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September 17, 2007 - Statesman Journal (OR)

OpEd: Mexico's War On Drug Lords

By Russ Jones, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

I agree with Col. Austin Bay in his Aug. 3 online article, "Mexico wages war on drug lords, corruption of federal police," that President Calderon is to be commended for his fight for judicial and police reforms, rooting out corruption and modernizing Mexico.

I respectfully disagree, however, with his assessment that President Calderon can successfully smash the drug lords.

Although Colonel Bay is correct that Mexico cannot eradicate drug smuggling because of the demand for drugs in the U.S., he fails to see that it is the demand for drugs that will ensure a never ending supply.

Mexico can eliminate one drug lord after another and new cartels will always step up and fill the void.

The problems created by the demand for drugs here in the U.S., as well as throughout Europe and the rest of the world, will never be solved by trying to eradicate that demand.

People have been chewing coca leaves, smoking hashish, drinking alcohol and searching for other mind altering substances for thousands of years. The economic principle of supply and demand is powerful. Supply will always seek a way to fulfill demand.

How we choose to deal with that demand is what causes the problems here and in Mexico. If the U.S. were to take the lead in the world with a policy of a government regulated supply of drugs, as we do with alcohol and tobacco, then the cartels and black market for drugs would evaporate overnight -- which is exactly what happened when alcohol prohibition was lifted.

By applying a legalize, regulate and control strategy, we treat drug problems as an education and health issue, not a criminal issue. In the last 40 years, without arresting anyone, tobacco use has been reduced from 42 percent to just over 20 percent.

By taking control of the drug supply from the cartels, we can apply the same principles used with tobacco and reduce the incidence of death, disease, crime and drug use.

Deaths are caused by impure drugs of unknown strength; diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis are spread by non-sterile drug paraphernalia; crime is intensified by black marketers and drug use is increased by multi-level marketing pushers.

Regulating the distribution and sale of drugs will not solve all of our drug problems, just as lifting prohibition did not solve all of our alcohol problems. But it certainly will put the cartels out of business and solve most of the problems created by prohibition, both here and in Mexico.

Imagine what President Calderon could accomplish with all the time, energy and money currently going into his war on the drug lords. Their country's efforts instead could go towards economic development.

This would create jobs, raise the standard of living and reduce the incentive to cross borders in search of a better life.

Under the current policy, many lives will continue to be lost and billions of unproductive dollars spent.

President Calderon's effort against the cartels, like our war on drugs, is nothing more than shoveling sand against the tide.

Russ Jones, a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, has been involved in the War on Drugs for 30 years as a narcotics detective, DEA task force officer, intelligence agent in Latin America and private consultant. He is a nationally recognized expert in narcotics trafficking.

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