The Rise Of The Cartels

We somehow didn’t learn our lesson from Prohibition.

The Prohibition era is embedded in the minds of Americans as one of our biggest blunders. How could we possibly think outlawing alcohol would be a good idea?! Let’s be realistic here ­ people are always going to drink, whether the law says they can or not. And if they can’t get alcohol legally, they will get it otherwise. Enter the Mafia.

So why don’t we feel the same way when it comes to the war on drugs creating vicious cartels?

In fact, the cartels are responsible for enough violence and damage to be considered a war unto itself, spanning much of Central America. At first, drug smuggling traveled by sea from the Caribbean. Once that was curbed, it moved to Colombia, a country legendary for its cocaine production and the subsequent wars that carried production to Bolivia and Peru. Those countries are now the largest sites of cultivation, while production moved to Ecuador and Venezuela.

Mexican drug cartels took on much of the business side, and the trade rapidly escalated in violence. The cartels have penetrated the Mexican citizenry so much so that the most important insurance to purchase for a Mexican family is kidnapping ransom insurance. Enrique Peña Nieto, the President of Mexico, is doing a good job minimizing the violence there. That means Honduras inherited smuggling by air. The crackdown continued, and now it has come full circle
back to the Caribbean.

So now, cartels and drug smuggling operations have spread and infiltrated at least six countries.

Drugs today are no different from alcohol in the era of Prohibition ­ where there is demand, there will be supply.

We’re starting to legalize marijuana ­ almost half of the country has passed statewide legislation.  It’s a good start. It will impact the war on drugs substantially, by taking supply out of the sole hands of cartel lords.
Marijuana is a first step, but what about the rest? Could decriminalizing drugs as a whole work?


We already have a real­ life case study: Portugal in the early 2000s. Social scientists could never experiment with decriminalization for many reasons, but Portugal decided to do it themselves.
Portugal’s decriminalization was prompted by the country’s virtually uncontrollable drug problem.  As a last resort, they tried it. Not just certain substances, though ­ decriminalization of everything. And it worked. Drug abuse was cut in half. Fewer deaths, less addiction, lower user entry rates.

Yes, total decriminalization may be a long way off for America. But we should embrace the momentum behind the legalization of marijuana and critically examine the evidence pouring in about the effects of the war on drugs. Right now, both of those things decidedly point in the direction of decriminalization.


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