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Will Mexicans Lead Us to Drug Legalization?

mexico-drugby Jacob G. Hornberger

There is good news coming out of Mexico. CNN is reporting that hundreds of protestors have begun a 3-day march to Mexico City seeking an end to the drug war. It’s seems that the group might be calling for some kind of truce between the government and the drug gangs, rather than legalization, but it’s nonetheless a clear sign that people are sick and tired of the government’s drug war and its horrible effects on society.

Periodically during the past 40 years, drug-war proponents here in the United States have exclaimed, “The problem with the drug war is that the authorities aren’t really enforcing the laws. If we were to just crack down, maybe even call in the military, we could finally win the drug war.”

Of course, that was nothing but sheer nonsense. For one thing, they were cracking down, decade after decade. There were mandatory-minimum sentences, asset-forfeiture laws, long jail terms for drug users and drug dealers, no-knock raids, unreasonable searches and seizures, especially on the highways. Why, the drug war has been the driving force behind America’s conversion to a police state, especially along the southern border, where a combination of federal, state, and local law-enforcement agents have effectively militarized life along the border.

What was missing, of course, was the U.S. military, which has long champed at the possibility of engaging in the drug war here in the United States. Decade after decade, drug-war proponents would exclaim, “Bring in military. They’ll win the drug war.”

The obstacle was the Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits the use of the military for domestic law-enforcement purposes. (Ironically, even though U.S. military participation in the drug war here in the United States is considered to be a bad thing, the U.S. military nonetheless sees nothing wrong with playing a dominant role in the drug war in foreign countries.)

Cracking down in the drug war in the hopes of winning it was all a pipe dream, and the Mexican government proved it. When he came into office in 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon decided that he was going to be the public official who finally won the drug war. He initiated a brutal crackdown, bringing in the Mexican military to do the job.

The entire episode has been an absolute disaster. Some 35,000 people have been killed in Calderon’s drug-war crackdown during the past 5 years. That’s more than ten times the number of people killed by the terrorists on 9/11. Moreover, not surprisingly Mexican soldiers have operated like soldiers rather than police. Barging into people’s homes without warrants, shooting suspects on sight, arbitrarily arresting people, treating the drug war as a real war rather than as a law-enforcement matter.

The military’s infringements on civil liberties, along with the ever-increasing death toll, have finally reached a point where many citizens are saying, “Enough is enough. No more. End the drug war.” Such citizens include former Mexican presidents Vicente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo.

The drug-war crackdown was doomed to fail from the get-go. As the state cracks down, the price of drugs goes up, which attracts more people into becoming drug dealers. Recently, drug agents here in the United States busted some airline employees for transporting illegal drugs from Latin America to the United States. Why would such employees risk their jobs in such an endeavor? Because they stood to gain an enormous sum of money owing to the huge black-market prices of the drugs.

When drug-war proponents say they want the drug war to stamp out the drug lords, drug gangs, and drug cartels, they’re engaging in wishful thinking but not dealing with reality. They might as well be wishing for thunder without lightning. It’s not going to happen. As long as there is a drug war, drug lords, drug gangs, and drug cartels will exist, along with all the violence that comes with them.

There is one — and only one — way to rid the world of the drug lords, drug gangs, and drug cartels: by ending the drug war through the legalization of drugs. No, not just marijuana, but also cocaine, heroin, and all other drugs. By legalizing the market, the distribution of drugs is restored to regular legal sellers in a free market, who immediately put out of business the unsavory characters who are only good at operating within an illegal market. Prices drop to a reasonable level, and the violence associated with the drug war disappears from society.

The Mexican people are halfway there with their wish to end the drug war. If only they figure out that legalization is the only solution, they might lead the United States and the world to finally, once and for all, ending the war on drugs, along with the death, destruction, and corruption it has spawned everywhere it is waged.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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