Is the evil, that many cite as indicative of the 'failure' of the 'War on Drugs,' actually a perverse indices of its success?
By Ernest A. Canning on 4/20/2012, 8:05am PT  

Guest Editorial Series by Ernest A. Canning

Even a glimpse at the statistics leads knowledgeable sources, like Ethan Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, to describe the 'War on Drugs' as a "failed prohibitionist policy."

"Over the last 40 years, more than 45 million drug-related arrests have cost an estimated $1 trillion," Amy Goodman reported on Democracy Now! "Yet drugs are cheaper, purer and more available today than ever."

And that's just in the U.S.

According to the United Nations' 2011 World Drug Report [PDF], "in 2009, between 149 and 272 million people...aged 15-64 used illicit substances at least once in the previous year." The UN estimated that Cannabis was "consumed by between 125 and 203 million people worldwide in 2009," adding:

Drug traffickers and organized criminals are forming transnational networks, sourcing drugs on one continent, trafficking them across another, and marketing them in a third. In some countries and regions, the value of the illicit drug trade far exceeds the size of the legitimate economy.

But Nadelmann's description of the 'War on Drugs' as a "failed prohibitionist policy" is derived from the supposition that the 'War on Drugs', at least here in the U.S., was actually formulated with a desire to suppress or eliminate drug abuse.

In PART 1 of this series, we examined the question of whether the U.S. Government's effort to challenge legalization of marijuana in California and elsewhere was akin to shutting down the competition, given the CIA's long-documented history of profiting from the world-wide drug trade. In PART 2 we posited that an end to the 'War on Drugs' could deliver a devastating blow to the bottom line of American corporations who have come to depend upon the Prison Industrial Complex in the U.S. and its huge pool of slave laborers --- most, non-violent drug offenders.

So now, we must examine the hypothesis that, if accurate, should rock us all to our core.

What if the horrific consequences of the worldwide drug trade, which, per the UN 2011 World Drug Report, includes an annual death toll of 200,000, are precisely what President Nixon and the covert branches of U.S. Empire had in mind when formulating a policy that would enhance the domination of the 1% over the 99%? Are we now living in a form of Aldus Huxley's Brave New World in which "Failure is Success" can be added to the three slogans from George Orwell's 1984 --- "War is Peace," "Freedom is Slavery" and "Ignorance is Strength" --- a world in which a vote against legalization is actually a vote in favor of illicit distribution by organized crime and their allies in the CIA?...

U.S. Empire resists legalization because it would lessen Empire's grip

As revealed during a poignant March 9, 2012 segment of Democracy Now (see video below), Vice President Joe Biden's statement that "'there is no possibility' the U.S. will back legalization," has failed to deter a growing consensus amongst leaders in Mexico and other Latin-American nations that the 'War on Drugs' should be replaced by some measure of legalization to, in the words of host Juan González, "reduce the power of drug cartels and reduce the bloodshed connected to the drug war."

According to an April 14, 2012 Los Angeles Times article, the Obama Administration's 'War on Drugs' stance will face a "rocky reception" at the 33-member Summit of the Americas in Cartegena, where the Presidents of Columbia and Guatemala are pushing for legalization, taxation and regulation of "marijuana and other illicit drugs."

The U.S. rhetoric of the 'War on Drugs' rings hollow, especially in Mexico, where CNN reports "nearly 48,000 people have been killed in suspected drug-related violence" in the last five years, including 13,000 in "the first three quarters of 2011 --- a number that does not include the more than 5,000 people who have disappeared."

The concern about the power of the cartels and escalating violence comes full circle to the recent DOJ/DEA crackdown on even medicinal marijuana in California when placed in the context of the claim made by Jorge Castañeda, former foreign minister of Mexico. He notes that, per the DEA's own estimates, somewhere between 40% and 60% of the Mexican cartels' profits come from marijuana. Legalize marijuana, therefore, and 40%-60% of the cartels' revenue vanishes overnight. Legalize, regulate and tax all narcotics (with concurrent efforts at medical, educational and psychological assistance in avoiding substance abuse) and the cartels would be swept into the dustbin of history.*

Nadelmann asserts that there is a growing recognition amongst Latin American leaders that there is simply no "evidence that any militaristic, criminal justice crackdown strategy can defeat what is essentially a global commodities market."

Years of evidence suggests he's right, but it also seems significant that the growing resistance to the 'War on Drugs' comes from a region where one nation after another is breaking free from the control of the U.S. corporate global Empire --- an Empire on behalf of whom the CIA has long had a green light to bypass "any militaristic, criminal justice crackdown."

Frankenstein's monster

If the core hypothesis of this three-part series is accurate, if the 'War on Drugs' was created and perpetuated in order to effectuate the control of the 1% over the 99% by such machinations as covert CIA funding and the pool of slave labor created by the Prison Industrial Complex --- goals that have created a symbiotic relationship between Empire and the murderous drug cartels --- we may now be approaching the stage where Empire's pact with the Devil has come home to roost.

The same CNN report, quoted above, which described the growing carnage in Mexico, reveals that it has now migrated northward:

Street gangs with cartel ties are not only in Los Angeles and Dallas, but also in many smaller cities across the United States and much farther north of the Mexican border. Mexican cartels had a presence in 230 cities in the United States in 2008, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Its 2011 report shows that presence has grown to more than 1,000 U.S. cities. While the violence has remained mostly in Mexico, authorities in Arizona, Georgia, Texas, Alabama and other states have reportedly investigated abductions and killings suspected to be tied to cartels.

A Great Awakening?

Although an effort to legalize, regulate and tax recreational use of marijuana failed when a majority of Californians reportedly** voted "no" on Prop. 19 in Nov. 2010, citizens in both Colorado and Washington state will likely be given the opportunity to vote on legalization in Nov. 2012. Significantly, amongst those supporting the WA initiative are former Republican NM Gov. Gary Johnson, former U.S. Attorneys John McKay & Katrina Pflaumer, former state Superior Court Judge Robert Alsdorf, and former FBI agent Charles Mandigo.

Separately, more than 300 economists, including three Nobel laureates, on the basis of a study by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron suggesting the U.S. would save as much as $13.7 billion/year if marijuana were legalized, signed a petition calling for an open debate in which "advocates of current policy" would be forced "to show that prohibition has benefits sufficient to justify the cost to taxpayers, foregone tax revenues, and numerous ancillary consequences that result from marijuana prohibition."

Passage of the measures now pending in WA and CO, of course, would not preclude a repeat of the recent federal crackdowns on CA medicinal marijuana clinics. But, as the late historian Howard Zinn observed in A Power Governments Cannot Suppress: "When the citizens begin to suspect they have been deceived and withdraw their support, government loses its legitimacy and its power."

Make no mistake. When it comes to the 'War on Drugs,' we have all been deceived.

PART 1 of this series is here.
PART 2 of this series is here.
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*The history of the impact of Prohibition and its repeal upon illegal bootlegging refutes the assertion made by President Obama at the April 14, 2012 Summit of the Americas that the "capacity of a large-scale drug trade to dominate certain countries if they were allowed to operate legally without any constraint could be just as corrupting, if not more corrupting than the status quo."

Just as the 21st Amendment separated organized crime from the production and distribution of alcoholic beverages, so too, an end to the prohibition on other drugs would separate organized crime from the cultivation, production and distribution of those drugs which are presently illicit.

**As repeatedly documented by The BRAD BLOG, irrespective of whether it comes from the 100% unverifiable, Direct Recording Electronic (usually touchscreen) voting systems or by way of the oft-failed and easily manipulated optical scan systems, the accuracy of any "reported" electoral result will remain an open question absent a verifiable and transparent hand count of paper ballots, preferably in front of the public and press at each precinct on Election Night. Thus, while the tally "reported" by the computers indicates that Prop. 19 was rejected by a majority of CA voters in Nov. 2010, the accuracy of that 'official' count cannot be independently verified at this time.

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Democracy Now!'s 3/9/12 segment covering the growing Latin American resistance to the 'War on Drugs' follows...

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.