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Monday, 27 December 2010

Northern Mexico is the locus of a modern media echo chamber where global press outlets constantly practice their synchronised routines in condemning drug-connected violence as, almost daily it seems, another slaughter occurs under the noses of local civil authorities. Remarkable this October was news that a 20-year-old student named Marisol Valles was the only candidate willing to take up the position of police chief in the town of Praxedis. But the war on drugs is simply not working.

Back in 2009, the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank based in Washington DC, released a report it had comissioned on Portugal's decriminalisation of drug use. Several press outlets covered the paper but there was little traction in the broadsheets, let alone the ghastly tabloids.

In 2011 I think it's time to take another look at the options available, keeping in mind that, in Portugal, the nightmare scenarios predicted by the chorus of conservative doom-sayers just did not eventuate. Switzerland and Holland also have liberal laws regarding drug use. In the US, the standard-bearer for the War on Drugs, live 25 percent of the world's criminals, despite the fact that the country only has five percent of the world's population. Trillions of dollars have been spent in the battle for supremacy against the drug barons, but there has been precious little to show for all the expense. And a lot of dead bodies. It's time to take the trade away from dealers and put it into the hands of corporations.

This is a sight further than even Portugal has ventured but it is, I believe, the only way to stop the carnage, the jailings and the pain. Drugs are certainly not to be recommended: rational speech is. (There are other, better ways to minimise the pain of living.) By continuing to allow dealers to run the trade, the authorities are merely pushing the money underground. People will always want to find a way to reduce existential pain. So let's remove the stigma attached to drugs and talk rationally about the problem. Our children will thank us.

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