By Ramneet Singh
LONDON, England – The Economist wrote this week that legalizing cocaine would allow for “safer cocaine, safer streets and greater political stability in the Americas.”
The article opens with a discussion of federal and state drug policy, noting, “the president’s admission applies to drug policy more broadly. Prohibition is not working—and that can be seen most strikingly with cocaine, not cannabis.”
In comparison to marijuana, the article references opioid overdoses, citing statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse that show, “Opioid-involved overdose deaths rose from 21,089 in 2010 to 47,600 in 2017 and remained steady through 2019. This was followed by a significant increase in 2020 with 68,630 reported deaths and again in 2021 with 80,411 reported overdose deaths.”
The Economist notes the disparity between America’s historical “‘war or drugs’” and record cocaine production in recent years, explaining cocaine production in 2020 was 1,982 tons despite the U.S. spending $10 billion in Colombia between 2000 and 2020 to stymie production.
A linked economist article described how for South American farmers “it pays more than cultivating most legal crops. And even being on the bottom rung of the drug business confers a certain glamor.”
The White House put out a statement claiming Colombia “reported a record 130,000 hectares of manual eradication and nearly 580 metric tons of cocaine and cocaine base seized in 2020.”
The Economist story considers the negative impact of production in South America. These include high murder rate and power dynamic between governments and gangs.
The International Crisis Group reported how Ecuador had a lack of historical cartel activity, but it described that “police attribute 80 per cent of these murders to clashes among criminal groups vying to control the distribution and export of drugs, primarily cocaine.”
Some South American presidents have considered “decriminalizing coca-leaf production and allowing Colombians to consume cocaine safely.” However, the Economist said weakening the gangs and increasing safety would come from external factors.
One of the countries that considered decriminalization notes the Economist, is Colombia. And, the Washington Post said President Gustavo Petro’s desire to decriminalize cocaine and marijuana.
Petro stated, “‘it is time for a new international convention that accepts that the war on drugs has failed.’” The Economist suggested there would be the potential of Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, all cocaine producers could band together in similar efforts.
The Economist article described the potential ineffectiveness of half measures, arguing “full legalization, allowing non-criminals to supply a strictly regulated, highly taxed product, just as whisky- and cigarette-makers do. (Advertising banned.)”