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"And there is still a lot of denial."
June 2, 2011 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Special report: If Monterrey falls, Mexico falls. 'In just four years, Monterrey, a manufacturing city of 4 million people 140 miles from the Texan border, has gone from being a model for developing economies to a symbol of Mexico's drug war chaos, sucked down into a dark spiral of gangland killings, violent crime and growing lawlessness.'

'For Monterrey, the biggest lesson of the drugs war is that, despite its entrepreneurial flare, it faces the same institutional crisis as the rest of the country. The drug war has ripped the skin off the illusion that it is different.

Its municipal and state police services have been infiltrated. Officials acknowledge its justice system fails to resolve most crimes. Its youngsters are caught up in the country's dysfunctional education system. Huge inequalities between rich and poor have created a festering underclass that is cannon fodder for the cartels.'

'A survey of major businesses operating in the country this year by the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico found that Nuevo Leon is now considered one of the four most dangerous states in Mexico. It used to be considered the safest.'

'One Monterrey-based businessman supplying piping to drinking water plants in Coahuila said it is common to see black-clad, masked Zeta hitmen stopping cars on the highway west out of Monterrey, even with the army patrolling nearby.

"I try to stay calm every time, it is terrifying, but what choice do I have? I can't afford a helicopter," he said, locked in his office, having been robbed at gunpoint by Gulf cartel hitmen who burst in on him last year.'
posted by VikingSword (319 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can tell you one thing: This is going to spill over into the US in a big way.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:55 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is going to spill over into the US in a big way.

That's what you got from that whole article? "how am I going to be affected?"
posted by CrazyLemonade at 1:58 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sorta previously
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:02 PM on June 2, 2011


That's what you got from that whole article? "how am I going to be affected?"

"Almost 40,000 people have died across the country since late 2006" < ability to get tasty avocados for brunch!
posted by yeloson at 2:02 PM on June 2, 2011


I dunno. If it stays Latino-on-Latino violence, the power infrastructure just won't care very much. If it hits white-owned businessmen, in terms of robberies, kidnapping, extortion and protection rackets, I'd expect more "Minute Man Militia" nonsense on the border states, and rampant police brutality elsewhere. The

That's what you got from that whole article? "how am I going to be affected?"

Welcome to human nature. There are a million injustices in every minute, and you gotta pick your battles. Picking ones that impact you directly tends to be a wise move.

Also, it tends to motivate people who are in a position to do something if you let them know masked gunmen are going to run traffic checkpoints looking for rich people to kidnap if they don't get that shit sorted out in Mexico.
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:03 PM on June 2, 2011 [12 favorites]


A friend of mine lives in Monterrey, and has been writing about its decline for quite some time. Last year, her home was invaded, and her father and brother had to drive off armed men. Part of me is glad to see her city's troubles getting some attention. Mostly, though, I'm just sad that my friend can't feel safe in her own living room.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:04 PM on June 2, 2011


Has there been any war the US has won in the last 65 years? I seem to recall the last war we could truly lay claim to not just winning but putting an end to and emerging from sucessfully was one where we dropped a couple of fission bombs on a whole bunch of civilians.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:04 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


By engulfing Monterrey, home to some of Latin America's biggest companies and where annual income per capita is double the Mexican average at $17,000, the violence shows just how serious the security crisis has become in Mexico, the world's seventh-largest oil exporter and a major U.S. trade partner.

Reuters, the prose equivalent of sharting.
posted by chavenet at 2:05 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


A group of prominent politicians, including several former heads of state and the previous Secretary General of the UN, has strongly criticised anti-drugs policy around the world. A report by the Global Commission on Drug Policy says the war on illegal drugs has failed.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:06 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


No, I mean it's going to keep on getting worse.
This is all to an extent fuelled by the US's war on drugs, and it's going to majorly blow up in their faces. I think that once people in the US start go be affected in a significant manner, the US government is going to take a significantly different tack on things.

Problem is, the US seems to be really keen on escalation. What's needed is to legalize and regulate drugs- knocking the cartels' base right from under them.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:07 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


T.D. just beat me to it...

The War on Drugs declared officially lost:
According to a new report, not only is the global war on drugs a failure, but unless governments shift their focus from criminal justice to public health the problems will just keep getting worse.

The damning conclusion was arrived at by a 19-member commission that includes former heads of state, a business mogul and the current prime minister of Greece.

Acting under the banner Global Commission on Drug Policy, theirs is the highest-level panel to ever reach such conclusions on the international approach to curbing illegal drug use.
posted by Trurl at 2:08 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Has there been any war the US has won in the last 65 years?

Since there has been no formal declaration of war by Congress since June 1942, the answer is no.
posted by blucevalo at 2:13 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]




"Almost 40,000 people have died across the country since late 2006" < ability to get tasty avocados for brunch!


Yeah!

Waaaaaaait a minute. This isn't going to affect the price of blow, is it?
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:13 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Time to end the drug war.
posted by empath at 2:14 PM on June 2, 2011


So if you mix cornstarch and water you get oobleck, which is a really cool thing that you can easily stir with a spoon as long as you stir slowly. The faster you stir, the thicker it gets and the harder it is to stir. Fun fact: you can safely run across a swimming pool of oobleck without getting wet, but if you try to walk you'll immediately sink. In fact the more force you use on it, the more it resists that force.

Kind of like the drug trade. The more you fight it, the stronger it becomes. The only way to get rid of it is to slowly upend the container and pour it out, letting it drain away slowly, unresisted.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:14 PM on June 2, 2011 [18 favorites]


The damning conclusion was arrived at by a 19-member commission that includes former heads of state, a business mogul and the current prime minister of Greece a clown.

Fixed that for you.
posted by phaedon at 2:17 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, but how is the drug war going?
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:19 PM on June 2, 2011


Drugs won.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:24 PM on June 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


I hate to be that guy, but:

"There's a war going on -- and the people on drugs are winning it.... Some smart, creative motherfuckers on that side."
posted by empath at 2:27 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Almost 40,000 people have died across the country since late 2006" ability to get tasty avocados for brunch!

That's what you think he meant? You don't think that the entire Mexican state apparatus being slowly seized by organized crime is going to have extremely serious ramifications for the United States beyond minor economic difficulties? Here is Wikipedia's list of "international effects." Note that the US Justice Department has reported that the cartels have a significant presence in 200 American cities. Do you really think that the cartels think to themselves, "oh yes, this is the way it is in Mexico, but in the United States, we will respect the government and the rule of law"? The nature of things is that they are never content with the amount of power that they already have, but seek to grow at every moment. For an organization as horrific and proximate as the Mexican drug cartel, this is an especially sobering thought.
posted by Electrius at 2:29 PM on June 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


yeloson: "That's what you got from that whole article? "how am I going to be affected?"

"Almost 40,000 people have died across the country since late 2006" < ability to get tasty avocados for brunch
"

That's kind of obtuse, don't you think?
posted by dunkadunc at 2:36 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


the US Justice Department has reported that the cartels have a significant presence in 200 American cities.

How might this affect Canada? I'm concerned.


it tends to motivate people who are in a position to do something ...

Other than drug legalization, it's not clear what America can do about this. Rebuilding the police and the army after they've gone corrupt is the sort of nation building exercise at which the US does not have a recent track record of success.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:38 PM on June 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


Yeah, this doesn't really have anything to do with the Drug War anymore. It might have ten years ago, it might have twenty or thirty years ago, but it sure as hell doesn't now. At this point, the cartels are powerful enough that they do not give a crap about US policy; it does not matter to them in the slightest. They have enough money to spend millions on smuggling schemes that were naught but ill-advised bets at their inception; they surely don't have to worry what minor policies the US government chooses to enact, especially now that our era of going balls-to-the-wall in the Drug War is over.

I'm not saying that the United States has clean hands in all this – far from it. But it seems a little narcissistic to me that every time we hear about people dying on the street in Mexico, we say to ourselves: "oh, that was our fault; we did that." We certainly share the blame, but the fact is that all the whinging in the world about ill-conceived US policy is not going to fix this now. I genuinely believe that, at this point, the US could legalize every single drug in the book and it probably wouldn't save a single life in Monterrey or Juarez. The cartels would happily undercut US producers by continuing their smuggling. They have enough money and weapons and other resources not to care at all.

So what can actually be done? It seems like we should be focusing on this. I'm no more a fan of US prohibitionism than anybody else, but it really seems as though the men with guns shooting people are a bigger problem now.
posted by koeselitz at 2:42 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


the cartels would happily undercut US producers by continuing their smuggling.

Any source or reasoning to this? I don't see many mom & pop pharma or tobacco companies these days. Why would marijuana or heroin be any different?
posted by Ygduf at 2:46 PM on June 2, 2011


Any source or reasoning to this?

Yeah. Try stacks of dead bodies. It's not even clear what you are talking about when you say "mom & pop pharma or tobacco companies," as if to draw some kind of parallel between unrelated industries, but you're expecting cartels to get pushed out of the drug trade by.... the invisible hand?
posted by phaedon at 2:49 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: "So what can actually be done? It seems like we should be focusing on this. I'm no more a fan of US prohibitionism than anybody else, but it really seems as though the men with guns shooting people are a bigger problem now."

Who will waste money funding those guns and goons when there is little profit to be made illegally smuggling the drugs? This is why the Drug War is a problem. If you legalize the drugs in high demand, make them available in a controlled and taxable manner, then the money that funds the cartels will disappear very quickly.

It's all about money. And the only reason there is so much money to be made is because lots of people want to take drugs, will pay a lot for them, and the only people supplying the demand in a significant way are a black market.

Was the chaos and violence during the prohibition of alcohol a bigger problem than re-legalizing alcohol? It got pretty bad, too. The fix was pretty easy.
posted by gilrain at 2:50 PM on June 2, 2011 [15 favorites]


I just don't care about the impact on the United States right now. I find myself wanting to know more and more about the impact on Mexico and I also want to know a lot more about these gangs and what myths they use to justify their activities. So thanks for this post which focuses on Monterrey and the shocking turnaround.
posted by Danila at 2:53 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Who will waste money funding those guns and goons when there is little profit to be made illegally smuggling the drugs?"

Y'all realize that there's still a good deal of money to be made smuggling cigarettes, right?
posted by klangklangston at 2:53 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Probably not that much money.
posted by empath at 2:54 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I genuinely believe that, at this point, the US could legalize every single drug in the book and it probably wouldn't save a single life in Monterrey or Juarez. The cartels would happily undercut US producers by continuing their smuggling. They have enough money and weapons and other resources not to care at all.

If the U.S. legalizes, so does Mexico. As a matter of fact, I would bet Mexico does it before the U.S..

As to what happens once it's legalized in the U.S.? We already know - see Prohibition.

Anybody today can make their own booze in their own kitchen. It's even easier than growing pot in some ways as you don't have to worry about anybody stealing it, and you can do it anywhere no matter the climate and weather conditions. And yet, somehow we don't see gangs fighting and the kind of corruption related to alcohol as we had back during Prohibition. What we do have is all the negatives of that era, only centered on drugs. Alcohol, btw., was frequently smuggled in from Canada. But we are not worried about alcohol bootleggers today.

So I expect the same thing to happen once you legalize drugs. Multinationals and big business will always be better at making and selling this than any moonshine operator or drug grower dealer smuggler. No contest. Make it, sell it, tax it, regulate it, and invest in prevention.
posted by VikingSword at 2:54 PM on June 2, 2011 [16 favorites]


mexico is such a wonderful country. too bad it has such shitty neighbors
posted by kitchenrat at 2:55 PM on June 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


I genuinely believe that, at this point, the US could legalize every single drug in the book and it probably wouldn't save a single life in Monterrey or Juarez.

Yeah, I'm not sure why people are saying we should stop fighting the drug war. Ever live with a heroin addict?
posted by Melismata at 2:55 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mexico, like Egypt and some other countries depends a great deal upon tourism. That is drying up because of the drug wars.

We now discover that, No, it is not the gun stores in Texas and other states close to the border that are supplying heavy duty weapons to the drug gangs but rather the US govt! Our govt sends zillions of weapons to Mexico for the Army and police there and the many many personnel on the take re-sell them to drug gangs...(you can google this).
posted by Postroad at 2:57 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's see (lifts lid on cauldron) more congressional funding for weapons programs, intransigent national leaders welded (not wedded, welded) to the drug war by corporate sponsorship, impacted and protracted popular support for "kill-and-jail-em-all" type policies after 40 years of shrill anti-"drug" propaganda...yep, the "strange brew" is still boiling along nicely!
posted by telstar at 2:57 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not even clear what you are talking about when you say "mom & pop pharma or tobacco companies," as if to draw some kind of parallel between unrelated industries, but you're expecting cartels to get pushed out of the drug trade by.... the invisible hand?

The Mexican drug cartels have nothing on our Uzbek and Tajik friends in the drug-smuggling, murdering, raping group formerly known as the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, now known as the government of Afghanistan.

Why wouldn't we deal with the cartels as business if sales were legalized? Or do you mean, we would legalize but abrogate NAFTA?

The Mexican situation is what happens when you don't let one group of billionaires a have a say in a government run by a bunch of other billionaires.
posted by ennui.bz at 2:58 PM on June 2, 2011


The "War on Drugs" should be called "aiding and abetting". Anybody who knows their history (remember? it's the thing you're supposed to study so you you don't do the same stupid shit again) knows that Al Capone was against lifting Prohibition.

Do anyone really think that that the cartels are just going spend their billions on bling and recreational vehicles? Fuck no. They are going to spend that money on power and influence. That's what big money is for. It's good to be the king.

And our government is making it all possible.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:58 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


The cartels would happily undercut US producers by continuing their smuggling.

It would be impossible to undercut a backyard marijuana patch planted right next to the tomatoes.

Now picture a green, leafy field in Iowa, stretching to the horizon. That has to win on production cost. It might be possible for smugglers to undercut heavily taxed store-bought marijuana, but certainly smugglers would be operating with a much narrower profit margin. Also, consumers are likely to prefer buying quality controlled marijuana from the corner store to dealing with some shady guy in a back alley.

you're expecting cartels to get pushed out of the drug trade by.... the invisible hand?

Yes. That's what happened when alcohol was legalized. Unless the cartels are so strong in the US that they can strongarm Monsanto, legalization would put them out of business.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:58 PM on June 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


Melismata: "I genuinely believe that, at this point, the US could legalize every single drug in the book and it probably wouldn't save a single life in Monterrey or Juarez.

Yeah, I'm not sure why people are saying we should stop fighting the drug war. Ever live with a heroin addict?
"

What's your point? If they're going to buy, they're going to buy... it's just a matter of whether they support violence with their dollars or not. You do realize that in countries that have legalized or decriminalized, drug usage rates don't change, right? Or do you think you and others would be irresistibly drawn to drugs just because they're legal?
posted by gilrain at 2:59 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not sure why people are saying we should stop fighting the drug war. Ever live with a heroin addict?

We're saying it because it doesn't make any sense to be fighting this as a war (like, with guns). Like the report says, it's likely better for everybody involved if this is treated as public health issue rather than a criminal justice issue. We didn't win the war on polio by shooting people who carried the disease.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 3:00 PM on June 2, 2011 [14 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not sure why people are saying we should stop fighting the drug war. Ever live with a heroin addict?

Making heroin illegal and pushing the addict into a life of crime is not a solution though. If it's legal, it can be controlled - so s/he is less likely to die of shitty stuff in street junk. And won't have a criminal record just for being a user, so they have a greater chance to get back to being a productive member of society. And will be able to seek help, without fear of arrest, scandal and institutionalization. I don't see what the advantage is of making it illegal - how is the addict helped? Because clearly we still have addicts in the presence of tough laws.
posted by VikingSword at 3:00 PM on June 2, 2011 [24 favorites]


koeselitz - the men bought the guns with proceeds from illegal drug sales. As they do not have recourse to the courts, armed violence is the only way they have to protect and grow distribution networks that are worth billions of dollars. If you legalize drugs in America, then people that can use the legal distribution methods will be able to supply product of a better quality and lower price pretty much instantly, either driving the cartels out of business or into legality. Perhaps more relevantly, it removes any reason to engage in very, very expensive armed operations.

So no, it's not fixed by the invisible hand. It's fixed by the easy, obvious mechanisms that we've seen do the exact same thing before.

Klangston, jesus christ. Please. There is SOME money to be made smuggling legally-manufactured cigarettes in such a way as to avoid taxes. It's a thin, risky margin and the only reason it works at all is that you don't have to spend extra overhead on weapons and ammunition used in firefights. They can hide that black-market commerce within the infinitely larger engine of legal commerce, which they could not do if they were making a few hundred corpses a day. The violence in Mexico is not funded by tobacco. The Taliban is not funded by tobacco.

Melismata - every imaginable addiction problem is made worse by the war on drugs. Alcoholism is every bit as awful and destructive as heroin addiction, but treatment doesn't carry the same social stigma, making alcoholics generally more willing to seek such treatment. Alcoholics also know what dose they're giving themselves, while heroin addicts do not. And further, alcoholics do not fund an international distribution and sales structure whose only method of contract enforcement is armed violence.

Everything that is bad about drugs and drug addiction - everything - is made worse by illegalization. It takes social ills and mutates them into infinitely malignant social cancers.
posted by kavasa at 3:02 PM on June 2, 2011 [41 favorites]


We didn't win the war on polio by shooting people who carried the disease.

Polio victims don't steal from their mothers.
posted by Melismata at 3:02 PM on June 2, 2011


So thanks for this post which focuses on Monterrey and the shocking turnaround.
posted by Danila


I agree. As a regiomontana, I am horrified, sad, and ashamed of what's going on in my city now, still, I think that it's something more people should know about, so thanks VikingSword for posting this very informative article.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 3:04 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Polio victims don't steal from their mothers.

And maybe if there were better support systems for addicts that didn't involve the criminal justice system this wouldn't play out the same way either.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 3:06 PM on June 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Polio victims don't steal from their mothers.

This is a symptom of addiction, a disease which needs treatment. Theft is made vastly more likely in the case of a criminal record around your neck making employment impossible.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:07 PM on June 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


CrazyLemonade, you are welcome - this is the result of my desire to visit Mexico, which I've wanted to do for a long time. I've lived in Los Angeles for decades, and I'm ashamed that I've never been to Mexico. For one reason or another, it was never convenient. But now, I'm starting to get concerned - it's no longer a question of opportunity, it's a question of my not feeling safe. So I've been reading anything that I can get my hands on. I still hope to see Mexico one day, but I'm getting very worried.
posted by VikingSword at 3:07 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm not sure why people are saying we should stop fighting the drug war. Ever live with a heroin addict?"

I'm sorry, I must have missed where the war on drugs stopped anyone from becoming a drug addict.
posted by empath at 3:08 PM on June 2, 2011 [32 favorites]


For an organization as horrific and proximate as the Mexican drug cartel, this is an especially sobering thought.

...the cartel? The current problem is an issue of a fight between the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel at heart. If there was just one cartel running things and paying off the police Mexico would be peaceful and prosperous in comparison.
posted by jaduncan at 3:09 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


me: “the cartels would happily undercut US producers by continuing their smuggling.”

Ygduf: “Any source or reasoning to this? I don't see many mom & pop pharma or tobacco companies these days. Why would marijuana or heroin be any different?”

Mom & pop pharma and tobacco companies don't have an international army, sources of serious military weaponry, literally billions of dollars to throw around, and millions of bodies to throw on the fires of war.

justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow: “It would be impossible to undercut a backyard marijuana patch planted right next to the tomatoes.”

Hi, I live in Colorado. I know. Cartels haven't made money from pot primarily in decades. That's not how it works. They make money from cocaine. Also, yeah, it's easy to undercut a backyard marijuana patch planted right next to the tomatoes; you just shoot the person growing it.

gilrain: “Was the chaos and violence during the prohibition of alcohol a bigger problem than re-legalizing alcohol? It got pretty bad, too. The fix was pretty easy.”

It was a huge problem, getting rid of the crime when alcohol was re-legalized. It did not go away overnight. And, with all due respect to the historical circumstances, it was an utterly different situation. The mafia of the 20s and 30s in the US, and the various organized crime rackets, were nothing compared with the resources and vastness of the cartels today.

VikingSword: “So I expect the same thing to happen once you legalize drugs. Multinationals and big business will always be better at making and selling this than any moonshine operator or drug grower dealer smuggler. No contest. Make it, sell it, tax it, regulate it, and invest in prevention.”

That's nice, until you realize that "tax it" and "regulate it" involve exactly the same difficulties as the current drug war. Seriously, the cartels will not be content with being "regulated." And they have enough resources now to push the issue pretty far.
posted by koeselitz at 3:09 PM on June 2, 2011


Mexico is wonderful, and one of my favorite cultures. I love its food, its people, its stark beauty... I hate that it is forced to serve as the fallout zone for our bad policies.
posted by gilrain at 3:10 PM on June 2, 2011


Backing away from this thread. The suggestions that more drugs be allowed into this country to kill people, not less, is too upsetting for me personally.
posted by Melismata at 3:10 PM on June 2, 2011


Other than drug legalization, it's not clear what America can do about this.

Pay a bit more attention to the guns going out of the US and into Mexico.

(Instead of actually providing them or simply looking the other way.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 3:10 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's much better coverage in the Exile[d] then this crap in Reuters.
posted by jaduncan at 3:10 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's what you got from that whole article? "how am I going to be affected?"

Not to be confused with its MeFi equivalent, "How can I use this to demonstrate my smug moral superiority?"
posted by strangely stunted trees at 3:11 PM on June 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


While the trafficking of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine is the main focus of U.S. law enforcement, it is marijuana that has long provided most of the revenue for Mexican drug cartels. More than 60 percent of the cartels' revenue -- $8.6 billion out of $13.8 billion in 2006 -- came from U.S. marijuana sales, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:11 PM on June 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Backing away from this thread. The suggestions that more drugs be allowed into this country to kill people, not less, is too upsetting for me personally.

Yes, and all the dead people you want in Mexico and America because of illegal drugs makes me quite furious as well, so I'm staying to argue against this stupidity.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:13 PM on June 2, 2011 [19 favorites]


Thanks, furiousxgeorge. That's interesting. At this point, everyone I know who smokes marijuana grows their own. I guess I was extrapolating too far from that.

I really don't know how anyone can use foreign-made drugs in good conscience at this point.
posted by koeselitz at 3:14 PM on June 2, 2011


That's nice, until you realize that "tax it" and "regulate it" involve exactly the same difficulties as the current drug war. Seriously, the cartels will not be content with being "regulated." And they have enough resources now to push the issue pretty far.

You're confused. Big business can make it cheaper than criminal cartels. The number of people who drink alcohol is even greater than those who use drugs - yet criminal cartels have made zero inroads into competing against big business selling alcohol. How are the cartels competing? Who is going to buy - at a not much better price - stuff from some shady character in a back alley vs just popping into a 7-11 and doing so legally? And I don't even believe that there would be an advantage of pricing. Once you take scale into account, big business would outcompete cartels - it's happened before, it would happen again. The problem for cartels would be not just on the supply side from competition from legit businesses, but crucially, they'd lose the end user, and that means they die from a lack of profits.
posted by VikingSword at 3:15 PM on June 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


I really don't know how anyone can use foreign-made drugs in good conscience at this point.

There is no point of origin stamped on illegal goods. I'd love to support American growers but I think most of it is Mexican or Canadian around here. The laws on the east coast in places like New York and PA are pretty tough and a lot of people live in these areas, in cities where there is no room to grow.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:16 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the real question that needs to be answered is why Mexico doesn't look like China... given NAFTA?

There should have been an alternate universe version of Red Dawn where the communist take over Mexico and Central America, are on the verge of invading the U.S. But then the USSR collapses and with the collapse of international communism enter into a series of deals with US business resulting in a Red NAFTA and massive investment to take advantage of the high levels of literacy and social organization due to communism.
posted by ennui.bz at 3:17 PM on June 2, 2011


Backing away from this thread. The suggestions that more drugs be allowed into this country to kill people, not less, is too upsetting for me personally.

It's a shame you're backing away from the thread, because I'd like you to continue in the discussion and hopefully to offer a realistic alternative. I consider our options right now are twofold: escalate or capitulate.

I have little faith that capitulation will be a net good. I have no faith that escalation will be a net good.
posted by chimaera at 3:18 PM on June 2, 2011


Data Point: The number of people whose deaths you're contributing to by buying Mexican weed is less than the number of people whose deaths you're contributing to by paying federal income tax.
posted by Trurl at 3:18 PM on June 2, 2011 [16 favorites]


That's nice, until you realize that "tax it" and "regulate it" involve exactly the same difficulties as the current drug war. Seriously, the cartels will not be content with being "regulated." And they have enough resources now to push the issue pretty far.

If the Gulf Cartel and/or Zetas start shooting (or paying MS13 to shoot) nice white-bread American businessmen they are oh so screwed. They will be destroyed. I think everyone understands the informal rule that you should only shoot brown people.
posted by jaduncan at 3:19 PM on June 2, 2011


That's nice, until you realize that "tax it" and "regulate it" involve exactly the same difficulties as the current drug war. Seriously, the cartels will not be content with being "regulated." And they have enough resources now to push the issue pretty far.

Absolutely right about the resources.

But it's important to note that the astronomical profits being made are not because the product is drugs, it's because the product is illegal. Risk,reward, and demand - all artificially inflated.

Illegality creates pressures on all sides to drive prices and profits up. Fear of legal problems limits the number of suppliers and increases the buyers' willingness to pay more. Remove the artificial barrier, and a lot of that goes away. (Not all of it, not necessarily without a fight, and not overnight, of course.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:19 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


It is my opinion, that either Mexico legalizes drugs, or becomes a failed state. Eventually, I believe even the U.S. will be forced to legalize. But I guess there's no way to prove it - we'll just have to live it, wait and see. I believe it will happen, for Mexico, within the next 20 years or so.
posted by VikingSword at 3:19 PM on June 2, 2011


Legalization in Mexico won't happen until the US also agrees to it. It's the whole "if you go I go" situation taken to a whole new level.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 3:23 PM on June 2, 2011


It is my opinion, that either Mexico legalizes drugs, or becomes a failed state.

Um.... Hasn't the legalization thing already happened?
posted by hippybear at 3:24 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm wondering if Mexico as a failed state won't happen even sooner. And by that I mean maybe it balkanizes into feifdoms controlled by legitimate and becoming-legitimate rulers.
posted by artof.mulata at 3:25 PM on June 2, 2011


Blog del Narco (not for the squeamish. but open your eyes)
posted by jcruelty at 3:25 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Legalization in Mexico won't happen until the US also agrees to it. It's the whole "if you go I go" situation taken to a whole new level.

Perhaps. But if so, Mexico will be a failed state - because if they have to wait until the U.S. is compelled to legalize, it will be way too late. They don't have the time. Now, I'm betting on Mexicans in this way: with a knife on the throat, they'll chose to save themselves and legalize before the U.S. does. Either that, or commit state suicide.
posted by VikingSword at 3:25 PM on June 2, 2011


That's nice, until you realize that "tax it" and "regulate it" involve exactly the same difficulties as the current drug war. Seriously, the cartels will not be content with being "regulated."

Which is why all alcohol is still distributed by the mafia in speakeasies.
posted by empath at 3:26 PM on June 2, 2011 [15 favorites]


hippybear, decriminalization is not the same thing as legalization. Not at all.
posted by VikingSword at 3:26 PM on June 2, 2011


I guess my overall point here is this: I think the damage is done. Maybe it'd be a really great help if we'd legalize – I could get behind the proposition that it wouldn't hurt – but I don't think that would be nearly the end of the battle for Mexicans who want and need their country back. And moreover Mexico needs a solution to put into play now, without waiting for US policy to get better.

I'm just skeptical that the criminal element will just fade away quietly. For Mexicans, this is a problem that will last.
posted by koeselitz at 3:29 PM on June 2, 2011


Mom & pop pharma and tobacco companies don't have an international army, sources of serious military weaponry, literally billions of dollars to throw around, and millions of bodies to throw on the fires of war.

Yeah, except if I want to buy drugs, after they're legalized, I'm just going to go down to the ABC store and get them, not the guy on the street corner. I don't care if he's selling it half price.
posted by empath at 3:29 PM on June 2, 2011


Legalizing drugs in Mexico won't do much unless the US does the same thing because the US is the biggest consumer of Mexican illegal drugs. Monterrey, Reynosa, Tijuana, etc. would still be cities on the path up to big sales.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 3:29 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Side note - when legalization happens, it does not mean the cartel heads disappear. They merely become part of the establishment /cough/Kennedys/cough/. Or to repurpose a quote from Chinatown:

"Of course I'm respectable. I'm old. Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough."
posted by VikingSword at 3:29 PM on June 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


The number of people whose deaths you're contributing to by buying Mexican weed is less than the number of people whose deaths you're contributing to by paying federal income tax.

Is that true? Wikileaked US military documents claim 109k deaths in Iraq alone from 2004-2009, not to mention the other wars vs. the estimate of 40k cartel related deaths 2006-2011.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:31 PM on June 2, 2011


empath: “Yeah, except if I want to buy drugs, after they're legalized, I'm just going to go down to the ABC store and get them, not the guy on the street corner. I don't care if he's selling it half price.”

The market has demonstrated that most people will go for the half-price stuff.

VikingSword: “Side note - when legalization happens, it does not mean the cartel heads disappear. They merely become part of the establishment...”

Yeah, that's kind of my concern here.
posted by koeselitz at 3:31 PM on June 2, 2011


"And yet, somehow we don't see gangs fighting and the kind of corruption related to alcohol as we had back during Prohibition."

Dude, liquor distribution in Chicago is still entirely mobbed up.

And it's also interesting to note that the US had problems like this prior to Prohibition — Prohibition was in large part a reaction against the lawlessness that characterized a good portion of the country (especially Chicago, again). The environments are strikingly similar, right down to the kidnappings.
posted by klangklangston at 3:31 PM on June 2, 2011


Look at what the cartels spend their money on. How much cash do they spend on optimizing quality of product or crop yields? How much do they instead spend on weapons, politicians, police, and killers? The cartel's investment doesn't follow the pattern of successful agricultural enterprise. This is why commercial growers will stomp the cartels. The cartels are in the business of illegal distribution. They aren't in the business of producing drugs and they aren't very good at it.
posted by ryanrs at 3:33 PM on June 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


The market has demonstrated that most people will go for the half-price stuff.

Citation?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:33 PM on June 2, 2011


Well, I guess I mean: the market has demonstrated that people don't mind buying drugs even if they're illegal. Legality does not seem to matter.
posted by koeselitz at 3:34 PM on June 2, 2011


The argument that the Drug War has failed so comprehensively and created such a mess that we have no choice but to continue with it is... kind of breathtaking.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:34 PM on June 2, 2011 [12 favorites]


Dude, liquor distribution in Chicago is still entirely mobbed up.

The liquor distribution system in America is undoubtedly corrupt as fuck, but it's not violent, it's corrupt in the same way everything is.

Well, I guess I mean: the market has demonstrated that people don't mind buying drugs even if they're illegal. Legality does not seem to matter.

I sure fucking mind, I just don't have an alternate seller.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:35 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


The market has demonstrated that most people will go for the half-price stuff.

I'm on my way to buy some wine - expensive stuff, $80 a bottle. As I pass an alley, I'm stopped by a guy in a hoodie: "Psst, wanna buy some wine for $4?". We don't have a deal.

Legitimate markets will destroy - obliterate illegal drug suppliers/sales.
posted by VikingSword at 3:35 PM on June 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


To make money on a legal product, you need huge infrastructure, and the profit margins start getting very thin. That's why even alcoholics don't get their booze fix from illegal alcohol sellers. Illegal sellers cannot match what legal businesses are capable of, not in R&D, not in marketing, not in distribution, not in really, anything.
posted by VikingSword at 3:39 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't see that the US government has any motivation to legalize as long as the cartels have money to pay them not to. If Big Agriculture took an interest the scales might tip, but I think we're a long way off from subsidizing corn and soybean growers to switch to weed and poppies.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:39 PM on June 2, 2011


Let's ask the Ambassador to Mexico what should be done! Oh yeah, we don't have an Ambassador right now. The US is essentially pursuing the same policies against Mexico that it pursued against Colombia---which just pushed the drug war into Mexico and Central America. I am not optimistic about the United States' or Mexican government suddenly adopting a sane policy of public health or legalization (although some border towns like El Paso have pushed for both). I think there is a real chance these cartels will have de facto control of Mexican states for many years to come.
posted by mattbucher at 3:40 PM on June 2, 2011


This comes down to economics. The problem is Mexico's proximity to the largest fucking drug market in the world.

Just look at prostitution in Tijuana. It's legal. Children are still forced into the sex trade there, just one hour south of sunny San Diego. I find it hard to believe that people believe that the decriminalization of drug manufacturing and distribution in Mexico will create a dampening effect on the market there. If anything, it will only serve to solidify it.

Beyond that, are people seriously promoting the legalization of hard drugs in the US? Come on.
posted by phaedon at 3:41 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Trurl: “The number of people whose deaths you're contributing to by buying Mexican weed is less than the number of people whose deaths you're contributing to by paying federal income tax.”

justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow: “Is that true? Wikileaked US military documents claim 109k deaths in Iraq alone from 2004-2009, not to mention the other wars vs. the estimate of 40k cartel related deaths 2006-2011.”

So, uh – yes. Yes, it is apparently true. I don't really get what you're trying to say here; you're just giving evidence that Trurl is right.
posted by koeselitz at 3:43 PM on June 2, 2011


Beyond that, are people seriously promoting the legalization of hard drugs in the US? Come on.

Well, I'd start with soft drugs and we can see how it goes from there. I'm not convinced illegality is what is keeping me from smoking crack or meth.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:48 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Just look at prostitution in Tijuana. It's legal. Children are still forced into the sex trade there, just one hour south of sunny San Diego. I find it hard to believe that people believe that the decriminalization of drug manufacturing and distribution in Mexico will create a dampening effect on the market there. If anything, it will only serve to solidify it.

But prostitution is a drastically different and fairly unique phenomenon. It's existed long before drugs - and alcohol. It's existed before the industrial age. It's unique, in that it's centered around individual production units. It is not subject to industrialization in the way drug/alcohol/products are. There is no optimization of production. It is - at best - a service industry, centered around something that has no physical product. It cannot be compared. A business, like Seagrams f.ex., cannot enter large scale prostitution production the way they entered the alcohol business. It's an apples and camels comparison.

And yes, I absolutely believe legalization is a much saner solution to the drug problem compared to the WOD.
posted by VikingSword at 3:48 PM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


The market has demonstrated that most people will go for the half-price stuff.

The market will also pay a premium for convenience, and you can't underestimate the convenience of not having to make small talk with your pot dealer.
posted by stavrogin at 3:49 PM on June 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


The market has demonstrated that most people will go for the half-price stuff.

Which is why no one is buying pot from legal dispensaries.

Come on, this is pathetic. Nobody wants to get drugs from some shady back alley and take the risk of getting shot to save a couple of dollars. Drugs aren't that expensive.
posted by empath at 3:49 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


And keep in mind, that once legal infrastructure is in place, illegal distribution channels are going to lose all their economies of scale. If even half of their customers get drugs from legal channels, they're going to collapse.
posted by empath at 3:51 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Obviously the kingpins and their mone won't go away if legalization happens. I wonder what they would do. It does seem somewhat unlikely that they'd turn legit and sell drugs legally. Perhaps they'd simply turn their hands to some other illegal trade, like human trafficking.
posted by adamdschneider at 3:51 PM on June 2, 2011


It does seem somewhat unlikely that they'd turn legit and sell drugs legally.

Quite frankly, it doesn't matter. I guess the ones with less blood on their hands probably will go straight. A lot of the others will end up losing their income stream, and their power, and so end up in jail or dead. The rest will get into kidnapping or extortion or gambling or prostitution or whatever else government bans in the name of stopping people from enjoying themselves too much.
posted by empath at 3:54 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


They could turn to human trafficking, but it's a much tougher business than growing pot.

The thing is, if we have to unload our drug war style enforcement on something, I would feel a lot better if it was for a crime with actual victims.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:58 PM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


The rest will get into kidnapping or extortion or gambling or prostitution or whatever else government bans in the name of stopping people from enjoying themselves too much.

This is something that worries me A LOT. Monterrey was a target for kidnappers even before this whole war on drugs thing, because the country's richest city (San Pedro) is part of the Monterrey metropolitan area. I personally know a few people whose family members have been kidnapped and it's just a terrible terrible thing to be afraid of.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 3:59 PM on June 2, 2011


This is why commercial growers will stomp the cartels. The cartels are in the business of illegal distribution.

You need a good bad man to clean up a dirty town. Thus, I propose to you: Monsanto vs. the Mexican Drug Cartels.
posted by benzenedream at 4:00 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I mean in terms of cut-throat ruthlessness, I'd put Phillip Morris up against any drug cartel.
posted by empath at 4:05 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


"And keep in mind, that once legal infrastructure is in place, illegal distribution channels are going to lose all their economies of scale. If even half of their customers get drugs from legal channels, they're going to collapse."

Uh, here in Cali, where you can get legal weed really easily, there's still a huge black market for folks who either can't be assed, don't qualify or want their weed cheaper.

A lot of dealers who supply the dispensaries also sell the stuff off the books, and it's usually better quality and cheaper, though much less convenient.
posted by klangklangston at 4:05 PM on June 2, 2011


This is something that worries me A LOT. Monterrey was a target for kidnappers even before this whole war on drugs thing, because the country's richest city (San Pedro) is part of the Monterrey metropolitan area. I personally know a few people whose family members have been kidnapped and it's just a terrible terrible thing to be afraid of.

Actually, the FPP article is pretty decent, in that it sees things in a larger perspective. Because if you want to solve serious crime problems, and not merely shift opportunistic criminals from one kind of crime to another, you need to set up the whole society in such a way that crime is not a viable avenue. It starts with opportunity - when millions upon millions of young people are unemployed with no prospects, becoming a Zeta is often the only economic proposition. You need to restructure the whole society, so that there isn't the vast divide between a tiny elite and starving masses. You need development, you need education, you need economic incentives and opportunities, and then you can both fund a decent judicial and law enforcement system, and drain the swamp of ready candidates who turn to crime because there is absolutely nothing else to turn to. But that's a long term project that nobody wants to undertake - neither in the U.S. nor in Mexico.
posted by VikingSword at 4:06 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Monsanto vs. the Mexican Drug Cartels.

That's what I was trying to say earlier. Big Pharma companies won't be outdone by tunnel smugglers.

For one, if drugs are legal, paying someone to dig and operate a tunnel is overhead and risk that would be totally unnecessary.

There's money in bootlegging cigarettes to avoid state taxes, but you're talking about pennies in comparison to the volume of legit cigarette monies.
posted by Ygduf at 4:06 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


adamdschneider: "Obviously the kingpins and their mone won't go away if legalization happens. I wonder what they would do."

1. Drugs become legalized
2. Pemex becomes Pemzeta
posted by wcfields at 4:07 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Seriously, world-class genetics labs vs. some guy with a lamp. Mexican weed already has a reputation for being the worst crap on the market.
posted by ryanrs at 4:08 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Uh, here in Cali, where you can get legal weed really easily, there's still a huge black market for folks who either can't be assed, don't qualify or want their weed cheaper.

A lot of dealers who supply the dispensaries also sell the stuff off the books, and it's usually better quality and cheaper, though much less convenient.


Call me when it's as easy to score pot as a bottle of beer. Then we'll talk. I live one block north of Melrose in LA, and there are about 10 dispensaries on a few blocks between Fairfax and LaBrea. I don't know any of my friends who would want to step inside one of those paranoid-looking places. It's a joke - and even those places are being hounded by city officials bent on shutting them down. It's shady as hell. Make it as easy and simple as getting liquor, and then it's game on - no fake doctor notes, no bullshit, just ID to make sure you're of age, you pay and you're on your way.
posted by VikingSword at 4:10 PM on June 2, 2011 [10 favorites]


empath, you are living in some kind of lala-land where you have divorced the problem of drugs as a public health issue, from the laws of supply and demand, and have decided to only deal with the latter. you are acting as if the availability of drugs is not in and of itself a problem for society, hence making them totally available, is a total solution, with no side-effects worth discussing.

as a side-note to all those "look how well we fixed the alcohol problem" sayers, isn't alcohol the number one cause for emergency room admissions in the US? i'd love to see how well crystal meth does in this category once its made legal.

heroin, crystal meth and cocaine are not going to become legal in the united states, hopefully ever. and to think that the legalization of marijuana in the US will stamp out drug trafficking in mexico, as if the cartels will not attempt to distribute harder drugs, is again, more lala-land.

the problem is that mexico as a country does not have the infrastructure to deal with the economic pressure it faces simply by bordering the united states.

and prostitution in mexico is not a drastically different phenomenon. bordertowns like tijuana cannot help but fall into despair, the town has been galvanized into one big whorehouse, and whether this phenomenon is legal or illegal, it simply doesn't matter.
posted by phaedon at 4:10 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, alcoholism is a problem. Yes, so it was during Prohibition as well. We are aware of the health concerns, we just don't think jail fixes them.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:12 PM on June 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Quite frankly, it doesn't matter.

That is a dangerously naive viewpoint. An end to the drug war would be a great thing in my view, but you need a post-armistice strategy to win the peace after declaring a halt to the immediate conflict. The belligerents (on all sides) are not just going to scrap their weapons and invest the savings in building schools, clinics and community centers; if drugs are legalized or regulated in some way, the existing firms are unlikely to take up the consumer trade immediately because of the political risks, and the competitive new entrants are likely to behave just as ethically as corporations of the past, which is to say not very.

This is an area where we need policy changes as a matter of urgency, but treating legalization as a panacea is about as smart as treating prohibition as a panacea. As pointed out upthread, the repeal of prohibition under Roosevelt wasn't an instant fix. A lot of people hark back to that era and say 'Roosevelt fixed this by doing XYZ' but it's easy to focus on the long-term results that we have with the benefit of historical hindsight. At the time, progress was slow, there were missteps and reversals, and success was uncertain. To move forward on this, means putting in the work to develop and sell to the public a credible alternative framework.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:15 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


The market has demonstrated that most people will go for the half-price stuff.

This is true for things people choose to buy. When people are addicted the price doesn't matter; it becomes inelastic; people need it no matter what- and when they've been fired from their job and given up upon by their family they are going to want the cheap stuff.

The reason why some of these substances are illegal is that they destroy people.
posted by niccolo at 4:18 PM on June 2, 2011


as a side-note to all those "look how well we fixed the alcohol problem" sayers, isn't alcohol the number one cause for emergency room admissions in the US? i'd love to see how well crystal meth does in this category once its made legal.

It's about the overall impact on society. Simple comparison. Take your alcohol example.

Was society better off with Prohibition, or post Prohibition? Settled!

Exactly the same thing applies with drugs. I would add, that instead of pouring billions into WOD, I'd rather pour billions into finding ways to tamp down on demand, affect cures, mitigate harm and so on. Education can work as can marketing - look at falling smoking rates in the U.S.

I don't believe drugs are a fabulous thing. I believe it's a problem, a serious problem. I just think that making them illegal gives us zero in the way of mitigating the problem - it can only make it much, much, much worse.
posted by VikingSword at 4:19 PM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


When people are addicted the price doesn't matter; it becomes inelastic; people need it no matter what- and when they've been fired from their job and given up upon by their family they are going to want the cheap stuff.

Which will lead to more crime, addicts who have to buy Johnny Walker Blue or addicts who can buy Colt 45?

This is why we let corporations handle getting the price down instead of inflating it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:22 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


i'd love to see how well crystal meth does in this category once its made legal.

Crystal meth is legal, and prescribed to children.
posted by empath at 4:24 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Beyond that, are people seriously promoting the legalization of hard drugs in the US? Come on.

Yes. Legalize everything. All of it. The war on drugs is an international disaster. It corrupts politics, delegitimizes the law, and alienates entire communities from what ought to be a democratic government. Enforcement of laws against drug possession ruin more lives, and destroy those lives more comprehensively, than the consumption of those drugs ever could.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:27 PM on June 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


Crystal meth is legal, and prescribed to children.

A pretty good example of how far-removed from reality your arguments in this thread are.
posted by phaedon at 4:27 PM on June 2, 2011


phaedon: "Crystal meth is legal, and prescribed to children.

A pretty good example of how far-removed from reality your arguments in this thread are.
"

What, you mean they're all statements of fact? I tend to agree with empath, but I think at least a few of his points are more speculative...
posted by gilrain at 4:32 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


heroin, crystal meth and cocaine are not going to become legal in the united states, hopefully ever.

Hard drugs only tend to become popular when soft drugs are unavailable. When smuggling, you need to pack as much potency and value as you can in the smallest volume, so drugs tend to get more and more potent.

Most drinkers aren't drinking grain alcohol out of a paper bag. Plenty of people are just fine with beer.

It's in no way guaranteed that someone who does MDMA once a month is eventually going to necessarily go and start banging meth because it's available, also.
posted by empath at 4:33 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


A pretty good example of how far-removed from reality your arguments in this thread are.

I'm sorry, is methamphetamine not legal and prescribed to children? I'm confused. I'm sorry to get in the way of you demonizing a perfectly useful chemical.
posted by empath at 4:35 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Again, take all those billions for WOD, and pour them into tamping down demand. Fund massive research into addiction. Today we have tools we didn't even ten years ago. We can make progress here:

Memory-Boosting Drug May Help Cocaine Addicts Avoid Relapse

Toward a Vaccine for Methamphetamine Abuse

Tuning Cocaine Addiction

Hope for Treatment of Cocaine Addiction: Block Memories

We will make no progress funding the WOD.
posted by VikingSword at 4:37 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


No empath, Desoxyn is not regularly prescribed to children. Other amphetamines may be, but not methamphetamine.
posted by ryanrs at 4:38 PM on June 2, 2011


ryanrs: "No empath, Desoxyn is not regularly prescribed to children. Other amphetamines may be, but not methamphetamine."

He didn't say "regularly", did he? Why add a qualifier he didn't? His statement wasn't unbiased, but it was true. Maybe argue against what he implies as opposed to denying fact.
posted by gilrain at 4:40 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


It says right here for children over 6 years of age.

Not that adderal is very much different.
posted by empath at 4:40 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, he meant "has it ever been prescribed, even once"? OK, that is probably true. Not an especially enlightening observation, but that's not what he was going for, was it?
posted by ryanrs at 4:42 PM on June 2, 2011


It's about the overall impact on society. Simple comparison. Take your alcohol example.

Was society better off with Prohibition, or post Prohibition? Settled!


I'm not sure it's that simple. After a couple of thousand years, I think humans might be more or less socially adapted to its integration, which is one of the reasons it was hard to prohibit, but also means that we know how to handle it (despite some amount of trouble for some individuals and subcultures).

I'm not sure it's the same for every drug.

I do agree we can't go on like we've been doing on the drug war. Mostly I'm cautious about letting the modern big businesses lose on the markets. They're already rather good at pushing semi-harmless stuff we don't need. I worry about what the likes of Altria -- or a would-be Altria -- would do with deeply addictive stuff.

So for me, regulation would have to include a pretty tight lid on advertising and marketing, maybe even operational size caps.

I also agree somewhat with koeslitz. Ousting the cartels is not going to be as simple as some form of decriminalization. I have a feeling that without bringing at least one or two into the legitimate fold, it would be a long time before they wane to a level of low concern.
posted by weston at 4:44 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


We will make no progress funding the WOD.

Depends what you want to progress towards.

If your goal is to enrich the prison-industrial complex, WOD is just the ticket.
posted by Trurl at 4:45 PM on June 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


ryanrs: "Oh, he meant "has it ever been prescribed, even once"? OK, that is probably true. Not an especially enlightening observation, but that's not what he was going for, was it?"

He was observing that since this is an allowed use for the drug, albeit it a rare fallback after other (but very similar) drugs have failed, then perhaps it isn't quite the reefer-madness, demon-inducing, everyone-will-be-addicted-if-we-allow-it drug that some people suggest. I'm not accusing you of that, merely pointing out why he may have wanted to front the argument.
posted by gilrain at 4:45 PM on June 2, 2011


Obviously the kingpins and their mone won't go away if legalization happens. I wonder what they would do. It does seem somewhat unlikely that they'd turn legit and sell drugs legally. Perhaps they'd simply turn their hands to some other illegal trade, like human trafficking.

Or they'd simply become the new establishment, like somebody above mentioned the Kennedys did after prohibition.

i'd love to see how well crystal meth does in this category once its made legal.

Actually, this is a great counterexample to your arguments that legalizing drugs wouldn't reduce the violence. Previously, crystal meth manufacturing and distribution was a very distributed activity. In the US it was primarily controlled by biker gangs like the Hells Angels. There was some violence in the business, but nowhere near the amount we see now. This is because equipment and precursors were all legal and easy to acquire, almost anybody could do it.

But when the US started cracking down on ingredients, precursors and equipment, independent US manufacturers faced increasing costs. It became much more economically feasible to centralize the manufacture of it, and crime syndicates Mexico started becoming more involved in it.

Now, crystal meth is a horrible drug, that rips apart families, relationships and lives. But it also was paradoxically less destructive when it was less regulated.
posted by formless at 4:47 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


OK, I'll agree with that. In my experience, methamphetamine is about as addictive as mountain dew. (Everybody's different, though. YMMV.)
posted by ryanrs at 4:47 PM on June 2, 2011


Now, crystal meth is a horrible drug, that rips apart families, relationships and lives.

Hey man. Don't demonize the stuff. They give it to kids.
posted by phaedon at 4:48 PM on June 2, 2011


Hey man. Don't demonize the stuff. They give it to kids.

empath knew what he was talking about, you don't. No reason to get bitter and snarky about it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:50 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


weston: "It's about the overall impact on society. Simple comparison. Take your alcohol example.

Was society better off with Prohibition, or post Prohibition? Settled!


I'm not sure it's that simple. After a couple of thousand years, I think humans might be more or less socially adapted to its integration, which is one of the reasons it was hard to prohibit, but also means that we know how to handle it (despite some amount of trouble for some individuals and subcultures).

I'm not sure it's the same for every drug.
"

You do know that that the drug war is relatively new, right? People have been smoking marijuana and using opiates for similar amounts of time. And you could buy Bayer brand Heroin in the United States, off the shelf, for quite a while. There were problems with that, obviously, but it's not like alcohol is the only drug society is accustomed to or capable of using legally.

The drug war has almost become a false history.
posted by gilrain at 4:51 PM on June 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yes, exactly. And that's the case for most drugs, except the opiates, which kind of have an unavoidable downward spiral effect. Plenty of people do drugs and suffer no negative consequences. Plenty of them do drugs regularly and have no negative consequences. Certainly no worse than alcohol. Drug use is not an unavoidable problem, and not all drugs are horribly addictive or dangerous -- and most people who want to do drugs don't want to do the horribly addictive and dangerous ones.

I've been around a lot of drug dealers and sellers, and cocaine and heroin, even though it was available, if you looked for it were both generally seen as no-nos in my scene, and we avoided people who used it or sold it -- even while we were trying pretty much every other psychoactive substance known to man.

People are capable of distinguishing between drugs and the dangerous ones will be just as much a fringe activity under a legal regime as they are now.
posted by empath at 4:52 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Uh, here in Cali, where you can get legal weed really easily, there's still a huge black market for folks who either can't be assed, don't qualify or want their weed cheaper.

Or, you know, don't want to actually break the law. It's not really legal to get medical marijuana under false pretenses. Just because people get away with it does not make it legal.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:53 PM on June 2, 2011


Er, I should be clear -- don't want to break the law _with a record_. The advantage of the black market is there is no transaction record.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:53 PM on June 2, 2011


I'm not getting bitter and snarky about anything, you oaf. I just love it when we are talking about de-regulating hard drugs and free market and economies of scale and you guys fall back on prescribed usage of meth as a defense against my attack. Notice the dissonance.
posted by phaedon at 4:54 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's like, you do realize there's an unprescribed epidemic of meth use in this country and that's actually a problem, right?
posted by phaedon at 4:55 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


empath knew what he was talking about

FFS, no he doesn't. Desoxyn is practically never given to children because it is a very fast acting drug. Effective treatment for ADHD would require taking several doses during the school day. But kids, especially ADHD kids, are very bad at remembering to take pills regularly. That's why doctors pretty much always prescribe slow-release alternatives like Vyvanse of Adderall XR instead of Desoxyn. Desoxyn's rapid action is very unhelpful in treating ADHD.
posted by ryanrs at 4:56 PM on June 2, 2011


Bold, italic, and underlined.

You can't argue with that.
posted by Trurl at 4:56 PM on June 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Damn straight.
posted by phaedon at 4:56 PM on June 2, 2011


I'm not getting bitter and snarky about anything, you oaf. I just love it when we are talking about de-regulating hard drugs and free market and economies of scale and you guys fall back on prescribed usage of meth as a defense against my attack. Notice the dissonance.

It would have been nice if you said that, but you didn't. You said that the claim that it is prescribed to children is a break with reality.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:56 PM on June 2, 2011


What's so magical about a prescription that makes it okay to take? I have ADHD and was prescribed a stimulant, and let me tell you, meth is still meth, even when you have ADHD.
posted by empath at 4:57 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the mention of prescribed usage is a defensive knee-jerk against the whole "this drug is horrible and will wreck anyone who even looks at it once let alone ever ingests it" kind of brainwashing which takes place under the propaganda of the War On Drugs. It's not always clearly communicated, but yeah, I'm pretty sure that's what it's about.
posted by hippybear at 4:57 PM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oh yeah, did your doctor actually prescribe Desoxyn (meth), or was it something else?
posted by ryanrs at 4:58 PM on June 2, 2011


(to empath)
posted by ryanrs at 4:58 PM on June 2, 2011


Could someone point me to the empath post where he claims prescription of meth is common? Was it deleted?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:00 PM on June 2, 2011


You said that the claim that it is prescribed to children is a break with reality.

I specifically have a problem with you not letting me demonize crystal, as I have seen it wreck communities here in Southern California.

If you want to pretend like "my" (fuck it) war on this drug is misguided because some children once upon a time were prescribed it to calm them down, under the supervision of a doctor, then fuck off, you're intentionally derailing the conversation.
posted by phaedon at 5:00 PM on June 2, 2011


furiousxgeorge, right here
posted by ryanrs at 5:01 PM on June 2, 2011


Oh yeah, did your doctor actually prescribe Desoxyn (meth), or was it something else?

Adderal, but it doesn't matter. I've used it (and pretty much every other ADD medication). The point being is that it is approved by the FDA as being safe if used under proper conditions and plenty of people use it safely and it improves their lives. It's not a demonic chemical that is going to lead to the downfall of society if it were easier and safe to get a hold of.
posted by empath at 5:01 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I specifically have a problem with you not letting me demonize crystal, as I have seen it wreck communities here in Southern California.

What you have seen wreck the communities is the consequence of an illegal black market.

I saw it wreck the rave scene in dc in the mid 2000s, too, but making all my friends act like douchebags at parties is no reason to make it illegal.
posted by empath at 5:03 PM on June 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


furiousxgeorge, right here

But that doesn't say prescription of meth is common?

Oh, the mods must have edited the comment to remove the part where he says it is commonly prescribed. They should really not be editing for content like that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:03 PM on June 2, 2011


It's like, you do realize there's an unprescribed epidemic of meth use in this country and that's actually a problem, right?

You actually think it being illegal is stopping people? You don't think the violence related to distribution and manufacture (which is ALSO destroying lives in Southern California) is important?

I agree that meth is a "bad" drug, but making it illegal has not helped anyone. Better access to treatment, people not worrying about being arrested if they seek help, etc would all make the problem better.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:03 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Call me when it's as easy to score pot as a bottle of beer."

I'm not sure this is the standard to set it at, and anyway, you're ignoring the point that I was making which is that the de facto decriminalization of pot here in California has not eradicated black market pot.

It's generally lightyears more convenient to buy it at one of the dispensaries than it is to buy it from a dealer — if you have a card then yeah, it's pretty much as easy as buying liquor. That your friends won't go because the dispensaries are sketch is irrelevant.

"Er, I should be clear -- don't want to break the law _with a record_. The advantage of the black market is there is no transaction record."

If you pay cash, there's no record at the dispensary.
posted by klangklangston at 5:04 PM on June 2, 2011


You've been prescribed Adderall and "pretty much every other ADD medication." I'll go out on a limb and guess your doctor never prescribed Desoxyn, right? (That would be because Desoxyn is practically never prescribed for ADD. Mostly it's used for extreme narcolepsy.).
posted by ryanrs at 5:05 PM on June 2, 2011


If you pay cash, there's no record at the dispensary.

But don't you need a prescription? Wouldn't the doctor's office have a record of your visit? I mean my doctor certainly keeps track of what they prescribe me.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:05 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I specifically have a problem with you not letting me demonize crystal, as I have seen it wreck communities here in Southern California.

I think you can make a convincing case that it is a demon, but you have to do it with facts. What empath said was not a break with reality, it was a fact.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:06 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not only would prisons be emptied of people caught holding, there'd be a large decline in robbery/burglary as there'd be a lot fewer addicts desperate to flip stuff for the high price of another hit. Alcoholics don't break into houses or mug people for another bottle of t-bird.

Oh what a wonderful world it would be -- and all that money we wouldn't be spending on prisons and speedboats and helicopters and fences and assault rifles, we could spend on drug treatment programs for those who want or need help. And probably have billions left over for something else, like maybe single payer health! See, I've solved everything. sigh
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:06 PM on June 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


The point being is that it is approved by the FDA as being safe if used under proper conditions and plenty of people use it safely and it improves their lives.

UNDER MEDICAL SUPERVISION! This has literally nothing to do with what we are talking about!

What you have seen wreck the communities is the consequence of an illegal black market.

Oh my God. Look I'm done here. Parting comments. War on drugs, bad. Education, good. Crystal meth, completely bad. Prescribed use of meth, has nothing to do with black market. Has nothing to do with "the drug problem." You are now all pretending like drugs are not bad, it is simply a function of their unavailability that they become bad, therefore, make them available.

Empath, you suck.
posted by phaedon at 5:06 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


You've been prescribed Adderall and "pretty much every other ADD medication."

I wasn't prescribed the other ones. I've tried them all, I've also done meth. I know what they are like. That was kind of ancillary to my point which is that it is approved as being safe and actually improves some people's lives.
posted by empath at 5:07 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


You are now all pretending like drugs are not bad, it is simply a function of their unavailability that they become bad, therefore, make them available.

I'm not pretending. They are not inherently bad, any more than any other chemical or tool is. It's up to people to use them in good or bad ways. Plenty of people use drugs and have no ill effects from them and it doesn't wreck their lives. Some of them have their lives dramatically improved by drugs.

This kind of black and white moralistic bullshit helps no one.
posted by empath at 5:10 PM on June 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


The meth you tried was street meth, though, not Desoxyn, right? Because Desoxyn prescriptions are so rare that you can't find pills on the black market (unlike Adderall, Dexadrine, Ritalin, etc).
posted by ryanrs at 5:10 PM on June 2, 2011


Let's not talk about what the effects of legitimizing the manufacturing and sale in this country of a highly addictive drug with these side effects will do to society. Nope, let's just get an econ lecture about the self-regulating free market, let's have it pointed out that it's perfectly okay because it's been doled out to kids in the past, and it's not that different from Adderal, which by the way is the fucking devil.
posted by phaedon at 5:11 PM on June 2, 2011


Sure, but you are missing the point. Is it or is it not factually correct that desoxyn is FDA approved for use in children over the age of 6? Yes? Then stop arguing with me, because I haven't said anything that's incorrect. You can draw your own conclusions from that fact.
posted by empath at 5:12 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is it or is it not factually correct that desoxyn is FDA approved for use in children over the age of 6? Yes?

BY PRESCRIPTION. WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT PRESCRIBED DRUGS IN THIS THREAD. THIS IS NOT A WAR ON PRESCRIBED DRUGS.
posted by phaedon at 5:13 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Let's not talk about what the effects of legitimizing the manufacturing and sale in this country of a highly addictive drug with these side effects will do to society.

Approximately nothing, since making it illegal hasn't caused meth (or any other drug) use to go down one iota, and in states where people have legalized drugs, drug uses hasn't gone up much, if at all.
posted by empath at 5:14 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


THIS IS NOT A WAR ON PRESCRIBED DRUGS.

Right. because the exact same chemical compound isn't available anywhere else... and prescription drugs aren't the most widely abused set of chemicals in the US.
posted by hippybear at 5:15 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Who gives a fuck about desoxyn? Who is the "war on drugs" helping? It seems to be helping prison operators and police who want bigger SWAT budgets. Who else?
posted by adamdschneider at 5:17 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Approximately nothing, since making it illegal hasn't caused meth (or any other drug) use to go down one iota, and in states where people have legalized drugs, drug uses hasn't gone up much, if at all.

Well then fuck it. Why even bother with prescriptions. Let people self-medicate.
posted by phaedon at 5:17 PM on June 2, 2011


THIS IS NOT A WAR ON PRESCRIBED DRUGS.

You tell that to the doctors I went to for several years who wouldn't give me previously-reliable Fioricet for my headaches, and spent years "trying out" failure after failure, eventually leaving me taking ibuprofen so often that I developed what appears to be an allergy to it.
posted by chimaera at 5:18 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is it just me, or is this is kind of a weird turn?
posted by box at 5:18 PM on June 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


Look, some people are so imbued with the propaganda, that it is difficult for them to see the unvarnished truth. Drugs are drugs, including alcohol. We prohibited alcohol, and it didn't do away with the alcohol problems individuals faced, but it created a lawless economy with violence and an escalating battle between law enforcement and organized crime, with the latter winning. Prohibition was repealed and it didn't do away with the alcohol problems individuals faced, but it did away with the crime problems. The continued prohibition of drugs has not done away with the drug problems of individuals, but it has clearly fueled highly funded, well organized criminal activity, both here and in other countries. To continue to assert that legalizing and controlling substances for getting high somehow would accelerate the individual problems to an extent that is balanced by the extremely high costs of criminal activity engendered by criminalizing drugs is not borne out by our one collective societal experience that speaks to the issue. The idea that prohibition is the most cost-effective manner of dealing the the problems has no empirical basis, and those that cling to it do so out of a faith-based belief.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:18 PM on June 2, 2011 [24 favorites]


phaedon, seriously, you are just spouting hysterical Nancy Reagan garbage. you can capitalize and underline and italicize all you want, it doesn't make your arguments more convincing.

Yes, it would be bad if everyone started doing crystal meth. Thankfully, crystal meth makes people boring and annoying and the vast majority of people don't want to be around people on meth, nor do they want to do it. They people that do want to do it, are doing it right now, and will continue being just as boring and annoying when it's legal.

They just won't also be creating superfund sites in suburban neighborhoods while they make it in their bathtub.
posted by empath at 5:23 PM on June 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


Well then fuck it. Why even bother with prescriptions. Let people self-medicate.

They do. Without our sanction. And have. Ever since people existed. What is it you want?
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:25 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


the vast majority of people don't want to be around people on meth

Finally, something we can agree on! People on meth even annoy other tweakers.
posted by ryanrs at 5:27 PM on June 2, 2011


phaedon:

I understand your position, and I sympathize with it. In a perfect world drug abuse would be non-existent. In a good world drug-dependent people would get medical help, not jail time.

But,

1. People always have, and always will, self-medicate. It's a natural urge and for a segment of the population it's deadly. But the fear of creating millions of abusers through legalization has not been the experience of countries that have tried legalization. I'm not going to pull the cites, but drug addiction has remained relatively consistent for many decades.

2. Economics plays a part in this. Mega profits resulting from nothing other than the illegality of these drugs encourages dealers to deal and violently protect their interests. Without making any value judgments about drugs, the closer you can force the price of a dollar's worth of drugs to sell for a dollar the less likely anyone is to deal or get violent. Legalization is the only way to do that.

Drug abuse is bad. Drug addiction is worse. Criminalizing medical problems is even worse than that. Spending money on guns and jail cells that should be used to research addictions and actually help addicts is unforgiveable.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:27 PM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


The War on Drugs is incredibly depressing because of its effects, but it's also depressing as a political issue. The solution is obvious, would make pretty much everything better, and would actually save money and then make money and we still can't do it. What chance is there of solving anything harder?
posted by callmejay at 5:31 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


It happened in Monterrey, a long time ago ...
posted by bwg at 5:31 PM on June 2, 2011


... and I see we're still talking about drugs here.

Like I said: what the he'll are Mexicans supposed to do in the face of all this? That seems like the pertinent topic here, yet we're apparently intent on fighting the drug war all over again in this thread.
posted by koeselitz at 5:33 PM on June 2, 2011


I think we're all talking past each other at this point.

Clearly, the illegal use of crystal meth is, whether I like it or not, not being impacted by the fact that it is fucking illegal. So to that end, I have no position on the legality of meth. The answer at the end of the day is education and prevention. Emphases which, tangentially, are completely absent in all almost every facet of American health care.

However, the notion that the black market creates drugs addicts is ridiculous. That is frankly the argument that is being presented here. That is why the mention of meth as an FDA-approved drug is a total misdirection. Because I don't believe that the legalization of meth will somehow make the drug less addictive, make meth any less of an epidemic. I mean, that's just bullshit.

Meth makes a lot of peoples' brains turn into swiss cheese and their teeth turn into tiny Chiclets that you can drive a truck through. Don't think that the people who make this drug in their bathtub should be sent to jail? Fine, fuck it.
posted by phaedon at 5:34 PM on June 2, 2011


what the he'll are Mexicans supposed to do in the face of all this?

They really are stuck, because we essentially bribe Latin countries to carry out their own drug wars, that's what leads to Monterrey's problems. Unless they can convince the Mexican government to not play along with the WOD, they will continue to have this problem.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:35 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


However, the notion that the black market creates drugs addicts is ridiculous. That is frankly the argument that is being presented here.

In general the argument is that the black market makes addiction a bigger problem. I think you will find that his argument is that black market or free market you have addicts.

Don't think that the people who make this drug in their bathtub should be sent to jail? Fine, fuck it.

Why would they be doing that if it was legal?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:39 PM on June 2, 2011


Why would they be doing that if it was legal?

By legal, you mean like, a corporation industrializes the manufacture and distribution of said drug? Kind of like how PepsiCo sells fucking Frito Lays around the globe?
posted by phaedon at 5:41 PM on June 2, 2011


Actually, phaedon, meth use is being impacted by the fact that it's illegal.

The artificially high profits encourage people to manufacture it.

Also, at the risk of starting another tangent, how many of those meth users would not have used meth had legal weed been available at the beginning of their drug use? (That's just a thought experiment, BTW.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:41 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Tell me that's what you'd like to see happen.
posted by phaedon at 5:41 PM on June 2, 2011


MethAlcohol makes a lot more of peoples' brains turn into swiss cheese and their teeth livers turn into Chiclets that you can drive a truck through swollen watermelons that eventually fail and kill them. Don't think that the people who make this drug in their bathtub distillery/brewery/winery should be sent to jail? Fine, fuck it.
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:42 PM on June 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


Don't think that the people who make this drug in their bathtub should be sent to jail? Fine, fuck it.

Can you really not see past your urge to punish drug dealers to the actual, real-life consequences of prohibition? This is not a hypothetical, it's been going on for decades. And there's a historical analogy to alcohol prohibition that is just about as perfect as a historical analogy can be.
posted by callmejay at 5:43 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


The artificially high profits encourage people to manufacture it.

No, I think what you mean is that it encourages Mexican cartels to manufacture it. Seems to me meth could be extremely profitable as a legal drug with a couple of American pharmas behind it. Recreational drug business, like Viagra. Do you think otherwise?
posted by phaedon at 5:43 PM on June 2, 2011


For the record I am pro-legalization pro-decriminalization, pro-treatment, anti-jail for drugs. I am anti-Prohibition. With certain limits.

However, something to think about is that in Mexico, and elsewhere in Latin America, it isn't just that the cartels just make stupidly-sick-whopping-gobs-of-money. It's that they make stupidly-sick-whopping-gobs-of-money, while the working class is stupidly-sick-incredibly-dirt-fucking-poor.

Hence the narco-saints.

Mexico's problems are systemic. They have a culture of "la mordida". Corruption isn't just tolerated - it's expected. If you get a political job or position of influence, you are literally letting your family and friends down if you don't funnel jobs and perqs their way.

While the War on Drugs has tragically exaggerated the disparities in Latin America, those disparities will continue to exist after the War is over. Now, I am not nay-saying. Better is better, and if we can make it a little better, or a lot better, that's better than the status quo. But I think Latin American reform is an issue that will be harder to deal with than the War on Drugs.
posted by Xoebe at 5:45 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Empath, you suck.

Cool it or take a walk.
posted by cortex at 5:46 PM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Seems to me meth could be extremely profitable as a legal drug with a couple of American pharmas behind it. Recreational drug business, like Viagra. Do you think otherwise?

Nope, I think it would be. They're already making piles of money on recreational users of ketamine, adderal, oxycontin and vicodin, etc.
posted by empath at 5:48 PM on June 2, 2011


No, I think what you mean is that it encourages Mexican cartels to manufacture it. Seems to me meth could be extremely profitable as a legal drug with a couple of American pharmas behind it. Recreational drug business, like Viagra. Do you think otherwise?

Unfortunately, I think there's some truth to that. But, no, that's not close to what I meant.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:49 PM on June 2, 2011


Why would they be doing that if it was legal?

By legal, you mean like, a corporation industrializes the manufacture and distribution of said drug? Kind of like how PepsiCo sells fucking Frito Lays around the globe?


...are you trying to sell me bathtub Fritos and Pepsi?





I'm in.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:50 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was going to make a snarky comment on how recreation drugs have only been prohibited in such a wide scale for less than .1% of the time that humans have used them, but instead I will try to answer question 'what can Mexico do about this?'.

If by Mexico you mean Mexico's government, I have no idea, corruption everywhere.

If you mean the Mexican people, one example is the No Más Sangre (no more blood) movement. This group is organizing people to protest the war on drugs. They are basically asking the Mexican government to tell the US government to go fuck itself and unilaterally end the war on drugs on the Mexican side.

It is not like Mexico is waiting for the US to legalize drugs first, its is things like the Merida Initiative that prevents the Mexican government from taking action.

The Merida initiative gave the Mexican government about 1.5 billion dollars over three years, plus training and equipment, to intensify the war on drugs. Most of this money was supposed to go to the army, which has a total budget of about 4 billion dollars.

Do you want to be the politician to reject 1.5 billion dollars? I wonder in whose pockets it really ended up.

The US alternately uses threats of sanctions against Mexico and promises of cash to keep the war on drugs going on. Reminds me of the offer traffickers like to make "Plata o plomo", silver or lead, your choice.
posted by Dr. Curare at 5:54 PM on June 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Let's say Mexico - either from calculation or desperation - legalizes marijuana tomorrow.

What is Washington's response to American drug tourism?
posted by Trurl at 5:55 PM on June 2, 2011


To continue to assert that legalizing and controlling substances for getting high somehow would accelerate the individual problems to an extent that is balanced by the extremely high costs of criminal activity engendered by criminalizing drugs is not borne out by our one collective societal experience that speaks to the issue. The idea that prohibition is the most cost-effective manner of dealing the the problems has no empirical basis, and those that cling to it do so out of a faith-based belief.

That sounds familiar.

However, the notion that the black market creates drugs addicts is ridiculous. That is frankly the argument that is being presented here.

No it's not, your confused and insulting people for no good reason. Maybe you should rethink your position when you're in a calmer state so as not to build such an obvious strawman.

Empath, you suck.

No he actually doesn't he's just passionate. I've had some run ins with him in the past, but he's grown on me.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:56 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Everyone needs a hug nug.
posted by Trurl at 5:58 PM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]



Let's say Mexico - either from calculation or desperation - legalizes marijuana tomorrow.

What is Washington's response to American drug tourism?


They would have to legalize production to dent the violence, which I can't see ever happening without American approval that would never come.

I can imagine the US threatening everything up to closing the border entirely if they tried.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:01 PM on June 2, 2011


"But don't you need a prescription? Wouldn't the doctor's office have a record of your visit? I mean my doctor certainly keeps track of what they prescribe me."

First off, it's not a prescription here in Cali, it's a doctor's recommendation that marijuana may be beneficial. Which means that you aren't be prescribed controlled substances. Further, it's a doctor-patient communication, which means that it's privileged.

What happens is that you're assigned a number and the doctor's office registers that number with the state — that number is not your name or anything identifying you (though you are given a sheet of paper that has both the number and your information on it). When you go to the dispensary, you show them your recommendation (colloquially called a prescription) and the dispensary calls to verify that it's a valid number. But no record is kept on-site that would identify you, unless you use a credit card.

And even if your doctor does identify you, simply having a recommendation isn't illegal for the user — the doctor can get in nominal trouble if your condition is truly unjustifiable, but they guide the conversation well enough that it never is (marijuana's broad effects and limited drawbacks and the lack of an overt prescription make it hard to go after the doctors). So, since there's no proof that you bought marijuana, only that you could if you wanted to, there's no record there.

Finally, in California, a small amount of pot for personal use is decriminalized (more if you have the card). So while I understand some paranoia about it, it really is just as safe (if not more so) than street dealers.
posted by klangklangston at 6:16 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's ridiculous to look at the situation in California wrt. pot and draw conclusions about how long independent dealers will survive. Pot is still illegal on a federal level, never mind state enforcement in California. That means no big scale business is going to move into this area. Until that happens, and pot is fully legal, there will continue to be dealers and growers and smugglers.

When it's as legal as booze, and as available as my popping in to Trader Joe's to pick up wine and a lid, then we'll see the dealers, growers and smugglers go the way of moonshine and bootleggers - extinct for all intents and purposes.
posted by VikingSword at 6:24 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


a small amount of pot for personal use is decriminalized

My understanding is this only applies to possession, not purchase.

While I agree its probably better than J Random Dealer, I'm not convinced it's better than a dealer you've known forever.

Not to mention that most people don't know everything you just explained (I've talked to a bunch of people who have no idea how it works). So I don't think that usage of the current system reflects how widespread usage would be if it was like alcohol and you could just walk into the corner store.

I don't trust the current government pseudo-legal-not-really-and-the-feds-don't-agree system, it's true.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:39 PM on June 2, 2011


I don't see many mom & pop pharma or tobacco companies these days.

This is partly due to regulation. Regulatory costs have a disproportionate effect on small businesses. The recently passed tobacco legislation helps the large corporations.

Make it, sell it, tax it, regulate it, and invest in prevention.

No objection to the first 40% of this statement. Taxing and regulating though, creates room for a black market. Much less room than what we have know, but still some criminal opportunity.

Let's say Mexico - either from calculation or desperation - legalizes marijuana tomorrow.

What is Washington's response to American drug tourism?


American drug tourism isn't going to be a problem. What you'll have is an even greater increase in smuggling as the wholesale price drops through the floor. The more interesting question is what will happen in Mexico if the U.S. legalizes everything tomorrow. Charles Bowden, who has written some interesting pieces on the border and the drug war and Juarez in paricular, argues that it would destabilize Mexico as it has been running off of the proceeds of illegal narcotics for decades. I don't agree with Bowden on everything, but if he's right that many of the poor in Mexico are economically dependent on some drugs being illegal, then we have a very serious problem with no real solution.
posted by BigSky at 6:43 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


phaedon, seriously, you are just spouting hysterical Nancy Reagan garbage. you can capitalize and underline and italicize all you want, it doesn't make your arguments more convincing.

You are in no position to talk, with such silly unqualified comments about methamphetamine being prescribed to kids. I too have an ADHD diagnosis, and have been prescribed a variety of drugs with varying degrees of success, though not desoxyn. Drugs which remediate a medical condition operate differently in people who don't have that medical condition, and recreational doses of drugs are often well above what would be prescribed for medical purposes. It is wildly disingenuous to suggest otherwise, and to characterize phaedon's relatively mild skepticism as 'hysterical Nancy Reagan garbage' is just dishonest.

I swear, many advocates of legalization are their own worst enemy. One person says tax and regulate, another person says regulation creates more problems than it solves, people who hate corporations and the free market suddenly believe they're the ideal solution for this particular problem, and harm analysis is reduced to handwavey statements about how it's safe for prescription to children, like it was orajel or something.

You are actively undermining your own cause with such facile nonsense. If you want people to take the idea of legalization seriously, then make a serious argument. Is it fair that advocates of prohibition don't bother to do that and often fall back on scarifying rhetoric? No. Too goddam bad, but that's just how it is. they have the law on their side and that's enough for a lot of people, so you're just going to have to work harder than they do to get your point across. I don't agree with much of what phaedon is saying, but he's pointing out the existence of some actual problems that advocates of legalization need to come up with specific actionable answers for - in this case, the particular channels through which you envision recreational methamphetamine being available, and what harm reduction strategies would be already in place before that happens. Those are hard questions, but necessary ones. and while nobody realistically expects to have those questions definitely answered here on MeFi in the space of a few paragraphs, it is incumbent on the proponents of legalization (of whom I consider myself to be one), to at least outline the answers, or else to state honestly that we don't know, attempt to define the scope of the problem, and work backwards from there to develop some sort of experimental protocol.

My personal point of view is that we should begin with a policy of decriminalization, increase funding for addiction therapies, and limit distribution to pharmaceutical outlets similar to lightly scheduled medications at first. I don't know what political calculus is necessary to deal with the inevitable casualties resulting from looser controls, and strongly suspect that the safe commercialization of recreational chemicals is going to be very difficult without caps on tort liability for manufacturers and increased, or even draconian, sentencing for DUI and any other kind of criminal offense committed by intoxicated persons. In other words, it may be legal to get high for enjoyment, but accept that legally your responsibilities will be temporarily increased rather than diminished. 'I was too high to know what I was doing' will count as prima facie evidence of reckless endangerment at the very least.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:58 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is wildly disingenuous to suggest otherwise, and to characterize phaedon's relatively mild skepticism as 'hysterical Nancy Reagan garbage' is just dishonest.

I probably didn't make this clear, but I think meth sucks and I don't recommend that anybody use it recreationally. I only used it on weekends for a few months when it flooded the rave scene several years ago when it was basically unavoidable at the parties I was going to, and I wouldn't use it again if it was legal and someone gave it to me for free. Most of my friends that I started avoiding at the time, because they became boring tweakers all eventually quit it, too, without going into rehab or losing their teeth or their jobs -- and many of them have been trying to quit smoking for 10 years and have been unable.

I also happen to think that it's relatively safe when used moderately and relatively non-addictive compared to alcohol and tobacco -- hell, even caffeine has worse withdrawal symptoms than meth. I'm sorry that people feel the need to demonize it (and other drugs) to make it seem more dangerous than it is and scare people away from it, but I think it's a lie, and counter productive in the long term.

Almost all illegal drugs have good and bad aspects, and many of them can be harmless fun or even positively life-improving if used appropriately. Creating tools for people to recognize and recover from addiction is a lot more important than trying to ban the particular subject of addict's obsessions, which will, after all, change depending on what is available.

Addicts are addicts, and they will find one way or another to destroy their lives, whether it is meth, alcohol or gambling. Treating addiction has nothing to do with stopping the addict from getting a hold of what they are addicted to.

The meth problem in california is not due to the availability of meth. If meth didn't exist, do you really think those tweakers would be fine, upstanding members of society? No, they'd be raging alcoholics, or gamblers, or eating oxycontin, whatever other vice was available.
posted by empath at 7:13 PM on June 2, 2011 [9 favorites]


this doesn't really have anything to do with the Drug War anymore

Mostly true. It's about the complete breakdown of the first responsibility of government - i.e. to keep its citizens safe.

These gangs are already *inside* our country! Last post about this I suggested sending in troops. I maintain that that is one way to start to bring order. Those who disagree, what is your solution? Legalize drugs? I'm in favor of that. Will that stop these gangs? Maybe it will slow them down, but it won't stop them.

Are we going to let Mexico go through what Italy went through with the Mafia, or what it is still going through with the Camorra or Ndragheta? Look at what the Russian Mafia has acomplished.
You think that the latter won't get involved in this, if it isn't already?

This is no longer a world of borders. It's a world of opportunity for more good, and more bad - and unless we find ways to create better coalitions of security to thwart criminals we are going to lose out civil rights. Why? Because once this sort of thing gets a serious toehold, rights will disappear faster than you can say "Patriot Act". You think the Patriot Act is a problem for civil liberties now? Just wait and see what happens if these barbarians continue to thrive in Mexico, feeding their north-of-the-border cousins along the way.
posted by Vibrissae at 7:18 PM on June 2, 2011


Even the hard drugs should be legalized and standardized. I've known enough junkies in my life to know that the only thing that keeps them criminal is their desperation for a consistent reliable fix.

If they could get a week long supply of safe substance for $7 bucks (or whatever reasonable legal price) at the local drug store you would never ever hear about them. They'd quit dealing because they don't need to support a connection or their own habit. They wouldn't recruit for the same reason. They'd pan handle or actually get jobs and could because they wouldn't be all strung out and hating life.

The same thing goes with meth. The only reason the typical meth use cycle doesn't end itself is because of inconsistent availability and intervention. If a tweaker could go on a 7 day bender on $7 bucks (or whatever reasonable legal price) they'd die, burn out or get bored and find a new hobby. The joy and challenge of persuit is gone.

Putting Mexico, her people or anyone else in harms way to keep people from enjoying experiences is an abomination.

With a little knowledge, drugs are awesome. They might even be responsible for us evolving into humans.
posted by snsranch at 7:21 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know what some of you people are talking about. I knew a now-dead heroin addict who, even if he had a safe substance for $7 bucks, would still go out and steal in order to get the $7. You folks have no idea how inhuman some people become due to their need for drugs. Making it legal and more available would make it worse (and kill them faster), not better.

hysterical Nancy Reagan garbage

Um, all she did was make some cheesy ads telling kids to say no to drugs. Why is that a bad thing?

Ok, backing out again.
posted by Melismata at 7:31 PM on June 2, 2011


We KNOW drugs are bad, we just don't think jail is the solution.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:40 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean hell, we've tried it your way for a few decades now. IT DOESN'T WORK.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:41 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why is that a bad thing?

Well, people have argued that the 'Just Say No' campaign was ineffective, oversimplified, intentionally misleading and racist. And, given some of the stuff that Mrs. Reagan's husband was doing, it might be seen as a little bit hypocritical.
posted by box at 7:41 PM on June 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's not really conducive to good conversation when you back out after every supposition. It's like challenging someone to defend their position, then blocking your ears and nah nah I can't hear you.
posted by WhitenoisE at 7:44 PM on June 2, 2011 [8 favorites]


MetaFilter: With a little knowledge, drugs are awesome.
posted by hippybear at 7:45 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Creating tools for people to recognize and recover from addiction is a lot more important than trying to ban the particular subject of addict's obsessions, which will, after all, change depending on what is available.

This statement seems unsupported by clinical studies of addiction. By this logic, drug abuse should be entirely polymorphic, and addicts simply concerned with getting off their face as quickly and completely as possible with whatever is cheapest and closest to hand. However, easy substitution is equivalent to highly elastic demand, whereas for addicts demand is highly inelastic. By saying, effectively, 'addicts gonna get addicted' you're disengaging with the problem and leaving it for someone else to deal with. In economic terms, it's an externality for your consumer choice of having a good time.

Meth is not the crystallized essence of Satan, but less of a withdrawal challenge than coffee? Don't be ridiculous. I've met plenty of people here in SF who blew up their own metabolism from meth use, or put the price of a car or even a house up their nose. It's problematic stuff, and my hope is that if drugs were decriminalized almost nobody would bother taking it because ecstasy would be considered safer and more enjoyable. I say 'safeR' rather than safe, because there are always some risks. I have seen enough people lose their shit and have accidents or run out into traffic that I think decriminalization/legalization needs to be a graduated process.

Now there are general theories of addiction; people with addiction problems do have a responsibility to deal with their own issues to some extent, and would find that easier if drugs were decriminalized; and wishing or legislating away the Bad Thing that they're addicted to is horrendously expensive, inefficient, and ineffective. But there are gradations of harm, specific manifestations of harm, and predictable levels of harm, and plans for mitigating those need to be part of any legalization strategy.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:50 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


My honest question for those arguing for the continuing prohibition of drugs is to ask what realistic set of changes in the US and the world they think would make the difference between the status quo with high levels of incarceration and violence threatening the stability of entire countries and a peaceful world where people stop buying drugs? What steps could we take to get to that goal that we've not done yet?

To bring it back to the actual article, the current system has failed the people of Monterrey badly. If we're going to continue down the present road, what can we do for them, or are they just an acceptable casualty to keep drug use in the US at its current level?

As a follow up question, again in earnest despite sounding snarky, is the only thing that keeps you from going out and trying heroin and crystal meth its illegality? An awful lot of the handwringing over legalization sounds like the anti-gay marriage advocates who argue that legalizing it would cause otherwise straight children to go gay or the religious people who feel that the only thing keeping them from robbing or killing their neighbors is the threat of eternal damnation.
posted by Candleman at 8:04 PM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


My honest question for those arguing for the continuing prohibition of drugs is to ask what realistic set of changes in the US and the world they think would make the difference between the status quo with high levels of incarceration and violence threatening the stability of entire countries and a peaceful world where people stop buying drugs? What steps could we take to get to that goal that we've not done yet?

I can only think of two ways you can maintain prohibition and actually accomplish anything. Mandatory testing for all on a regular basis. Or the Singapore option.

Both of these seem quite unconstitutional to me, but it seems we care less and less about that as time goes on and we inch closer and closer to the extremes.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:10 PM on June 2, 2011


As a follow up question, again in earnest despite sounding snarky, is the only thing that keeps you from going out and trying heroin and crystal meth its illegality?

Tee-hee... I don't even smoke pot, and wouldn't were it legal or not. Legality has not much to do with it for me - I've tried a bunch of things (though I never shot up), but it was out of curiosity. I concluded that I didn't need them, cause I was already crazier than any drug could make me. I found the stuff boring. Pot was boring. Hash was super-boring. No thanks.

Cigarettes are legal - I don't smoke. I've tried cigars, I've tried a pipe. Nah.

I do drink wine, though. And if I were living under Prohibition, I would continue drinking wine.

Sample of one: legality/illegality is not a factor in my consideration of use of psychotropic substances.
posted by VikingSword at 8:12 PM on June 2, 2011


Meth is not the crystallized essence of Satan, but less of a withdrawal challenge than coffee?

If I go three days without drinking coffee, I get throbbing headaches and nausea. I had 0 problem quitting speed, and my friends that quit never reported any withdrawal problems other than having a fucked up diurnal clock for a couple of days.
posted by empath at 8:14 PM on June 2, 2011


I can only think of two ways you can maintain prohibition and actually accomplish anything. Mandatory testing for all on a regular basis.

Well, welcome to Florida.
posted by hippybear at 8:26 PM on June 2, 2011


Cartels don't get rich on growing the drugs, they get rich on smuggling them into the US. The value-added comes right there.

Legalize the stuff and the profit motive disapperas overnight.

Simple.
posted by bardic at 8:33 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


hippybear: "Well, welcome to Florida."

Jesus fucking christ. That state should be scraped down to bedrock, bulldozed into the ocean, and never mentioned again. That's fucking evil.
posted by dunkadunc at 8:43 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


"When it's as legal as booze, and as available as my popping in to Trader Joe's to pick up wine and a lid, then we'll see the dealers, growers and smugglers go the way of moonshine and bootleggers - extinct for all intents and purposes."

Except that bootlegging and moonshining still exist.

Further, this is all pretty far afield from the question of Monterrey, where legalization isn't likely to do any more than the repeal of local prohibition in Chicago in the 1890s removed the rampant crime that plagued the city (likewise, the segregated vice policy was also a failure).

Oddly enough, in terms of the most violent area in America under national Prohibition, the "remedy" came from the consolidation immediately after Prohibition was lifted, when mobsters were able to take over the legitimate liquor distribution system. Even now, almost a century later, the business is still fairly corrupt.

I know that it's tempting to think that strident, simplistic attacks on the War on Drugs are the way to end the endemic violence in Mexico, but it's part of a much larger picture and it does the topic a disservice to turn it into an excuse to grind an axe, even if it's an axe I agree largely with.
posted by klangklangston at 8:46 PM on June 2, 2011


That state should be scraped down to bedrock, bulldozed into the ocean, and never mentioned again.

Rick Scott should be recalled and never mentioned again, for this and hundreds of other reasons. Place blame where blame properly lies.
posted by blucevalo at 8:54 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


And, given some of the stuff that Mrs. Reagan's husband was doing, it might be seen as a little bit hypocritical.

And wait there's more. Of course after that episode the cia and other intelligence agencies cleaned up there act and got out of the drug business....right?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:55 PM on June 2, 2011


Also curious that the author of that series of articles, Gary Webb, somehow managed to commit suicide by shooting himself twice in the head.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:00 PM on June 2, 2011


Mental Wimp: “They really are stuck, because we essentially bribe Latin countries to carry out their own drug wars, that's what leads to Monterrey's problems. Unless they can convince the Mexican government to not play along with the WOD, they will continue to have this problem.”

I'm just sort of doubtful about that on a certain level at this point. Sure, drugs are what started this – and they're the fuel that fans the flames. But now there's a massive network of criminal enterprise basically running whole chunks of Latin America. There's kidnapping, there's rape, there's widespread corruption and abuse, there are assassination squads and hit men and all of that. I just cannot believe that that will all simply disappear the moment that the drug trade has no momentum.

I mean, I guess I can see that the economic impetus from the United States provides the drug trade with the conditions for its existence. But at what point do we say that a nation needs to be able to guarantee its citizens are safe and free from harm, regardless of the economic policies of other nations? At what point do we say that this really does need a martial solution, or at least a state solution that demonstrates that crime won't be tolerated? I mean, at this point, if we just legalize drugs and hope the criminals go away, aren't we really giving in to crime? And... what if the criminals don't go away? Organized crime in the United States hasn't gone away completely, it's just found different avenues of illicit enterprise – and it wasn't nearly as entrenched as the cartels are. Look at organized crime in Italy; it has its tentacles into everything, not just drugs but freaking olive oil for heaven's sake.

I am extremely hesitant to buy the wishful thinking that legalization will magically make the crime that sprouted up around the illegal drug trade wither away immediately.
posted by koeselitz at 9:12 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also curious that the author of that series of articles, Gary Webb, somehow managed to commit suicide by shooting himself twice in the head.

Frank Stafford committed suicide by shooting himself three times through the heart. Indigo Girls wrote a really eloquent song about his suicide and its poetic meaning.
posted by hippybear at 9:16 PM on June 2, 2011


Ever live with a heroin addict?

i lived with a crack addict for years - i STILL think drugs should be legal
posted by pyramid termite at 9:18 PM on June 2, 2011


weston writes "So for me, regulation would have to include a pretty tight lid on advertising and marketing, maybe even operational size caps."

That's do able. Cigarettes are almost there here in Canada. The last step left is to completely remove branding from packaging by mandating colours and fonts.


furiousxgeorge writes "They would have to legalize production to dent the violence, which I can't see ever happening without American approval that would never come."

It's going to be interesting when Canada legalizes pot; something I'm betting will happen way in advance of it becoming legal in the US.

furiousxgeorge writes "I can imagine the US threatening everything up to closing the border entirely if they tried."

Considering how much manufacturing of assemblies destined for final assembly in the US occurs in Mexico that would be both pretty interesting and a major Operation Foot-Bullet for the US. Plus also illegal under NAFTA but of course the US doesn't much care about that as the Softwood dispute shows.
posted by Mitheral at 9:36 PM on June 2, 2011


it's not like alcohol is the only drug society is accustomed to or capable of using legally.

I didn't assert that alcohol is the *only* drug societies have integrated, and I'm not evoking some wholesome golden-age where nobody used opiates and everybody ate their veggies and took it easy on the sweets and read the Bible every day. I said I'm not sure it's the same for *every* drug, and I don't think it's safe to assume the route we've taken with alcohol (not only widely available but also heavily marketed) will turn out as well.
posted by weston at 9:36 PM on June 2, 2011


Except that bootlegging and moonshining still exist.

Bootlegging, barely. Moonshining, sure but who cares? Home distillation should be legal.

I just cannot believe that that will all simply disappear the moment that the drug trade has no momentum.

It doesn't disappear overnight, the mafia is still around today. However, there is much less violence and they have much less power.

But seriously, legalize pot and punt on the hard drugs question and cut off 60% of their revenue, how can anyone possibly oppose it? We know pot isn't meth, and we can see how the cartels react to the loss of funds and take it into account going forward.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:44 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


furiousxgeorge: “It doesn't disappear overnight, the mafia is still around today. However, there is much less violence and they have much less power.”

There's more violence and criminal power in Italy every year, and their crime syndicates don't even primarily deal in drugs.

I agree that stopping the drugs will probably be a push in the right direction. But isn't there something more direct we should do? And is there really any way to get around the fact that the Mexican government really must restore order directly at some point? Or, again, do we just legalize and hope the criminals go away? That still seems extraordinarily hands-off to me. It's an easy thing to contemplate here in the United States, where we have the luxury of waiting and hoping. That doesn't seem like a luxury many Mexicans have.

I still feel as though there has to be some real strategy above and beyond legalization.
posted by koeselitz at 10:10 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Banks Financing Mexico Gangs Admitted in Wells Fargo Deal

Sinaloa Cartel Offers Legal Challenge to U.S.

Vicentillo acusa a DEA y FBI de auspiciar narco
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:17 PM on June 2, 2011


If I go three days without drinking coffee, I get throbbing headaches and nausea. I had 0 problem quitting speed, and my friends that quit never reported any withdrawal problems other than having a fucked up diurnal clock for a couple of days.

Well that's fabulous Empath, but I'm guessing you and your friends consumed a lot less meth than you do coffee, in terms of frequency and length of use. In any case, the challenge of legalization is coming up with strategies to help people who do have withdrawal symptoms and provide them with meaningful alternatives to their existing self-destructive habit. 'Man up, my buddy Empath tells me that it's no worse than going without coffee' doesn't strike me as a workable public health strategy, nor does it provide any useful guidance to front-line public service workers about how to deal with paranoid tweakers.

Overstating the risks of drugs is counter-productive for reasons most of us agree on. Understating them is counter-productive as well. It's not that I think meth is so scary; I believe you that you were able to take it and quit it with few ill-effects, as were your friends. Unfortunately, it's also strong enough that less responsible/ smart/ informed people are able to drastically fuck themselves up in a short timeframe, much like heroin or crack. Minimizing or dismissing the problems experienced by those people or the people around them damages your credibility.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:17 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Italian mafia is deeply involved in the drug trade. Yeah, even in Mexico. Koeselitz and Klang, I love you guys but you aren't coming off as particularly well informed on this topic.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:20 PM on June 2, 2011


In any case, the challenge of legalization is coming up with strategies to help people who do have withdrawal symptoms and provide them with meaningful alternatives to their existing self-destructive habit

Are you arguing for jail? No? Well, what are we disagreeing on?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:23 PM on June 2, 2011


The United States is really bad at war against abstract concepts. Tyranny & Aggression? LBJ (Seen in the Fog of War) claimed Vietnam was a war on those. Drugs? Poverty? Terror?
posted by pmb at 10:27 PM on June 2, 2011


You might notice that I didn't link to a page about the Italian Mafia. There are other Italian crime syndicates, you know. The Mafia is actually quite tame compared to most of them; and if you think drugs are the main enterprise of Italian criminal syndicates, you're wrong. One of the largest is government services; for example, the garbage service in a large part if Italy is controlled by criminal syndicates, primarily the ever-expanding Camorra. Also manufacturing, construction, gun running (Italy is a hub for gun running), human trafficking, and various other economic sectors. Drugs are a tiny byline, particularly since their more lucrative drug trade is in faraway countries.
posted by koeselitz at 10:31 PM on June 2, 2011


FYI: The term "Mafia" is also employed to name Mafia-type organizations operating under a similar structure, whether Sicilian or not; such as the Camorra (from Campania), the 'Ndrangheta (from Calabria), the Stidda (Southern Sicily) or the Sacra Corona Unita (from Apulia), as well as foreign organized crime groups.

And yes, they are involved in the drug trade. Suffice it to say, the level of political corruption in Italy is such that if the Mafia thought it would be beneficial to legalize drugs, they would be legal. That isn't of course what they want. When money laundering is one of your sources of income, it doesn't matter if you are selling drugs yourself or not.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:40 PM on June 2, 2011


^ But of course, no one is arguing that illegal drugs are the only potential source of income for organized crime. For the Mexcians though, pot is the majority of the business for now. Their ability to shift to other sources only grows the longer their existence is propped up with easy drug money.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:44 PM on June 2, 2011


The Italian mafia is deeply involved in the drug trade. Yeah, even in Mexico. Koeselitz and Klang, I love you guys but you aren't coming off as particularly well informed on this topic.

Weren't you just telling us that today's mafia employs much less violence and has much less power? Because this pretty much contradicts those claims. If you're building your arguments off Wikipedia, you're not in a good position to lecture other people about whether they're well informed or not.

We agree about the goals. It's the talking out of your ass part that I have a problem with.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:59 PM on June 2, 2011


That's a collective you rather than you in particular, BTW.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:00 PM on June 2, 2011


My point wasn't that drugs aren't the central business of the cartels. My point was simply to ask the question: fine, assuming we legalize drugs - how many more people will die in the streets of Juarez and a dozen other Mexican cities while we sit here waiting for the economics of the situation to magically take care of it? This does not seem as simple to me as you're trying to make it. I just feel as though our assumption that all of the power is in the hands of the US, and that Mexico necessarily has no agency whatsoever, is narcissistic, unreasonable, and not a beneficial way to approach the situation.
posted by koeselitz at 11:03 PM on June 2, 2011


Let's just say there is a reason the discussion shifted from post prohibition American organized crime to a country halfway around the world, and it wasn't my choice.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:04 PM on June 2, 2011


Why are we even talking about drugs in the first place? The article is about indiscriminate killing. It seems as though people have an axe to grind about the drug war but would rather not confront the unpleasant realities of life in Mexico today.
posted by koeselitz at 11:06 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Because there is zero doubt the killing is funded by American drug money, you can argue that they might kill people for soft water taffy later, but the now is the now.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:08 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


*salt water, time for sleep.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:08 PM on June 2, 2011


Frank Stafford committed suicide by shooting himself three times through the heart.

After a little google fu I found this.

"Out of 138 clearly defined gunshot suicides which were autopsied, 11 persons (8%) fired two or more gunshots to the body. From these 11, 5 cases involved 2 gunshots to the head where the bullets fired first had missed the brain."

So if you take the 5 cases of 2 gunshot wounds to the head that comes out to 3.6% of the cases. So yeah not impossible. Sorry for derail carry on.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:09 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seems as though people have an axe to grind about the drug war but would rather not confront the unpleasant realities of life in Mexico today.

The two are directly linked. I am all for legalization of all drugs, but I admit it won't immediately solve Mexico's current problems. I don't think anyone has claimed that, but rather that it is a good first step; along with spending some of that saved WOD money on education and rehab programs. Step two would involve getting our elected officials to reign in the banks and intelligence agencies facilitating the laundering of money and transfer of weapons and product. That's about all we can do. The rest is up to the Mexican people and their elected officials.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:14 PM on June 2, 2011


I should also point out that I don't see any of this happening in the near future so in my opinion Mexico is proper fucked. If you want to visit Latin America I suggest Nicaragua. It's the safest country in Central America. Beautiful scenery, beautiful people, and excellent beer and rum. After living there for two years I can't stand the Sandinistas, but I have to give them credit for keeping out the riff raff for the most part.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:19 PM on June 2, 2011


Weren't you just telling us that today's mafia employs much less violence and has much less power? Because this pretty much contradicts those claims.

Let me be clear on this, I was not saying anything about organized crime in Italy with that statement. As I pointed out earlier, not everyone defines mafia as narrowly as you two apparently do.

The reference was to American organized crime, which no one debates lost power and became less violent with that major source of income gone.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:24 PM on June 2, 2011


ow many more people will die in the streets of Juarez and a dozen other Mexican cities while we sit here waiting for the economics of the situation to magically take care of it?

How many people will die while we sit here and do nothing? So because a solution takes time to implement, it's not worth considering?
posted by WhitenoisE at 12:08 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Out of interest, why does it matter if money gained from organised crime allows people who were previously gangsters to become business people (thinking specifically, as people seem to have a problem with it, of the Kennedy family). If they have invested their money in legitimate businesses and grown the legitimate economy, well hurrah. What's the issue?
posted by jaduncan at 3:08 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


With a little knowledge, drugs are awesome.

This is very true. I want legal drugs, and I do not need anybody helping me deal with that as a "problem", because it isn't.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:27 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Holy cow, people. From a societal standpoint, drugs aren't the major problem here. Violence is.
Drugs happen to be the fuel or, rather, the inflated profit available from the illegal sale of said drugs is the fuel.

If a heroin addict has his heroin, he will fix and go nod off in the corner - basically no danger to anyone but himself. If that $5 dollars worth of heroin cost $5 (and not $50), he's less likely to do something criminal or violent to obtain the funds to purchase his drugs. The same thing goes for the seller.

Illegality amps everything up. Don't forget that this whole area has spawned big business on both sides of the coin, too.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:01 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


"... Bootlegging, barely. ..."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:44 AM on June 3

This being Metafilter, I'm not at all surprised how little some people making comparisons of current U.S. drug policy (WoD, etc.) to alcohol prohibition, repeal, and the current state of illegal manufacture and sale of beverage alcohol actually know about the current state of moonshining in the U.S.
"... The biggest moonshine bust in the United States occurred not during Prohibition but in 2001.

Dubbed "Operation Lightning Strike", it resulted in the arrest of 26 people in an operation that stretched from North Carolina to Philadelphia.

The group had dodged $20m in taxes on 1.5 million gallons of alcohol. ..."
According to some sources, about 1 in every 300 Americans makes some moonshine:
"Making and selling moonshine is outlawed in every US state and the police treat distilling liquor without a license as a serious crime.

But while official figures are hard to come by, experts believe as many as a million Americans could be breaking the law by making moonshine - also known as white lightning and white dog.


Moonshine has held a place in America's folk memory since Prohibition days
'There's been a huge increase in the number of people making moonshine,' says Max Watman, whose book, Chasing the White Dog, chronicles moonshine's colourful history.

He says that in recent years, the image of moonshine 'has changed dramatically'.

'The stigma has gone. It's become cool.' "
It's a big enough activity to have spawned a resurgence in small scale "artisan" pot still production:
"Colonel Vaughn Wilson is one of America's best known builders of copper stills. He has seen demand double for his stills in recent years.

'I can't keep up with my orders,' say[s] Col Wilson, who lives in Arkansas and whose stills range from $300 to $11,000 in price. 'I've shipped stills to every state in the US.' "
And yet, the U.S. Federal government, and every one of the 50 state governments, still spend millions of dollars a year fighting illegal distillation and distribution of beverage alcohol:
"Because prosecutions tend to be made on a state rather than federal basis, there is no record of the number of moonshine convictions made in America annually. But arrests have been made in Kentucky, Georgia and Arkansas in the past month.

A man in Bell County, Kentucky, was arrested in June [2010] after police discovered 100 gallons of moonshine (378 litres) and 500 gallons of mash on his property.

Police said it was part of an ongoing investigation and added that they hoped to make more arrests.

'It will be a relentless pursuit until the end,' said Doug Jordan, of the Bell County Sheriff's Department.

A number of states have set up special moonshine task forces to combat the problem.

Arrests are usually made following tip-offs from neighbours or from local stores who report sales of unusually large quantities of sugar, a key ingredient, to the police.

Nathan Jones, of the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, says: 'We get cases every month or so. The ones that come to our attention are the big ones.' "
And from the Feds:
" 'If someone is producing illegally distilled spirits and not paying tax then we'll go after them'

Arthur Resnick
Federal spokesman "
The reason for the continued Federal and state efforts to control moonshine production and distribution is fairly simple: Tax collection. The current Federal excise tax on distilled spirits is $13.50 per proof gallon (a proof gallon being 100 proof liquor, or 50% alcohol). On top of this, Federal licensing for legal distillers and distributors can cost thousands of dollars more per year in special occupational excise taxes, not to mention the tens of thousands of dollars an initial distilled spirits production license costs.

And all that is on top of state excise taxes, plus normal tax burdens of doing legal business, like federal and state corporate income tax, property tax, employee payroll taxes, which, taken all together, can bring the total tax burden on a 750 ml bottle of 80 proof whiskey to nearly 80% of the price paid by the end consumer.

Make "illicit" drugs "legal and taxed" in the U.S. on the same basis we currently make legal and tax the production of distilled spirits and other beverage alcohol, and you'll leave plenty of economic room for the continued operation of Mexican drug cartels.

Heck, you may still have Canadians in B.C. and Alberta trying to get into shipping dope into the U.S.
posted by paulsc at 7:21 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Having a $20M tax dodge being the biggest drug bust in recent memory would be absolutely wonderful; yes, please.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:33 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Seriously, that definitely fits under my definition of barely. Did you notice my link before to an Italian organized crime (mafia) group making friggin $60 billion a year in the drug trade? The difference in scale between this and moonshining is so massive and ridiculous I'm amazed anyone can seriously try and make this argument with a straight face AND complain about the ignorance of the rest of us.

Home and small scale distillation should be legal, as I said before, the dangers associated with it are....

Say it with me, everyone knows how this one goes...

...because of the shady and illegal nature of the production.

Regulate and tax small scale and home producers and there are no issues here. If some people still dodge taxes, fine, but we aren't having Tommy Gun battles over it anymore.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:41 AM on June 3, 2011


Where have I been? I can't believe I missed all those moonshine street killings.

Seriously, name one law that isn't broken by somebody.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:57 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I agree that stopping the drugs will probably be a push in the right direction. But isn't there something more direct we should do? And is there really any way to get around the fact that the Mexican government really must restore order directly at some point? Or, again, do we just legalize and hope the criminals go away? That still seems extraordinarily hands-off to me. It's an easy thing to contemplate here in the United States, where we have the luxury of waiting and hoping. That doesn't seem like a luxury many Mexicans have. I still feel as though there has to be some real strategy above and beyond legalization.

The problem with these discussions is that they often end up turning into sound-bytes. Of course there is a strategy beyond legalization. I don't think anybody thinks the drug and violence problem disappears once you deal with the drugs. I don't think that when legalization is mentioned that just means straight up legalization. People like former Mexican Secretary of State Jorge Castañeda have written books on the subject, with many policy ideas. The approach needs to deal with legalization, regulation, treatment of addicts, revitalization of communities, policing, freezing of the narco's assets, etc. But the emphasis is turned towards a health and policing issue and not into what is has become: a military process.

¿How many billions has the US poured into Colombia in the past with little or no success? The Merida Initiative awarded Mexico 400 million dollars and the problem has just gotten worse (I should know, I'm from Monterrey). The war metaphor just doesn't work and is not at all helpful.
posted by Omon Ra at 8:16 AM on June 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


their crime syndicates don't even primarily deal in drugs

That Gomorrah book was crap. It started off strong(ish), but it quickly tapered off into what seemed to be no more than an exercise in citing newspaper reports this guy read, linking them into no bigger picture, nor augmenting them with personally gathered information.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:31 AM on June 3, 2011


"... Did you notice my link before to an Italian organized crime (mafia) group making friggin $60 billion a year in the drug trade? The difference in scale between this and moonshining is so massive and ridiculous I'm amazed anyone can seriously try and make this argument with a straight face AND complain about the ignorance of the rest of us. ..."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:41 AM on June 3

The hole in your reasoning is partly a need you have to compare the pyramidal organization of a Mafia drug operation (whose profits are estimated), to what you think are small scale moonshine operations. A more accurate comparison would be to compare that Mafia operation's profits to those of the whole, fairly decentralized industry of American moonshining, which includes a lot of small scale operations, some mid-sized, obviously commercial operations (some of which are probably interstate suppliers of product), and a few really big regional operations.

"... If some people still dodge taxes, fine, but we aren't having Tommy Gun battles over it anymore."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:41 AM on June 3 [+] [!]

Because of its decentralized nature, individual U.S. moonshiners generally would rather forfeit their stills, product, and time on simple criminal sentences, than compound them with additional firearm felonies. Even the Mafia these days, with its money and history, rarely goes into firefights with government agents, or "to the mattresses" with one another- it's just bad for business, except in Hollywood.

Moreover, at the small scale end of the spectrum, moonshine is an episodic activity, where the product is produced and distributed in batches, and then effectively shut down, for long periods of time as the product is consumed. I'm sure that small marijuana growers try to do the same thing, but I don't think even small scale marijuana, cocaine, or heroin trade is nearly as episodic in nature as moonshining, because moonshining is built over a massive agricultural engine continuously supplying corn and sugar as foodstuffs, whereas illicit marijuana, heroin and cocaine are all vertical distribution endeavors over single purpose crops that have no commercial base in the food chain. You can just conveniently buy your feed stock materials to start up a moonshine operation when and if you want, produce a batch, and be shutdown in under 30 days, whereas, to distribute most of the illicit drugs on any scale, you have to control a fair amount of specialized agriculture, processing, and distribution all the time.

The firefights going on in Mexico arguably have as much to do with gang territoriality and dominance as they do with the drug trade you assume fuels and finances them. Absent some unlikely immediate total collapse of the drug trade, neither you nor I can prove that MS13, Mara 18 and other Latin gangs in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and other Latin American countries wouldn't turn to other illegal activities in order to finance their continuing existence, but it's my bet that you could "legalize, tax and regulate" drugs as you like, and the demand for M-16 ammunition and bomb making materials in Mexico would hardly see an immediate dent.
posted by paulsc at 8:39 AM on June 3, 2011


I think it's important to restate that Monterrey was named the safest city in Latin America in 2005. It's amazing how everything can turn into shit in such a sort span. I was born in Monterrey and lived here for most of my life until I went away for work reasons for about 4 years. I came back in 2008 because it was a safe, modern, clean city, it had nature close by, my family was here, there was good work opportunity, etc. I bought a house. Then things started to shift.

About a week ago I left a party at a house close to a street that had gunfight not 10 minutes after I had left, leaving several people dead. If you go to a random café the talk will be about the violence. If you talk to the neighbors the talk will quickly drift towards the topic; strangers, the same. Panoramic signs have appeared all around the city asking us to pray. Stop signs are peppered with stickers saying "stop the violence". Night life has disappeared. People mostly stay home. Yesterday my father was about an hour late for dinner and we couldn't get him on the phone. We started panicking. Maybe he had been caught in the middle of a gunfight. Maybe he had been kidnapped. Turns out he had been in a meeting that went further than expected with his cellphone off.

Paranoia is the order of the day. As Ginsberg writes in Wichita Vortex Sutra: "almost all our language has been taxed by war".

We're the lucky ones, we live in the nicer parts of the city and only deal with the paranoia: the slow traffic created because the cops block off the main access points, the sinister army convoys that have become all too visible. I've been in some of the worst neighborhoods in the city and you can see the drug dealers right there, leaning on a streetlight, in broad daylight. The children from those places go to school and come back to be locked up in their homes for the rest of the day because their parents fear for their lives. What kind of role models are they observing? What kind of mistrustful fearful citizens will they become? This war came quickly but I think it's going to leave it's mark for a long time.

Meanwhile, I'm leaving in a month, off to another country. I feel guilty about it, I'm conflicted. It's my city, it's my country. But it has gotten to the point where the mere act of leaving home makes one wonder: will today be the day my luck runs out?
posted by Omon Ra at 8:47 AM on June 3, 2011 [10 favorites]


Look, there is no comparison between pot growers making some moonshine too and the legal alcohol industry in the United States. There is no comparison between it and the drug trade. You can complain about "estimated" $60 billion but you can't even dream of getting to $1 billion for the whole damn moonshine industry in the US.

The drug trade is extremely violent and large, the moonshine industry is not. This has nothing to do with fucking Hollywood impressions, it is what it is.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:58 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


UN report puts world's illicit drug trade at estimated $321b

Overall, the U.S. beer industry represented an estimated retail dollar value of $101 billion.

The U.S. wine industry, currently the second largest in the world, is poised to become the largest wine market in the world in 2012, with the total retail value of all wines (domestic, imported, still, sparkling, and fortified) projected to be $44 billion.

Distilled Spirits: $19.1 billion


How big is your moonshine industry? How do the rates of violence compare to the drug trade?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:10 AM on June 3, 2011


The firefights going on in Mexico arguably have as much to do with gang territoriality and dominance as they do with the drug trade you assume fuels and finances them. Absent some unlikely immediate total collapse of the drug trade, neither you nor I can prove that MS13, Mara 18 and other Latin gangs in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and other Latin American countries wouldn't turn to other illegal activities in order to finance their continuing existence, but it's my bet that you could "legalize, tax and regulate" drugs as you like, and the demand for M-16 ammunition and bomb making materials in Mexico would hardly see an immediate dent.

There's no assumption that the drug trade finances these groups. I think that case has been made by the authorities and experts that drug profits are the biggest engine here. Even the story you linked to claims the Guatemalan extortionists work for the drug cartels.

Organized crime (gangs) generally deals in vice - drugs, prostitution, gambling, loansharking. Do you honestly think the gangs are fighting for territoriality and dominance because they love their neighborhood? No, they are protecting their business interests.

Taxes and regulation produce some of the same problems that outright illegalization does - they add artificial costs that skew the value of the end product. Moonshining and bootlegging are the result. But legalization encourages more people to participate, putting downward pressure on prices and profits.That makes it less attractive to criminality.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:13 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm just here to ask: What about "bath salts," K3, "legal LSD" and other gray area "herbal-supplement-yeah-right-wink-wink" drugs that have effects similar to cocaine, marijuana and other various controlled substances? Where do the manufacturers of those items sit in the WOD with their sidestepping of legal issues to provide their customers with a cheap, quasi-safe high?
posted by ostranenie at 9:15 AM on June 3, 2011


Grey markets have some of the same problems as black with dosing and purity issues.

Pot and LSD are much safer than some of the alternatives.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:18 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


"... You can complain about "estimated" $60 billion but you can't even dream of getting to $1 billion for the whole damn moonshine industry in the US. ..."

How big is your moonshine industry? How do the rates of violence compare to the drug trade?
posted by furiousxgeorge

Reliable national figures for the U.S. moonshine industry are hard to get from official sources; that's partly due to intentional Treasury department, ATF and TTB policy to only concentrate on the biggest moonshine operations for federal prosecution, leaving the bulk of enforcement efforts to state and local governments, which often "overlook" a lot of bootlegging. But anecdotes from various state and local governments indicate white lighting is making an economic comeback, partly due to a poor overall U.S. economy. If you took that 2001 bust in PA, where the economic news was $20m in lost Federal excise tax revenue, and put it through only a 3x price multiplier for legal booze that such a tax loss implies (to allow for lower than legal booze street price for moonshine), you'd be talking about something like $60 to $70 million in street value of product. So, contrary to your continuing assertions furioiusxgeorge, I can easily see total annual value of the U.S. moonshine business to exceed $1 billion.

Also, I think you're getting way overboard with your efforts to directly compare the problems once created by Prohibition in the U.S., with what is going on in Mexico and Latin America today being totally the result of drugs and U.S. efforts to stop the flow of drugs into America. Prohibition's "Tommy Gun battles" never killed 44,000+ Americans in a single year. And the lead paragraph in this FPP is about plain extortion by violent Mexican gangs, not about escalating drug profits.
"Mario Ramos thought it was a bad joke when he received an anonymous email at the start of this year demanding $15,000 a month to keep his industrial tubing business operating in Monterrey, Mexico's richest city and a symbol of progress in Latin America. ..."
What's going on in Mexico and Latin America is that organized gangs are directly challenging the governments for economic and political control of the region. There are a lot of cultural causes and drivers for this, only one of which is drug activity, as the FPP cited Reuters article attempts to describe. Accordingly, I think it's not at all clear that "legalizing, taxing and regulating drugs" in the U.S. is shortly going to end the problems the FPP article discusses. I got into the discussion of the moonshine business in the U.S. simply to point out that our current model of alcohol taxation leaves plenty of room for illicit activity, as it does, as practical refutation of your insistence that the terrible situations in Latin America can only be solved by collapsing U.S. drug policy along your suggested lines.

I think a lot can be done to shutdown gang violence in Mexico and Latin America, that frankly isn't being done by local governments. There's no death penalty in the region, even for violent crimes as occur every day. The arrest rates and prosecution rates for violent offenders are a fraction of what they should be; in many areas, the police, when they aren't too young, underequipped and naive to do the job at all, are often simply too afraid of the gangs to be effective in policing.

I abhor what is happening in Mexico, and I feel sorry for her legitimate citizens and business interests. It is a country I've visited extensively over many years, and would again, when it makes sense. But right now, it is losing a war with its criminal element, partly by failing to mobilize and support the necessary measures to control the situation.

After all, if we're to take lessons in current policy development from 1920's America, it wasn't the end of Prohibition or Tommy guns that put down Al Capone, it was the IRS and the FBI.
posted by paulsc at 10:09 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


In other words, the social ills of illegal liquor disappear in the light of those of other illegal drugs. Thanks for clarifying.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:13 AM on June 3, 2011


"In other words, the social ills of illegal liquor disappear in the light of those of other illegal drugs chaos resulting from ineffective policing, poverty, poor educational systems, insufficient job creation, and other long standing social factors. Thanks for clarifying."
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:13 PM

FTFY, and you're welcome.
posted by paulsc at 10:19 AM on June 3, 2011


If you took that 2001 bust in PA, where the economic news was $20m in lost Federal excise tax revenue, and put it through only a 3x price multiplier for legal booze that such a tax loss implies (to allow for lower than legal booze street price for moonshine), you'd be talking about something like $60 to $70 million in street value of product. So, contrary to your continuing assertions furioiusxgeorge, I can easily see total annual value of the U.S. moonshine business to exceed $1 billion.

That's a fine guesstimate, but can you link to anyone else on the planet who agrees the industry is of that size?

Also, I think you're getting way overboard with your efforts to directly compare the problems once created by Prohibition in the U.S., with what is going on in Mexico and Latin America today being totally the result of drugs and U.S. efforts to stop the flow of drugs into America. Prohibition's "Tommy Gun battles" never killed 44,000+ Americans in a single year.

The potential was most certainly there, had prohibition continued. Luckily it ended and the violence dropped.

No on is denying there are other issues, but there is no way removing 60% of their revenue is not going to reduce their power.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:28 AM on June 3, 2011


I noticed no figures for the violence I asked for, so why do we care about moonshiners evading taxes any more or less than GE?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:29 AM on June 3, 2011


Extortion is part and partial of organized crime. The gangs of the Prohibition era were into protection rackets before alcohol. Alcohol was just a more profitable business.

As for helping Mexico, I think that legalization here would be much more effective than there. We are the largest market the cartels are serving. Mexico is just another "fight them there so we don't have to fight them here" foreign policy decision.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:32 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


partial parcel
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:35 AM on June 3, 2011


Strictly speaking, the problem is not simple poverty, it's wealth distribution, corruption and social mobility. The country has a lot of pesos, but they tend to flow in the wrong direction:

In 2010, a year when there were more than 15,000 drug-related killings (up by nearly 60% from the year before), the economy grew by 5.5%—the fastest rate in a decade. The Mexican peso appreciated against the dollar. Inflation was essentially flat. Foreign reserves rose to $113 billion. Twenty-two million tourists visited the country. Trade with the U.S. reached an all-time high of nearly $400 billion. In Ciudad Juárez, where 3,000 people were killed last year, the maquiladora industries added some 20,000 jobs. The percentage of the population living below the poverty line declined to 47.4% in 2008 (the last year for which the World Bank has data) from 63.7% a decade earlier. Literacy rates surpassed 90%. Life expectancy continues to rise to near-First World levels.
posted by Omon Ra at 11:49 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


paulsc, you're doing a fantastic job of obfuscating. If I were vested in the continuation of the drug war, I would hire you on the spot. But note that nothing of what you said has one iota of impact on the overall facts. Actively prohibiting alcohol led to open lawlessness and violence. Active prohibition of other drugs (which, historically, didn't occur until the alcohol prohibition ended and a lot of federal agents had nothing to do anymore) has led to widespread violence and lawlessness, not only here but in other countries as well. Pointing out that people moonshining evade taxes and so did Al Capone is the lousiest of non-sequitur arguments I've seen. Everyone making money in illegal trade tries to hide the income. And to ignore the relative scope and scale of criminal activity in tax avoidance for grey market good when compared to that for illegal drugs is either profoundly blind or disingenuous. I'm not sure why you want to stir up mud in this way, but it is exhausting when trying to rectify public policy to have to constantly battle this sort of myopic or disingenuous argumentation.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:52 AM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


"That's a fine guesstimate, but can you link to anyone else on the planet who agrees the industry is of that size?

In a 2008 paywall protected article for the Washington Post, writer Jerry Markon says "A typical moonshine still may produce 1000 gallons per week and net $6000 per week for its owner." So, those 7 stills in the article I linked to near Knoxville, TN, accidentally found by a helicopter pilot looking for marijuana grow patches? $42,000 a week, or +$2 million a year. Those 22 stills busted in the 2010 fiscal year by an ABC Virginia that doesn't even maintain an Illegal Whisky Task Force any more? $132,000 a week, or +$6 million a year.

But those figures are just Markon's estimated net profits to the still owners.

The street value of moonshine is a lot higher, per gallon, than $6. Typically, for 100 proof, it's about 3/4 the price of legal whisky, or about $18 to $20 a half-gallon, or about $40 a gallon, around where I live (northern Florida). So those 29 accidentally found stills could have been putting out something like 29,000 gallons a week, say 48 weeks a year (because they were obviously commercial level operations, running near continuously), for a total of a little over $55 million in street value.

So if those numbers are anywhere near right, an average still produces about $2 million a year of whisky, so it would only take about 500 of such to put out a billion dollars worth of hootch, at street value. And I feel safe in suggesting that there are a whole lot more than 500 average size moonshine stills running today, in America...

"I noticed no figures for the violence I asked for, so why do we care about moonshiners evading taxes any more or less than GE?"
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:29 PM

I pointed out before that, for legal reasons having to do with sentencing, most moonshiners, if caught, prefer to simply give up their equipment, goods and profits, along with a minimal amount of time and legal costs, rather than risk far more serious sentences by getting into gun battles with law enforcement. It's an entirely different culture and mindset than that demonstrated by the gangs in Mexico, which are overtly out to challenge and intimidate the authorities, as a means of increasing their ability to conduct extortion and other sorts of non-drug crimes, in addition to expanding their drug networks.

I don't know that there should be a moral difference between the value of taxes evaded by moonshiners, as opposed to those evaded by General Electric tax accountants, but the Federal and state government's position is that they prosecute the heck out of large scale moonshiners, because that protects a high value stream of excise taxes from the legal liquor industry, and also discourages lawlessness among the moonshiner's kin. One imagines that the GE accountants, however pressed by the Feds, wouldn't likely have brethren who would band together over suspended prison sentences and fines handed out for white collar crimes committed by their Wharton educated kin.

But to get back to a main point I was trying to make in first talking about alcohol taxation in the U.S. as a guideline to drug policy, it is that you can't really expect to suddenly create a legalized, orderly, appropriately taxed market for now illicit drugs in the U.S., simply by fiat, and that even if you could, to really put the gangs in Latin America out of the drug business, you'd have to see legal prices for drugs in the U.S. so low that it would essentially eliminate bootlegging, too. An attempt to promote harm reduction by taxing and regulating drug policy simply opens the door to ongoing bootlegging. If you're really serious about collapsing the drug money stream into Latin America, you've got to hit the pricing structure as hard as you can on the legal side in the U.S., because production costs in Latin America are very low, with transportation probably a major part of them, for bulk products like marijuana. And, absent market measures for turning 1/2 of Iowa's corn fields into poppy fields, and a lot of Idaho's potato area into coca plantations, you might even have to make long term deals with the current foreign drug cartel's suppliers, to be sure of having sufficient legal supply to accomplish supporting your new, instant, legal U.S. market.

I can't imagine USAID agents, or R.J. Reynolds buyers, suddenly hitting up the Mexican growers with fixed price production contracts, and not kicking up some serious, immediate blowback from Mexican Z.

A lot of what I see in this thread is the old drug legalization proponent's mantra of harm reduction and tax benefits as justifications for drug policy changes, when, if you're serious about eliminating illicit drug production in other countries by price mechanisms, isn't likely to be achieved so easily, with such added benefits from benevolent taxation, by a simple market model policy change. It's just a confused, mixed message that tries to have a broad appeal.
posted by paulsc at 12:41 PM on June 3, 2011


an average still produces about $2 million a year of whisky

Right, I think we are done here.

I pointed out before that, for legal reasons having to do with sentencing
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:51 PM on June 3, 2011



But to get back to a main point I was trying to make in first talking about alcohol taxation in the U.S. as a guideline to drug policy, it is that you can't really expect to suddenly create a legalized, orderly, appropriately taxed market for now illicit drugs in the U.S


The existence of the tiny (forget your voodoo math, and just compare it to the legal industry), peaceful (because of short sentences for the biggest distributors and virtually no enforcement for users) moonshine industry that is mostly home distillers proves the exact opposite of what you are claiming.

What the hell is the nightmare scenario here you are imagining with the moonshine example? Peaceful small to medium scale drug producers dwarfed in sales by legal and safe producers? THE HORRORS.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:56 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


But back to Monterrey...even if we made drugs legal sometime in the next decade, (not gonna happen, but if wishes were kittens...), I'm not seeing how that is really going to help the people of Monterrey right now.

What is the world's responsibility when we see this happening somewhere? Do we follow an isolationist policy and hope they figure it out, or kill each other before it spreads over the border? Do we step in and risk being the jack booted thugs that make the entire Mexican people rise up against its pushy neighbor? Do we try to force a policy that makes Mexico a territory like Puerto Rico? Do we give the Zeta the badlands of Texas and call it even?

In all seriousness, what sort of policy should we be campaigning for that will bring the best relief to the people of Monterrey...and the rest of Mexico?
posted by dejah420 at 12:58 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it would, dejah420. Legalized, taxed and regulated drugs would take I think less than two years to completely defund the narcogangs. With no money to be made, they have nothing left to fight with, or for. Just look how fast the pot vendors industrialized in California, and that even just with the medical MJ licenses. Those businesses are just waiting to happen.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:09 PM on June 3, 2011


What is the world's responsibility when we see this happening somewhere?

Follow the course of least possible harm. What can the US do? Tighten gun regulation and trade, regulate gun show loopholes, ban assault riffles; figure out how to lower drug demand in the US; secure your borders so that tons and tons of drugs aren't flowing every day upcountry; change the rhetoric into something other than "war"; do not give us (Mexico) more money for things like the Merida Initiative, which just escalates violence; arrest the drug lords living in your country; have constant high level talks with government officials from Mexico; recognize that this is a shared problem. Just for a start.
posted by Omon Ra at 1:24 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Extortion is part and partial of organized crime. The gangs of the Prohibition era were into protection rackets before alcohol. Alcohol was just a more profitable business."

One of the best things about reading Herbert Asbury's detailed writings on early American crime is that it really undercuts the idea that Prohibition was this magic cause and effect thing. It really wasn't. Yes, the gangs of the Prohibition era were in protection rackets before Prohibition — but they were also in alcohol. The gangs of Chicago were fighting bloody turf battles when alcohol was legal (as were the ones in New York, San Francisco and New Orleans) over control of that alcohol, as well as prostitution, city contracts, robbery, arson, bombings, unions and pretty much everything else.

What brought those gangs down wasn't an end to Prohibition, but rather a shift in policing methods (the shift to a crime solving mode), electoral reform, federal intervention, attacks from the Kefauver trials… 

And for Chicago, one of the biggest ongoing criminal enterprises was kidnapping for ransom, which is similar to Monterrey, and that was only ended by, basically, the creation of the FBI and federal prosecutions.

So while I support legalizing pot — and decriminalizing most other drugs — I think that the recurrent rhetorical usage of Prohibition is simplistic, especially in terms of trying to apply it to other countries. Mexico has a bigger failed state problem than it has a drug problem. The rebels in Chiapas are not fighting because they're narco-traffickers and the government isn't going after them because of drugs. And a broad legalization policy within Mexico would likely cause a lot more short-term harm even if it did some long term good.
posted by klangklangston at 1:24 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sometimes we can't fix things. We should focus on stopping the breaking first.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:24 PM on June 3, 2011


The existence of the tiny (forget your voodoo math, and just compare it to the legal industry), peaceful (because of short sentences for the biggest distributors and virtually no enforcement for users) moonshine industry that is mostly home distillers proves the exact opposite of what you are claiming.

It does not. Alcohol prohibition was abolished almost 80 years ago. If we legalize all currently illegal drugs then maybe that market will look harmless in 80 years too, but that tells us nothing about how to deal with the short-term headaches that will result. The repeal of prohibition back in the 30s did not suddenly flip a switch and solve all the crime problems overnight, as you seem to be suggesting. You are marginalizing yourself every time you make such arguments, because you seem oblivious to the possibility of short term problems and have no suggestions for how to deal with them.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:28 PM on June 3, 2011


Yes, organized crime existed and has always existed, they achieved their peak of power in America thanks to the booze profits. The fact is they were not brought back down from that peak until after that massive source of profit, power, and corruption was removed. The specific law enforcement methods used to combat them don't change that fact.

As long as the easy money is there, you can bust as many people as you want however you want and new gangs will rise up out of seemingly nowhere. We already use every law enforcement tactic available and develop new ones every day to take on organized drug gangs. IT DOESN'T WORK.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:29 PM on June 3, 2011


Mexico has a bigger failed state problem than it has a drug problem.

¿How so? I keep reading this failed state theme again and again from right wing people. The first time I heard the term was when the Taliban was in power in Afghanistan. It kind of meant something close to political anarchy. I don't see how this even remotely applies to Mexico. Our political institutions are by and large flawed, but they are there and work to a large degree.
posted by Omon Ra at 1:29 PM on June 3, 2011


The repeal of prohibition back in the 30s did not suddenly flip a switch and solve all the crime problems overnight, as you seem to be suggesting.

You have strawmanned the fuck out of this thread over and over, I'm not engaging you moving forward.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:30 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Again, conflating other problems with the drug prohibition problem does not negate all the problems that do obviously and without a doubt flow from drug prohibition. And yes, it's true that legalizing drugs will not ameliorate all other social problems not related to drug trafficking (e.g., it won't fix Mexico's political and social problems) and will not, by itself, ameliorate the social problems of individual users unless the freed-up money is used for public health prevention and treatment, but it will take away the enormous profits that violent criminal organizations derive from trafficking and deprive them of some of their wealth they use to corrupt the system and war against the authorities. I just wish there wasn't so much energy put into obfuscating this fairly simple, straightforward fact.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:34 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


"... What the hell is the nightmare scenario here you are imagining with the moonshine example?"
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:56 PM on June 3

So, I guess we're not done here, then, huh?

I don't imagine any particular "nighmare scenario" for the legalization of drugs in the U.S. For reasons I've presented, I think comparing drug legalization to current alcohol licensing and taxation is problematic, but you don't like the math. Over and over again, the U.S. body politic hasn't supported drug legalization, and absent some presently unknown political event that suddenly switches the bulk of voters in a 300 million person nation on a major policy issue, I don't see this changing. Even in places like California and Colorado, where experiments in medical marijuana have been going on, the current political wind seems to be in the direction of re-restriction. Finally, for reasons elaborated in the FPP linked articles, I think Mexico's, and in particular, Monterry's problems are lot more complex than just American drug policy.

"... In all seriousness, what sort of policy should we be campaigning for that will bring the best relief to the people of Monterrey...and the rest of Mexico?"
posted by dejah420 at 3:58 PM on June 3

I think that we, meaning U.S. society, start trying and executing high level drug criminals, as we can arrest them and make cases against them. I think we encourage and support Mexican officials in doing the same. I think we expand aid-in-kind and training to Mexican law enforcement, and look to negotiate assistance agreements with Mexico to overfly Mexican territory with U.S. military assets. I think we try to further protect our border with Mexico, while using technology cooperatively to enhance legitimate trade. I think we follow and expand NAFTA, and preferentially shift trade to Mexico, to create a must faster expansion of the legitimate Mexican economy, than what the criminal sector can continue to match.
posted by paulsc at 1:34 PM on June 3, 2011


I think that we, meaning U.S. society, start trying and executing high level drug criminals, as we can arrest them and make cases against them. I think we encourage and support Mexican officials in doing the same.

That's just never going to happen. The death penalty is illegal in Mexico and with good reason. Our legal system is so screwed up we're bound to execute even more innocent people than the ones in the US.
posted by Omon Ra at 1:38 PM on June 3, 2011


Yes, swearing at someone who is working towards the same end really boosts your credibility. We all know the drug war isn't working, but it's up to the proponents of an alternative to put together a model of how legalization would actually work. You're not going to get any closer to that goal by swearing and posting in all caps like a 13 year old.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:39 PM on June 3, 2011


I don't imagine any particular "nighmare scenario" for the legalization of drugs in the U.S. For reasons I've presented, I think comparing drug legalization to current alcohol licensing and taxation is problematic, but you don't like the math.

The math is hypothetical bullshit you can't back up with solid links and it depends on numbers from law enforcement which are routinely inflated in these situations. BUT STILL, you can't explain how the existence of a peaceful grey market drug industry dwarfed by a larger legal industry would not be a step up from where we are now and that is the truly problematic part of our discussion here.

Yes, swearing at someone who is working towards the same end really boosts your credibility. We all know the drug war isn't working, but it's up to the proponents of an alternative to put together a model of how legalization would actually work. You're not going to get any closer to that goal by swearing and posting in all caps like a 13 year old.


Yeah! We get there by pretending people are saying stuff they aren't! Fuck off, I'm not engaging with someone with a discussion style that depends on strawmans and feigned outrage. There is no argument a proponent can give you that will work if you pretend they are saying something else.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:43 PM on June 3, 2011


Execution works pretty well at reducing drug use in places like Singapore, but I don't think it would be tolerated in the US or Mexico. I'm not sure it would work as well either, thanks to the greater populations involved. If we are gonna stick with prohibition though we will get there at some point. I hope we give up before then though.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:47 PM on June 3, 2011


I think we follow and expand NAFTA, and preferentially shift trade to Mexico, to create a must faster expansion of the legitimate Mexican economy, than what the criminal sector can continue to match.

Man, that's a whole 'nother can of worms. We tried that, remember?

US Corporations ran into Mexico and opened up a bazillion maquiladoras. The second the Mexican workers wages began rising ( supposedly the idea behind NAFTA) those same corporations abandoned them and moved operations to China and Vietnam and ....

Mexico (and Central and South America) has been played for a chump by the US for centuries.

If we really cared about our neighbors to south, and if money was the answer, then we would give them money (or lend it reasonably) with no strings attached.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:52 PM on June 3, 2011


"¿How so? I keep reading this failed state theme again and again from right wing people. The first time I heard the term was when the Taliban was in power in Afghanistan. It kind of meant something close to political anarchy. I don't see how this even remotely applies to Mexico. Our political institutions are by and large flawed, but they are there and work to a large degree."

It's a Poli Sci term that's got a lot broader meaning than that — it basically means that the institutions needed for a functional state aren't there or aren't used by the majority of people.

With respect to Latin America, the most visible example would be '90s Columbia, where civil law was suspended for martial law for at least a decade, and where corruption and violence made the normal function of law impossible.

At its most basic, it's a statement that one of the fundamental justifications for a state is that it protects its people, and when it fails to do that, it fails as a state. The ongoing battles in Juarez demonstrate what a Mexican failed state looks like, as do the earlier battles with Zapatistas in Oaxaca. In Oaxaca, this was more dramatically illustrated by the success of the Zapatistas in establishing alternative state apparatus during their "occupation" events, in which the functions of a state would be fulfilled without official sanction by the rebels (including adjudication of conflicts and resource redistribution).

But many of the problems that Mexico has can be traced most directly to the damage done by the PRI over its, what, 70 year reign in Mexico and the extreme income inequality that it enabled and encouraged (which is a shame, given that the Mexican constitution guaranteed things like land redistribution).

One of the further arguments supporting this is to look at the relative levels of violence in countries with similar drug policies, but much lower income distribution disparities — France has surprisingly strict drug laws, but while it has some violence associated with the drug trade, it's far less than the amount in Italy, where the income is less evenly distributed (though the conclusions that can be drawn from that are small, because the differences between the two countries in GINI aren't huge, nationally).

Like I said, I support legalization and decriminalization, but they're part of a much broader question about institutions and governance, and questions that the US had to contend with outside of the question of alcohol prohibition during the '20s and '30s. And I tend to believe that violent crime stems mostly from poverty.
posted by klangklangston at 1:56 PM on June 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fuck off, I'm not engaging with someone with a discussion style that depends on strawmans and feigned outrage.

Being alone must be a real torture for you.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:57 PM on June 3, 2011


MeFi mail is available if you need to get anything else off your chest, I think the thread has had enough of this.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:59 PM on June 3, 2011


So basically klangklangston, it's a term you pulled out of your ass, with no clear definition? And you really don't know a lot of the basic facts, given that the Zapatistas are from Chiapas, not Oaxaca, and haven't really been very active in the past 10 years. I would even argue that land distribution is one of the few things the PRI sort of did right.
posted by Omon Ra at 2:01 PM on June 3, 2011


I dunno. Failed state seems like a very broad kind of meaningless term, the kind of thing used to fuel military occupation fantasies.
posted by Omon Ra at 2:03 PM on June 3, 2011


Violent crime stems mostly from poverty.

Well, then why did the violence increase right at the point where president Calderón began to wage a much more active war against drug cartels? Why did the kidnappings and beheadings increase the second the police was taken out and the military was put in in cities like Juarez? I'm not saying poverty or corrupt institutions don't have something to do with it, it's clearly a multileven problem, but, again: the killings and the intensity of the violence got worse when the drug problem began to be prosecuted in a much more agressive way than before. I don't see how that's in dispute.
posted by Omon Ra at 2:07 PM on June 3, 2011


MeFi mail is available if you need to get anything else off your chest, I think the thread has had enough of this.

Then stop swearing and making gratuitous personal attacks, which you started with and which you could equally well have made through mail. You took this into the gutter, not me.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:19 PM on June 3, 2011


Omon Ra: There is no 100% agreed definition of what constitutes a "failed state", but there are a few well accepted definitions that make the term useful when discussing politics, it is not a term that klang pulled out of his ass.

Different organizations list different conditions that are necessary and/or sufficient for a state to be a failed state.

The International Red Cross uses the term, this article, from 1999, is where I learned what the term means. If you want to learn something, read this article at least.
posted by Dr. Curare at 2:24 PM on June 3, 2011


"So basically klangklangston, it's a term you pulled out of your ass, with no clear definition? And you really don't know a lot of the basic facts, given that the Zapatistas are from Chiapas, not Oaxaca, and haven't really been very active in the past 10 years. I would even argue that land distribution is one of the few things the PRI sort of did right."

Mia culpa on the Chiapas versus Oaxaca — that was totally a mistake on my part, but "failed state" is a poli sci term (and not a particularly right-wing one, unless Chomsky has suddenly become right wing without me knowing). And that the violence got worse when the government attempted to enforce the laws is support for the idea of a failed state. Even the US routinely shows up as moderately matching the definitions of a failed state, according to Foreign Policy magazine and Fund for Peace.

"I would even argue that land distribution is one of the few things the PRI sort of did right."

From the teens through the '40s, maybe. But by the '70s it was dead, and in the '90s, the erosion of land policy led to a huge urbanization within Mexico and a huge emigration from Mexico by former agrarian peasants.
posted by klangklangston at 2:25 PM on June 3, 2011


klangklangston you still skirted the issue that violence started when war on drugs was declared by Calderón, and not, as you stated because of a boiling point in the poverty problems of Mexico. In fact, as I've posted before, poverty declined last year. The economy has been much better than in the late 90s and early 00. To argue that the the drug war is not the main cause of the violence in Mexico is to be seriously deluded.

Just today, George Shultz, former US secretary of state, Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Brazil, Ernesto Zedillo, former president of Mexico and Javier Solana, former European Union high representative for foreign and security policy, decried the collateral damage caused by the war on drugs and called and end to it.

---

I've read the articles on failed states posted here. They read, unsurprisingly, as vague and unhelpfully muddled as possible. In a Foreign Policy Magazine list, China, India and Brazil are listed (alongside Mexico) as countries that are in the "Warning" category for failed states. So, basically the only way you're not considered a nearly failed state is if you're either from Western Europe, the US, Canada or Japan. Again, I don't see under which scenario the government collapses and disappears, like in Somalia or Afghanistan. Again, this seems oddly in tune with those commentators from Fox News (and right-wing blogs) who say the US should just send in the marines.
posted by Omon Ra at 3:00 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


..you still skirted the issue that violence started when war on drugs was declared by Calderón, and not, as you stated because of a boiling point in the poverty problems of Mexico.

I think it makes perfect sense. When the government was not engaging the cartels, or actively looking the other way, everything was manageable in the cartels' eyes. They were making big profits and consolidating power.

When the government engaged, the cartels were already well-armed, rich, insinuated into local governments, and ready to fight back.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:31 PM on June 3, 2011


The government was fighting the cartels, but with a much different strategy. For years the technique was to favor one cartel over the other. You just need to follow the drug busts in each presidential administration to follow the pattern. You let one branch prosper and the other wither, and you alternate. It was a pragmatic approach to an intractable problem. I'm betting the next president of Mexico, due for 2012 (probably from the PRI, unfortunately) will do exactly this and the violence will decrease dramatically (making him so popular it will be easier for him to steal a lot of money via special interests).
posted by Omon Ra at 3:47 PM on June 3, 2011


"... BUT STILL, you can't explain how the existence of a peaceful grey market drug industry dwarfed by a larger legal industry would not be a step up from where we are now and that is the truly problematic part of our discussion here."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:43 PM

With full knowledge that anecdotes are not data, let me say that in 1984 and '85, I was still living in Harrisburg, PA, selling industrial machinery and chemicals in a 6 state area, when crack cocaine first started coming out of New York on I-80 in real volume. It first hit Wilkes Barre and Binghamton, NY in a way I noticed, but within months, it was up and down the Lehigh Valley, over into the Susquehanna valley, and making its way up I-81 in New York state, to towns like Ithaca, Elmira, Syracuse and Cortland.

I called on dozens of factories in small towns all over those valleys, where whole families worked, and I could see it travel. I'd go into a place I'd been a month before, and notice that some young machine operators, mechanics, dock workers, and fork lift operators weren't around. I'd ask their fathers or mothers about them, just in friendly conversation, as I knew hundreds of those families by name, as foremen and department leads, line workers and quality people, and I'd get a head down mumble, or sometimes, a curt, ashamed "Aw, he's outta here. He's on the pipe." or "She's away, gettin' help for her problems."

If I did see kids like that, in the parking lots, or around the local diners near the factories, they were often a shell of what they had been, physically, only a few months before. Although it was first mostly the young people that seemed vulnerable, as time went on, you could see 30 and 40 year olds that quickly got unnaturally gaunt, jittery, and just weren't at work the next time I came through, or the next.

You can say that crack cocaine wasn't ever a "peaceful grey market drug" but it started out as a way for drug dealers to market product to people without the scratch to buy powder cocaine by the ounce. There was, early on, a certain democratic ideology that went along with the stuff. But it was bad, for a while, and big for a while longer. It was a combination of a lot of things, including Federal law changes, target law enforcement, a hell of a lot of public drug education, and thousands and thousands of seriously damaged people as examples to the rest, that finally showed most people it wasn't the cheap party that it first seemed. And it's still around, despite all that.

And that's one of the principal problems with your idea of a "peaceful grey market drug industry." You can't ever guarantee that the illegal dealers will be satisfied with a small bit of a larger, supposedly legitimate pie. And when they're not, you can get the next crack epidemic started quick, and spread on the Interstate highway system, faster than you'd like to imagine.
posted by paulsc at 4:19 PM on June 3, 2011


I'm certainly open to the idea that certain drugs can't be legalized because they are too unhealthy, as I pointed out above in regards to meth. My points are focused on pot which comprises the majority of cartel profits and other soft drugs. A lot of pro-pot legalization people feel that way because they think law enforcement efforts should be focused on drugs like crack instead.

I'm still not seeing any connection to your moonshine example though. We had a coke epidemic, we had a crack epidemic, we had a meth epidemic all under the drug war status quo. These things aren't prevented by it.

The connection you have to make to get the comparison to moonshine to work is to establish that grey market hard drugs would have the black market violence along with them. The idea that the grey market would increase use with legal alternatives out there doesn't make sense, if it happens it would be the legal sellers driving it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:32 PM on June 3, 2011


Let me try and clarify where I'm coming from on these issues, big picture:

I think legalizing all drugs would significantly dent the violence and make it possible for law enforcement to start winning the fight against violent distribution cartels.

However, I think some drugs can't be legal because the harm of open recreational use would outweigh the benefits of reducing the violence.

I think a solid look at the harm potential of pot suggests that it is an obvious sweet spot where you can reduce the power and profitability of the cartels significantly without significant harm to the users.

More specific to our debate, I reject the idea that the illegal production of legal drugs would lead to the same problems as black market production. Our issues would be any increase in drug use due to new wide legal availability, not violence related to drug production. I think moonshiners are an excellent example of what such a grey market industry would look like.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:56 PM on June 3, 2011


"... My points are focused on pot which comprises the majority of cartel profits and other soft drugs. ..."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:32 PM

I promise you that the Italian monsters you claim are generating $60 billion worth of revenue are not exporting Mexican ditchweed, by the freakin' boatload, to Liberia, for wholesale forwarding to Rome, to supply eventual weekend recreational smokers at music festivals in Berlin and Vienna. It's cocaine. It's Mexican black tar heroin. It's ecstasy. It's stuff that is high value, low bulk, and none of it is "soft drugs."

And you know it.

"... I'm still not seeing any connection to your moonshine example though. We had a coke epidemic, we had a crack epidemic, we had a meth epidemic all under the drug war status quo. These things aren't prevented by it. ..."

These plagues, and I use the term knowingly, may not have been prevented by the DEA (et al), Congressional action to harden sentencing, FBI and state enforcement task forces, and RICO statues, massive public drug education, etc. but they sure as heck were mitigated by it. "Crack is whack." would never have gotten traction in the popular venacular if Nancy Reagan hadn't suggested "Just say no."

"... The connection you have to make to get the comparison to moonshine to work is to establish that grey market hard drugs would have the black market violence along with them. ..."

Wrong again. The point I think I needed to demonstrate was simply that, within even a well established taxation and licensing scheme for legal products such as distilled spirits, ample opportunity exists for illegal operators to flourish, if the taxation rates are high enough and the substance chain easily disguised. And unless you can prove that there are less than 500 or so of the kind of pot stills photographed in the article I linked about the Knoxville, TN bust operating in all of the 50 states of this great country, my math and personal knowledge says you're a fool. I understand that proving a negative is tough, but I can wait.

In the affirmative, regarding the moonshiners, I've shown my work, whether you like it or not.

"... I think moonshiners are an excellent example of what such a grey market industry would look like. ..."
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:56 PM on June 3

Bullshit. Moonshine is an exceptional case, that exists only within a carefully carved out series of enforcement and taxation policies, that have taken a couple hundred years to develop to the point they are, and which, in the U.S. are still costing taxpayers millions of dollars in enforcement costs annually, and which still kill some few folks each year, from adulterated product, etc.

I'm beginning to believe that, to paraphrase some of my Texas pals, you are all agenda, and
no cattle...
posted by paulsc at 5:08 PM on June 3, 2011


"... I think legalizing all drugs would significantly dent the violence and make it possible for law enforcement to start winning the fight against violent distribution cartels.

However, I think some drugs can't be legal because the harm of open recreational use would outweigh the benefits of reducing the violence. "
[emphasis added]
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:56 PM

When you can somehow reconcile those two statements in a single, coherent value framework, let's exchange ideas again.
posted by paulsc at 5:14 PM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Umm, it's pretty clear. Reducing violence is one issue, drug abuse is another. Harm reduction is about picking the lesser of two evils. It's different for different drugs.

Legalizing all would exchange one problem for another.

The point I think I needed to demonstrate was simply that, within even a well established taxation and licensing scheme for legal products such as distilled spirits, ample opportunity exists for illegal operators to flourish

Yes, but you have yet to establish why that would be a problem if the industry is small and peaceful. It's tax evasion, we fight it, but people don't die.

I've shown my work, whether you like it or not.

I have linked the size of American booze industries (they dwarf your moonshiners), you have guessed and can't link to any outside sources.

Bullshit. Moonshine is an exceptional case

Well, explain why you feel it would play out differently. You said they are less violent because of lesser sentencing, so we use the same model for new legal drugs. Why would we keep the harsh sentences if we legalized them?

, that exists only within a carefully carved out series of enforcement and taxation policies, that have taken a couple hundred years to develop to the point they are

Which provides the regulatory and sentencing model for the new legal drugs.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:28 PM on June 3, 2011


I promise you that the Italian monsters you claim are generating $60 billion worth of revenue are not exporting Mexican ditchweed, by the freakin' boatload, to Liberia, for wholesale forwarding to Rome, to supply eventual weekend recreational smokers at music festivals in Berlin and Vienna. It's cocaine. It's Mexican black tar heroin. It's ecstasy. It's stuff that is high value, low bulk, and none of it is "soft drugs."

Well, I've cited what the Mexican cartels get their profits from. (Majority pot) The Italian discussions were a derail from a point I was making on post-prohibition America and it's not that central to my point.

Regardless, the article I linked on that has this to say:

On Sept. 16 and 17, 2008, a DEA-led sweep known as “Project Reckoning” nabbed more than 500 suspects connected to the Mexican Gulf Cartel. In the bust — spanning from Italy to the U.S. and Latin America — agents confiscated over 16 tons of cocaine, 51,000 pounds of marijuana and 1,000 pounds of methamphetamine, as well as more than $60 million in cash. Most of the arrests were Mexicans, but 14 — eight in Calabria and six in New York — were high profile members of the ‘ndrangheta.

The article also discusses the rise of the Mexican cartels (60% pot revenue) compared to falling influence for the Italians. I don't think we can really separate pot out of this.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:05 PM on June 3, 2011


"... Reducing violence is one issue, drug abuse is another. ..."

It's not two issues on the streets of Monterrey, or any other city where people are being shot dead by drug dealers, and the police are under siege. It's one real world, one situation with myriad contributing causes, and few workable policy alternatives consistent with maintaining a complex industrialized growing 21st century civilized society. Thus my request to you to quit playing the logical dilettante, and reconcile your views in a single consistent value framework.

"... Yes, but you have yet to establish why that would be a problem if the industry is small and peaceful. It's tax evasion, we fight it, but people don't die. ..."

Wrong again, and you're on the verge of being obtuse. I related how I saw the advance of the crack cocaine epidemic come out of New York in the mid-80s, and I related how that begin as an attempt by New York dealers and later Jamaican posses, to get cheap product out to all of America. The simple fact is that you have no means of guaranteeing that your Jeffersonian ideal of "small dealers" will always be content to remain either small, or peaceful, as the crack epidemic amply demonstrated. It's just some regurgitated Libertarianism, I think.

In the moonshine business, anybody that gets big, gets immediate Federal attention. And anybody that doesn't remain peaceful, gets dead, or gets decades of prison, pretty quick. And still, people do die. Transporters still run off the roads. Distillers still blow up stills, and occasionally, themselves. Consumers still get bad 'shine, and keel over. All of this, after more than two hundred years of whisky regulation, taxation, rebellions, Prohibitions, and Congressional and state legislation.

And you think just legalizing all drugs is going to be a big step forward.

At least, I think you think legalizing all drugs in one fell swoop is a good idea. It's kinda hard to keep up with your divergent, inconsistent views. But, I'm tryin'.

"... You said they are less violent because of lesser sentencing, so we use the same model for new legal drugs. ..."

First of all, for drugs that are legal, we generally don't prosecute their producers or consumers. I think you are getting deeply confused in your own lack of logic.

I think it might be useful if you went back and read the whole of the thread, with an open mind. I said that moonshiners readily give up their stills, product, and immediate profits for low sentences, and no gunplay. To them, all that stuff is cheap, fungible easily replaced "means of production." It's their "skin in the game." If we confiscate moonshiner's stills, product, and profits because they are tax offenders, surely we should confiscate unlicensed marijuana growers land, grow houses, and profits, too, as they are all "means of production of illicit goods." We do that now, and throw the bigger marijuana growers in the clink, and not much more, unless we can hang some tax evasion charges on 'em, too. What don't you think is equivalent treatment for moonshiners and dope growers/distributors/users in the status quo? It's probable that confiscation of land, buildings, product, profits, vehicles, and other "means of production" hit dope dealers harder than confiscation of stills, product, and profits hit moonshiners, but the shiners have learned, long ago, to minimize their "skin in the game," and dope dealers haven't. Also, it's part and parcel of that vertical integration over a particular non-food crop business model problem I went into in some detail, upthread. Marijuana growers are in a monumentally risky business, in the current enforcement environment; moonshiners, even big ones, not so much.

What should we do with dope dealers we find with what you euphimistically call "soft drugs" and black tar heroin, Oxycontin pills, meth, and other "hard drugs?" Prosecute them on the hard drugs only? Because unfortunately, we're starting to see some moonshiners and even distribution bootleggers get into parallel Oxycontin distribution, and meth, which are culturally popular with their customers. Another example of the adage "You can't keep 'em (the small, peaceful dealers and moonshiners of Jeffersonian legend) down on the farm, once they've seen Paris (or Monterrey, Guadalajara, Juarez, etc.)."

And another nail in the coffin of your ideal of a "grey market drug industry dwarfed by a larger legal industry."
posted by paulsc at 6:25 PM on June 3, 2011


"51,000 pounds of marijuana"
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:05 PM

51,000 pounds of Mexican ditchweed isn't even a single 40 foot trailer load. At street value, it's hardly enough to buy postage to cover all the court documents that are going to be generated by the 16 tons of (purportedly) processed cocaine in that shipment, between all governments, not to mention what the street value of a half ton of good meth might be.

It's not what's keeping Europe high, nor the Mafia in shoe polish.
posted by paulsc at 6:33 PM on June 3, 2011


"I've read the articles on failed states posted here. They read, unsurprisingly, as vague and unhelpfully muddled as possible. In a Foreign Policy Magazine list, China, India and Brazil are listed (alongside Mexico) as countries that are in the "Warning" category for failed states. So, basically the only way you're not considered a nearly failed state is if you're either from Western Europe, the US, Canada or Japan."

Don't confuse your lack of comprehension for a lack of rigor there — like many things in poli sci, "failed state" is defined from the options listed in the Wikipedia article at the beginning of any paper about it, just like "democracy" or "fascism" or any number of other terms of art. Basically, the only way you're not considered a "failed state" is if your state fulfills the characteristics that are generally thought of comprising a successful state. If you'd really like more reading on the issue, I'm sure that I can find some journal articles that demonstrate the use of the term (as I have my old course packs around somewhere). The reason why Mexico, Brazil, China and India are in the "Warning" category is because they all have serious governance problems — most notably for Mexico in this context is "a collapse … of the police and judiciary." If you'd like to argue that corruption is not endemic to the Mexican judiciary, you're welcome to, but it's a hard case to make.

Further, your repeated allegation that this is a right wing or Fox News designation is as wrong as my saying that the EZLN was in Oaxaca (mole on the brain). The Fund for Peace is an internationally liberal organization (or cooperative, institutionalist, as "liberal" has about a billion different poli-sci contexts). Noam Chomsky used the term to describe America in his "Failed States. Chomsky's a leftist — not a "liberal" because he proceeds from different assumptions than liberals do — and hugely critical of American policy. He's who Fox News thinks Obama sounds like.

Finally, while violence did increase under Calderon, it was already high relative to Mexico's HDI position (near Saudi Arabia). Some of that is certainly the drug war, but there's also a drug war in the US and Mexico's levels of violence have been historically higher than the US's contemporary numbers. There are many more structural roots of violent crime in Mexico than the drug war, and there are reasonably comparable experiences from other countries that provide policy examples as far as remedying the violence.
posted by klangklangston at 6:55 PM on June 3, 2011


It's not two issues on the streets of Monterrey, or any other city where people are being shot dead by drug dealers, and the police are under siege. It's one real world, one situation with myriad contributing causes, and few workable policy alternatives consistent with maintaining a complex industrialized growing 21st century civilized society. Thus my request to you to quit playing the logical dilettante, and reconcile your views in a single consistent value framework.

I seriously don't know what your problem could possibly be with the idea that the danger of some drugs being abused is greater than the danger of violence involved in their prohibition. Unless you favor legalizing all recreational drugs or banning them all, you agree and have to make the same calculus.

I related how I saw the advance of the crack cocaine epidemic come out of New York in the mid-80s, and I related how that begin as an attempt by New York dealers and later Jamaican posses, to get cheap product out to all of America. The simple fact is that you have no means of guaranteeing that your Jeffersonian ideal of "small dealers" will always be content to remain either small, or peaceful, as the crack epidemic amply demonstrated. It's just some regurgitated Libertarianism, I think.

Yes, I am aware illegal drug producers make and push illegal drugs. The part you are leaving out is what that has to do with legalization. If they produce a new dangerous drug, we enforce against them like we do meth now. If they produce a legal product illegally, we enforce against them like we do moonshiners. WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

At least, I think you think legalizing all drugs in one fell swoop is a good idea. It's kinda hard to keep up with your divergent, inconsistent views. But, I'm tryin'.

I'm pretty sure I'm not the one being obtuse here. Let me quote from me, minutes ago:

I think some drugs can't be legal because the harm of open recreational use would outweigh the benefits of reducing the violence.

"... You said they are less violent because of lesser sentencing, so we use the same model for new legal drugs. ..."

First of all, for drugs that are legal, we generally don't prosecute their producers or consumers. I think you are getting deeply confused in your own lack of logic.


The comparison is to moonshine. Legally available, but prosecuted against for the illegal production practices.

Marijuana growers are in a monumentally risky business, in the current enforcement environment; moonshiners, even big ones, not so much.

I am suggesting changing the enforcement environment for pot producers to be like that of moonshine producers.

What should we do with dope dealers we find with what you euphimistically call "soft drugs" and black tar heroin, Oxycontin pills, meth, and other "hard drugs?"

The same thing we do with anyone else found with them.

51,000 pounds of Mexican ditchweed isn't even a single 40 foot trailer load.

The value of a that much pot, according to the approved math (some newspaper article) is $51 million. From one bust! Now imagine the rest getting through. Just 19 shipments and we made a billion dollars! Obviously that is a significant source of income. However, I do not deny that for transatlantic trade pot is not the majority profit source. Why would it be, the chief export market for pot from Mexico is the US. However, the trade in pot is significant in organized crime around the world.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:02 PM on June 3, 2011


However, the trade in pot is significant in organized crime around the world.

Actually, that's overstating it a bit, but following the money the Cartels take in on pot would likely take you to arms sales, harder drugs, money laundering, and human trafficking which are global issues. It would be nice to eliminate that revenue.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:29 PM on June 3, 2011


Mexican drug gangs building own tanks as war intensifies
posted by homunculus at 2:01 PM on June 7, 2011


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