Saturday, 14 July 2012

"War on drugs wastes lives and money"

"The cocaine found in a shipping container", SCMP photo
My letter to South China Morning Post was featured today with the photo above (pay-wall).  Have had a number of emails in support.   Hope in time the idiocy of the "WOD" will become more an more apparent.
Another example of the idiocy is Afghanistan.  It produces the most and best of the world's opium.  Local farmers rely on it; no other crop  -- not almonds, not raisins, not chickpeas -- provides the income of poppies.  They supply 90% of the world's heroin.  
At the same time Africa is severely short of analgesics like morphine.
For the price of about two weeks' cost of the US troops in Afghanistan, the whole of the Afghan poppy crop could be bought, converted into legal morphine (in factories within Afghanistan, providing further employment) and shipped to Africa -- say, by the World Health Organisation -- for free use by poor patients.  
Thus it would be two birds with the one stone: (1) legitimise the crop in Afghanistan and remove the criminal element (Taliban gang-controlled) and (2) provide pain relief in Africa.
This would not be easy to be sure.  The gangs controlling the poppy to opium to heroin trade ex Afghanistan are hardly likely to go without a fight.
But how much better than the current futile effort to eradicate it: creating enemies from the farmers and making illicit profits for the Taliban; while African poor stay in pain.
My letter below the fold: [links in the original]:

War on drugs wastes lives and money

There was yet another photo opportunity with customs officers in front of the "city's biggest seizure of cocaine" ("Customs seizes record HK$760 million cocaine haul", July 7).

Yet another boast that the seizures reflect "determination and confidence to fight against trafficking of illegal drugs".

Yet another bit of nonsense.

A recent New York Times article noted that the price of cocaine today is 74 per cent cheaper than it was 30 years ago. This number proves, as the article pointed out, "that the struggle on which they have spent billions of dollars and lost tens of thousands of lives over the last four decades has failed".
Harvard University studies show that legalising all illicit drugs would produce net benefits to the US of US$65 billion a year by reduced spending on enforcement and less crime. [links in original]
Even if we can't accept legalising, there are other options. The Global Commission on Drug Policy, with former presidents of Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Brazil, wants national governments to "depenalise" drug possession and sales. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an international organisation of criminal justice professionals who have seen the wasteful futility and harm of current drug policies, calls for repeal of prohibition and replacement with a tight system of legalised regulation (like alcohol).
Why does Hong Kong feel it necessary to parrot America's failed, costly and dangerous "war on drugs"? Why don't we talk about better ways?
We should have the guts to consider these other options - legalisation or "depenalisation" - rather than exulting in yet another pointless drug haul. A haul that does nothing to stem the flow and price of illicit drugs. Or are the photo opportunities just too hard to resist?
Yours, etc,
Peter F...