go from “out of the alley” to “over the counter” it is no wonder that Big Pharma and Big Booze feel threatened and are fighting the insurgence of less expensive, and probably less harmful opiates. Never mind that booze, tobacco, and even medical prescriptions directly and indirectly kill more people every year than overdoses of meth, coke and heroin. Accountability for the tens of thousands killed in the wars between drug cartels is another matter.
I know, by now you’re saying, “alright smartass, I’ve heard all of this before (yes, I know you have, but not put so eloquently), so what’s the answer?” Well, it isn’t outright prohibition (remember what happened with the Volstead Act back in 1920). Basically, selective prohibition (leaving as legal the booze, tobacco, and the Big Pharma Rx stuff) is what we are engaged in right now and we see that it has created the capitalistic enterprises noted above, with people running them who would make Al Capone look like Oprah. Our “legal” drugs now have so much political juice that there is about as much chance of outright prohibition of these substances as there would be of catching sight of Ayn Rand working in a soup kitchen.
When we get around to the subject of what should be done the subject of supply and demand inevitably arises. The drug producing and distributing cartels like to tell us that if we would shut off demand (“Just Say NO?”) then the problem would go away. Fat chance of that (go back to paragraph ne, above). Anyway, how are we going to keep those prisons filled with those people of color users?
No, we gotta shut off the supply we counter (that keeps the funds rolling in to DEA and the militarized interdiction forces). The supposed logic of this argument is that supply creates demand. You, know, for example, of we legalize prostitution then formerly faithful husbands will be rushing down to their local brothel filled with formerly chaste women who will jump at the new professional opportunity (Oh, and stopping at the local pot shop to pick up a bag of grass), and maybe they will turn homosexual if gay marriage is also legalized.
No, we retain that logic for the sake of nit-witted right-wingers wouldn’t know social science if it was a sharp rock and they were sitting on it AND because the sop-called Drug War is one big freakin’ capitalistic addiction we aren’t willing to kick.
If there is an answer at all it is in REGULATION. Let people have there pleasure, alternate realities, pain and erectile dysfunction relief, etc. Just punish them for beating the wives and kids, shooting the neighbor’s dog, DUI, and texting while screwing and whatever else is socially dangerous.
Ah, but that word REGULATION; that’s a government word, ain’t it. That would be bad for business.
© 2015, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 1.3.2015)