by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the
government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be
enforced. - Albert Einstein
Police in England are distributing “scratch and sniff” cards to help members of the public detect the telltale aroma of illicit cannabis farms.
The cards, which replicate the distinct smell of growing marijuana, will be mailed to homes in 13 areas throughout the country, in the hope that they will help people to identify cannabis factories in their communities.
[…] Crimestoppers offers a list of clues for spotting cannabis cultivation, including a “strong and sickly sweet smell; visitors at unsociable hours; strong and constant lighting day and night and lots of cables.”
The U.K. saw a 15% growth in cannabis production in 2011-12, according to Crimestoppers, which the group claimed has led to an increase in theft, violence and the use of firearms, as well as an increased risk of fire in residential areas where growers have tampered with electrical supplies. Supplying cannabis in the U.K. can lead to a 14-year prison sentence.
“Consider the number of people who have taken drugs that are purported to cause violence. More than 37 million Americans report trying cocaine at least once; 9 million have admitted smoking crack; LSD has been taken by some 23 million U.S citizens. Imagine the mayhem if each of these users turned violent.
Further, synthetic marijuana — which is sold as “K2″ or “Spice” and has also been blamed recently for violent crimes — has been tried by 11% of American high school seniors. There are no figures for another “legal high” known as bath salts, which contain amphetamine-like compounds and which an emergency room doctor blamed for the Miami attack.
Basically, if drugs were a simple cause of violence, we’d be in far more trouble than we are now, with a crime rate many times what it actually is. Indeed, despite the rise of the new legal highs, rates of violent crime have generally adhered to a decades-long decline.”
— Maia Szalavitz - Why Drugs Are Getting a Bum Rap in the Miami Face-Eating Attack | TIME
“If you want any evidence that drugs have won the drug war, you just need to read the scientific studies on legal highs.”
The war on drugs has a new front, and so far it appears to be a losing one.
Synthetic mimics of marijuana, dissociative drugs and stimulants - such as the “bath salts” allegedly consumed by Rudy Eugene, the Florida man shot after a horrific face-eating assault - are growing in popularity and hard to control. Every time a compound is banned, overseas chemists synthesize a new version tweaked just enough to evade a law’s letter.
It’s a giant game of chemical Whack-a-Mole.
Pictured: A 2011 traffic stop seizure in South Carolina yielded bath salts and synthetic marijuana with a street value of $10,000.
May 4, 2012: Nine bodies were found hanging from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, just across the border from Laredo, Texas. Police could not confirm who was responsible for the murders but a message seen with the bodies indicated it may have been an attack by the Zetas cartel against the rival Gulf cartel.
The Houston Chronicle is carrying a story with startling revelations of drug gang brutality in Mexico. Among other things, it reports of kidnapping young men and forcing them to engage in contests to the death in order to find and recruit killers. This made me wonder what kinds of things deter people from behaving like this, and what kinds of conditions produce this kind of behavior.
1. The state forbids something, like drugs.
2. Production MUST therefore be illegal, and production will occur because the demand doesn’t disappear when the drug is made illegal.
3. Going illegal is a necessary condition for all those who are willing to produce and supply the drug. The profit motive remains, even heightens, and so there will always be people who will go illegal.
4. The people attracted into the illegal business are going to be the people who already have the least inhibitions about doing anything immoral and illegal. They are the ones most willing to take risks.
5. Competition is all within illegality. This means that moral rules that govern peaceful competition do not prevail among the suppliers. They therefore select among any actions and rules that bring them survival, profits, and growth. The most effective means of gaining market share and preventing the incursion of rivals within a situation of illegal rivalry will include a reputation and readiness to kill and maim so as to enforce one’s will.
6. The means include corrupting law enforcement. This is virtually a necessity and always occurs in these conditions. The results include gang warfare. It also includes uneasy peace among gangs and division into territories and fiefdoms.
7. The competition need not lead to the practices mentioned in this article whose aim is to find and groom the most merciless killers. Yet it probably happened in the 1920s gangs that this mode of competition also prevailed as the many stories of Capone suggest. Most gangster movies also depict that the more brutal gangsters rise to the top.
I don’t claim that this is a complete explanation of what’s going on, but I did want to make the point that what’s going on in Mexico is not a random thing and not a peculiarly Mexican thing. These things often have rational explanations. It’s akin to terrorism and assassination and other forms of violence in that respect. There are often reasons that we can find that explain it even if the behavior is awful.
Drug Enforcement Administration agents working with members of the Honduran military were involved in the killing of two pregnant women and two men, all of them innocent, last Friday [May 11].
The deceased victims included two young men, Emerson Martínez and Chalo Brock Wood, and two women, Candelaria Tratt Nelson and Juana Banegas — both of whom were pregnant. According to Congressman Wood Grawell Maylo of the department of Gracias a Dios and the Mayor of Ahuas, Lucio Baquedano, the attack was carried out in the early morning by a helicopter unit consisting of Honduran police and members of the United Stated Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). They said that the unit mistook the targeted boat for another boat that was being used by drug traffickers.
El Tiempo reported that the two boats had passed each other in the early morning at about the time that the motorboat with the drug traffickers was being pursued by the helicopter. Mr. Baquedano said, “The boat with the narcos did not have a light, while the one with the passengers did have a light… which made it a visible target for the agents who were firing from the helicopter.” He said that the drug traffickers abandoned their boat and escaped up the coast in the direction of El Patuca.
Villagers rioted in protest, burning down government buildings and demanding that agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), who participated in the operation as part of a commando-style Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST), leave the area and stay out.
spreading ‘good will’ around the world: the dea’s presence in central america is expanding:
Honduras is a growing focus of American counternarcotics efforts aimed at the drug cartels that have increasingly sought to use its ungoverned spaces as a way point in shipping cocaine from South America to the United States.
In November 2011, The New York Times reported that the DEA has deployed five “commando-style squads” in Central America and the Caribbean, including Honduras, to combat drug cartels. Each team consists of 10 specially-trained agents with military experience. The operation is part of the Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST) program established under President George. W. Bush in response to drug trafficking associated with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The program is reportedly overseen by former Navy SEAL Richard Dobrich. The Pentagon provides most of the training, equipment, and transport for the DEA squads.
The slow death of prohibition | BBC News (March 2012)
When prohibition came into force, in 1920, saloons across the country were boarded up and the streets foamed with beer as joyful campaigners smashed kegs and poured bottles down the drain.
But far from ending corruption and vice, as opponents of the “demon rum” had hoped, prohibition led to an unprecedented explosion in criminality and drunkenness.
Thousands of speakeasies selling illegal liquor, often far stronger than legal varieties, sprang up across the country - and gangsters such as Al Capone fought bloody turf wars over the control of newly created bootlegging empires.
National prohibition was finally repealed in 1933, but it never quite died out.
When alcohol regulation was handed back to individual states, many local communities voted to keep the restrictions in place, particularly in the southern Bible Belt.
Today there are still more than 200 “dry” counties in the United States, and many more where cities and towns within dry areas have voted to allow alcohol sales, making them “moist” or partially dry.
[…] Methamphetamine and prescription pills like Oxycontin, dubbed “hillbilly heroin”, have taken over from bootlegging and the distillation of moonshine as the main source of profit for local criminals.
Bootleggers once “ran wild” in the area, according to Paul Croley, but with the growing availability of legal alcohol in wet towns, any profit made from smuggling booze across county lines has largely evaporated.
Local law enforcement largely turns a blind eye to bootleggers now, and few cases make it to court.
“It is simply somebody driving up the interstate, bringing beer down here and selling it to people. That’s it. It’s not the Dukes of Hazzard,” says Croley.
But the churches argue that alcohol is a “gateway” drug, and is still offered for sale by bootleggers alongside more dangerous substances.
An NYPD commissioner, John Leach, supervises the destruction of liquor during the height of prohibition.
“It will be no bad idea to lay away a ten years’ supply of corn whiskey strictly for medicinal purposes, and you will never regret it.”
New “legal highs” and other synthetic drugs are appearing on the market at the rate of one a week, the EU’s drug agency has warned.
The Lisbon-based European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said 49 new “psychoactive” substances were officially notified for the first time in 2011 through an EU early-warning system.
“This represents the largest number of substances ever reported in a single year, up from 41 substances reported in 2010 and 24 reported in 2009,” said the agency.
[…] “We have rapidly growing numbers of psychoactive drugs on the market, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the police to identify the drugs they’re finding… Just adding a drug to the long list already controlled won’t make much difference… The police and forensics are under too much pressure already to be able to offer much deterrent to potential users… We are deluding ourselves if we think that using existing controls like temporary bans will solve the problem,” said Roger Howard of the UK drugs policy commission, an independent organisation providing drugs policy analysis.
For the sake of the argument, let’s go ahead and assume that everything you’ve heard about the dangers of drugs is completely true. That probably means that using drugs is a terrible idea. It doesn’t mean, however, that the drug war is a good idea.
Prohibition is a textbook example of a policy with negative unintended consequences. Literally: it’s an example in the textbook I use in my introductory economics classes (Cowen and Tabarrok, Modern Principles of Economics if you’re curious) and in the most popular introductory economics textbook in the world (by N. Gregory Mankiw).The demand curve for drugs is extremely inelastic, meaning that people don’t change their drug consumption very much in response to changes in prices. Therefore, vigorous enforcement means higher prices and higher revenues for drug dealers.
The Obama administration released its 2012 National Drug Control Strategy and accompanying 2013 drug budget Tuesday, and while the administration touted it as a “drug policy for the 21st Century,” it is very much of a piece with anti-drug policies going back to the days of Richard Nixon.
[…] The federal government will spend more than $25 billion on drug control under the proposed budget, nearly half a billion dollars more than this year. And despite the administration’s talk about emphasizing prevention and treatment over war on drugs spending, it retains the same roughly 60:40 ratio of law enforcement and interdiction spending over treatment and prevention training that [it] has obtained in federal drug budgets going back years. In fact, the 58.8% of the proposed budget that would go to drug war programs is exactly the same percentage as George Bush’s 2008 budget and even higher than the 56.8% in Bush’s 2005 budget.