Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Crap economy a boon for drug trade

"Cash Rules Everything Around Me" (C.R.E.A.M.) is the title of Wu-Tang Clan's best song ever.  It's about drug dealing and drug use, poverty, escapism, and a lack of viable employment options for inner city black youths.  

Drug dealing has been on my mind lately since finishing "The Wire" a few months ago and since I started sorta watching "Breaking Bad".  "The Wire" was about cops using wire tapping to bust an elaborate drug syndicate in Baltimore, but the genius of the show was that it explored the tangled web of drugs, politics, schools, business, prostitution, and the media that all fed on one another.  "Breaking Bad" is primarily about desperation: the main character has lung cancer, and to pay for his treatments, he uses his superior knowledge of chemistry to make the best crystal meth the world has ever seen.  

Right now we're in a pretty wretched economic climate, and I'm confident the current mix of unemployment and housing foreclosures will produce a swell in drug entrepreneurs.  I predict the drug trade will expand rapidly for the next few years as more people are laid off and more consumers start using.  The effect of this on health care costs will be really bad since more OD patients and meth lab burn victims will clog up emergency rooms and not be able to pay for their care.  We'll see more crack babies, more abortions, and it's a guarantee that street crime will increase.    

One way to ameliorate this situation is to legalize marijuana.  If pot is legalized, society reaps all kinds of benefits: 

1) police officers are free to pursue more dangerous elements 
2) the government can tax the crap out of weed and make a ridiculous amount of money
3) legal pot will be safer to use and users will face no risk of exposure to PCP or any other foreign chemicals
4) if the government runs the pot trade, you've effectively put a whole lot of Mexican and Columbian cartels out of business - something the War on Drugs has never been able to do
5) I believe if you are free to use pot, there's less of an incentive to move on to harder drugs
6) and I also think that legalizing pot may ultimately decrease its use since it's no longer clandestine, and people love doing things that are sneaky and bad

I heard recently that Berkeley's own W.R. Hearst is largely responsible for the anti-marijuana movement in America (ironic since pot is de facto legal in Berkeley).  The story goes that he didn't want hemp to succeed since it would hurt his business interests and so he campaigned against pot and created a whole bunch of hysteria that has persisted to today.  If this is true, I think it's high time (hehe, get it?) to reexamine our country's policy on marijuana and start thinking about the two harsh realities that exist in our world: 1) life is hard and pot makes people happy, and 2) the U.S. government is not in a position to ignore enormous pockets of revenue right now.  According to the SF Chronicle, we are borrowing 50 cents of every dollar we spend.  That kind of gaping deficit should be scary enough to motivate Washington into bold action.  

1 comment:

  1. Indeed. NPR did a really interesting piece on legalization of pot. They interviewed experts and the results were kind of sobering. To respond to your points:

    1 and 4. Criminal and drug cartels will find other lines of business whether it be kidnapping, cybercrimes, other trafficing, etc. There won't be a reduction in crime but rather a shift in type of crime.
    2. A Harvard economist put tax revenues at $20 billion. Not chump change but only enough to pay for 1 fighter jet.
    3 and 5. With the harm reduction model, you will have less crackheads and methheads but more potheads. I used to work in psych crisis, and I'd much rather have the potheads. However, you still have addicts just different kind of addicts.
    6. As you can guess from previous points, it would be debatable if there would be a reduction.

    Reducing jail population was another advantage. I'd agree that there's no real reason or advantage to have pot illegal but according to this study there wasn't sufficient advantage for anyone to champion it. I'm hoping for a gay marriage-esque state-by-state legalization.