Friday, April 2, 2010

Body Bags to Dime Bags

When we unwind outdoors this week with a joint that is so much sweeter when the weather's just right, will we think about where this stuff comes from?

And I don't mean regular suppliers, or that list of five guys you or your friends call in desperation when they're craving a hit, but the people who have made the fateful decision to put their freedom -- and lives -- on the line, for the dollar.

We probably won't, but we probably should. And not because we should feel sorry for the tens of thousands killed in Mexican border cities (though we probably should), or the hundreds of thousands in jail or on probation all over North America, or the millions who will get so high they'll blurt out the dumbest thing they've ever said, but because legalizing a drug that is so obviously fit to be legalized is something we all --whether you smoke twice a day, or twice a month-- have a stake in.

Drug cartels in Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana have been operating for over half a century along the Mexican border. Mexico is not only a major narcotic supplier, but the gateway between the wealthiest drug-consuming market and South America's world-class drug producers.

It's only been recently, though, that the violence has escalated to an uncontrollable point. So much of what you read will trace the violence back to the 2006 election of Felipe Calderon, and his quest to dismantle the drug trafficking industry in Mexico, but this isn't entirely true. Statistics show death rates in these cities already on the rise before Calderon, and independent of government intervention. This began as a battle between cartels, and the police and military --the ones who have not yet been corrupted-- have become a third party to violence.

In the past few months we've heard about more high-profile murders. Police chiefs and officers are making weekly news. Recently a Monterrey police chief was found decapitated in a car with his head on his lap...his brother dead in the back seat.

Now most of what people smoke up here is home-grown green. Everyone is always raving about B.C. bud, but that's where a significant chunk of our weed comes from. Despite the stretch of fertile, uninhabited ground our country has, grow-ops have become the norm. And because this process has become so scientific, the weed we smoke has so much more THC than the weed our parents' generation smoked that many think it should be placed in a higher class of drugs.

The other issue with the chemical manipulation of marijuana is that it influences greater variation in the product being sold. With this variation comes ruthless, money-hungry entrepreneurs doing anything to gain a competitive edge. So while the situation in Vancouver will never be what it is in Tijuana, it's expected that major traffickers will --at some point-- go to war, and innocent civilians may be caught in the cross-fire.

This has happened in Mexico, and plenty of Canada's Marijuana does still come up from South America, through the Mexican blood-baths of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana, and eventually through the U.S.-Canada border. But how much of this violence would cease if Marijuana were legalized?

Not all of it, of course, but millions of North and South Americans in the narcotics industry could become legal business men, and their rivals legal competition. Government regulation could cap monopolies, and guns would be obsolete. Serious money could be pumped into struggling South American economies.

Now I'm not naive enough to believe that there aren't significant downsides, but this is a pretty significant upside. This doesn't exactly cover the coke and amphetamine issue (in the last decade Canada has become one of the largest Meth and Ecstasy suppliers in the world), but one step at a time.

What I've gone over is minute in scope of the endless personal and political issues that you should think about, but save that conversation for sobriety. Smoking Marijuana is of those few privileges in life that should be enjoyed -- no questions asked.

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