There's no such thing as cruelty free cocaine
January 2, 2014 10:23 AM   Subscribe

'I submit that the drug trade—and specifically cocaine—is among the worst things that the human mind ever invented.' The gruesome human cost of a fun little party treat.
posted by nerdfish (143 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
I remember this guilt trip from the 70s.
posted by Ardiril at 10:25 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]


I submit that it is the War on Drugs that is responsible for this, not the end consumers. However the end consumers are also generally US voters. So, right conclusion for the wrong reasons.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:26 AM on January 2 [14 favorites]


I submit that socialized law enforcement, attempting to destroy the very existence of both supply and demand for mind-altering substances, is the most authoritarian pinko commie thing our free capitalist personal responsibility-loving country ever imagined.
posted by mullingitover at 10:35 AM on January 2 [10 favorites]


Somehow I suspect the author would find a way to avoid applying the same logic—that by purchasing a product we are complicit in the violent crimes committed by its producers—to the other kind of Coke, whose bottling plants in South America have been waging a decades-long ongoing campaign of assassination against union organizers and sympathizers.
posted by enn at 10:37 AM on January 2 [25 favorites]


I submit that it is the War on Drugs that is responsible for this, not the end consumers.

Well, the end-consumers of diamonds would probably prefer, all things considered, that they were mined responsibly by people who didn't funnel the profits into funding warlord activity and the end-consumers of ivory would probably prefer, all things considered, that it was harvested from sustainably farmed animals (or, heck, grown in a lab)--but those aren't usually seen as good ethical defenses for those who would like to continue as "consumers" in those markets.
posted by yoink at 10:38 AM on January 2 [10 favorites]


I think I enjoyed the SFWeekly's take on this more.
posted by Catblack at 10:49 AM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Well, the end-consumers of diamonds ... the end-consumers of ivory ....

Your metaphor is broken. The coca plant is neither an endangered species nor a difficult to extract finite resource located in a politically problematic region.

An end to the war on drugs would take the wind right out of the cartel's sails, as someone can simply grow the coca plant elsewhere. If, for example, the coca plant could survive only on pitch-perfect hillsides in Colombia would your metaphor have a shot at viability. But it doesn't.
posted by chimaera at 10:53 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]


I recall in the days following 9/11 there being a similar argument advanced regarding the sales of heroin (and other Afghan-produced opiate drugs) funneling money to the Taliban and/or al-Qaeda, effectively marrying the War on Terror to the War on Drugs. Strangely enough, this particular thread seems to have vanished from the conversation now that Afghanistan's opium trade is run by non-Taliban warlords.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:54 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


Do "cocaine use" and "empathy" overlap enough for an argument like this to make a difference?

On a side note, is cocaine "coming back" in a big way? A lot of "indie" pop seems to be classic "cocaine music" lately... or maybe that's just a misperception on my part.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:57 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I would be interested in reading a long form, investigative article about the cocaine trade. This article and the one Catblack linked to are good but I feel like there is something lacking. Perhaps it's too dangerous for a journalist to write the article I would like to read.

Either way I am very glad it's been 3+ years since my last line.
posted by sacrifix at 10:57 AM on January 2 [3 favorites]


Nothing in this fantastic article refutes the truth of the failed war on drugs being ill-conceived and disastrous.
posted by cellphone at 10:58 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


The khat trade is also devastating, though geographic impact is more limited.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 11:01 AM on January 2


I submit that northern Mexico was a violent gang-ridden place before cocaine existed.
posted by stbalbach at 11:04 AM on January 2


There's a reason all the photos in this story are from Juarez in 2010. That's where and when the internecine conflict between cartels boiled over in the most photogenic way. But this conflict is an old one, and while it has always been unpleasant in many ways it's not usually quite as grisly as this type of murder-porn makes it out to be. I'm not trying to minimize it, but put it into context (a context that has a lot more parameters than just the drug trade). Once the battles between cartels settle down, the violence diminishes -- which is what has happened in more recent years. Citing only authors of sensationalist books about the cartels doesn't help -- though it's pretty hard to avoid, as sensationalism about violence is one of the great pillars of Mexican journalism.

I'm also skeptical of claims that violence would vanish with legalization. It certainly didn't happen with the US Mafia after the legalization of alcohol. The crime syndicates are too powerful and too entrenched to just shrug their shoulders and go out and get nice office jobs. We are already seeing cartels getting involved in every kind of other business, partly for expansion, partly as a hedge. The number of businesses susceptible to criminal operations is surprisingly large (witness the recent New Yorker article about extortion and theft in the used-cooking-oil business -- subscription required, sorry).
posted by Fnarf at 11:08 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I cannot understand how my lefty, progressive friends were casual users of coke back in the day.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:08 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


The really disturbing part, which is touched on only peripherally in the article, is that the violence in Mexico is due almost wholly to — or at least it could be resolved were it not for — US government pressure on Mexico to interdict drugs as they come up from South America.

Absent that, Mexico could easily decide to undercut the cartels by legalizing, and just trucking the coke from their southern to northern borders as fast as it could be loaded and unloaded. There would still be cartel activity in the north, since it would have to be smuggled across the border somehow, but it would doubtless curtail their activities everywhere else.

The drug war is essentially an American problem that has been forcibly externalized on Mexico (and other countries) through political and economic pressure. At some point, perhaps they will decide to refuse to accept it, and just pass the products through and let organized crime pick up their goods on the way out of the country rather than the way in.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:09 AM on January 2 [10 favorites]


On a side note, is cocaine "coming back" in a big way?

If you spend even five minutes on the scene in L.A., coke hasn't gone anywhere, and likely never will. It's a major social lubricant in certain creative circles here.
posted by mykescipark at 11:17 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Absent that, Mexico could easily decide to undercut the cartels by legalizing, and just trucking the coke from their southern to northern borders as fast as it could be loaded and unloaded.

Problem is doing so would really piss off the US. The US government could consider that to be an act of war (that is, after all, a hegemonic superpower's privilege; also, the geopolitical usage of the term “backyard” may be relevant here). As such, any such policy could end with cruise missiles slamming into the Mexican Presidential Palace, followed by the replacement regime hastily executing a 180° turnaround.
posted by acb at 11:27 AM on January 2


So yes, I say that paying for coke is equivalent to donating to the Nazi party. The unspoken thing here is that the reason Americans aren’t more outraged or guilt-ridden is that the people dying are poor brown people—many of them in a tragic irony are classified as narcos so governments can claim it's just gang-on-gang violence.

This is a cheap and sloppy conclusion; the article appears to select one element (powder use by well-off Americans) to carry all the sins and bear all the guilt of a much wider problem.

I read repeatedly that half the cartel money comes via cannabis, but I'm missing the same outrageous condemnation of smoking joints. Or at least, joints that aren't certified free trade from Colorado or the Pacific Northwest.

I'm also quite sure that cocaine use in the US extends beyond our hip little parties, our New Year’s Eve celebrations, our secret back rooms, and on the counters of people from well-off families.
posted by kanewai at 11:28 AM on January 2 [7 favorites]


If only there were some way to take this immense power of supply away from drug cartels AND fulfill the demand of countless Americans for a recreational drug!

Oh well, guess nothing can be done but guilt some yuppie club kids! Shame on you, Viper Room! See what you're doing to Juarez?! :( :( :(
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:28 AM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I submit that it is the War on Drugs that is responsible for this, not the end consumers.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders


This is likely true but I don't think it actually undercuts the argument in the article. Presently all cocaine is produced and distributed in a way which is harmful. Therefore buying cocaine is harmful.

If it was legal then there might be ethically produced cocaine which you could buy. But it isn't legal.
posted by Erberus at 11:32 AM on January 2 [6 favorites]


If only there were some way to take this immense power of supply away from drug cartels AND fulfill the demand of countless Americans for a recreational drug!

Is coke a recreational drug, though?
posted by KokuRyu at 11:39 AM on January 2


I submit that it is the War on Drugs that is responsible for this, not the end consumers.

I'm not sure its possible to ever safely legalize this stuff, given the fine line between recreational abuse and addiction / the everpresent hazard of cardiac arrhythmias. Interesting side note, the LD50 is about 6 grams (maybe 30 lines or so).
posted by Captain Chesapeake at 11:42 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


The crime syndicates are too powerful and too entrenched to just shrug their shoulders and go out and get nice office jobs.

Amen. It's not as if the cocaine trade is the single pillar holding up all violent criminal enterprise in Mexico. These gangs have their hands in all sorts of evil business: kidnapping, petty extortion, theft... they thrive because of a fundamentally broken law enforcement and criminal justice system. This is about much more than drugs.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:47 AM on January 2


How is coke NOT a recreational drug?
posted by agregoli at 11:48 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I thought you ended up like a wild-eyed Michael Keaton or Rob Ford
posted by KokuRyu at 11:51 AM on January 2


Coca tea is quite mild, actually.
posted by planetesimal at 11:53 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure its possible to ever safely legalize this stuff, given the fine line between recreational abuse and addiction / the everpresent hazard of cardiac arrhythmias.

I agree, which is why it's never been possible to legalize alcohol given the fine line between recreational abuse and addiction / the everpresent hazard of liver failure.
posted by Justinian at 11:54 AM on January 2 [24 favorites]


"creative" circles lol
posted by thelonius at 11:56 AM on January 2 [5 favorites]


The bad politics that surround the cocaine trade aren't confined to Mexico's borders; in South America millions of people live in slums, many of which are quasi extra-statal communities controlled by people who get their power from the cocaine trade. This means that it's not just Mexico that suffers, and that it is not only Americans who are complicit, but millions of middle-class South Americans.
posted by TheTingTangTong at 12:00 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I agree, which is why it's never been possible to legalize alcohol given the fine line between recreational abuse and addiction / the everpresent hazard of liver failure.

Yeah, we should be working towards a society where the finally can share lines before, during, and after Christmas dinner. Maybe smoke a crack pipe on a hot day at a baseball game.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:00 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


I was under the impression that cocaine use is on the decline (another source). So I don't really see the purpose of this story (not that all articles need a purpose, necessarily).

Also, regarding legalization, this article was mentioned in the comments of the SF Weekly story referenced above: "Ten Years After Decriminalization, Drug Abuse Down by Half in Portugal." I recognize that if drugs were decriminalized tomorrow, the cartels would not just pack up and go home but I think that whenever the topic of legalization or decriminalization comes up, a lot of people just say that for various reasons, it's not possible. I don't think that's the case.
posted by kat518 at 12:05 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I agree, which is why it's never been possible to legalize alcohol given the fine line between recreational abuse and addiction / the everpresent hazard of liver failure.
posted by Justinian at 11:54 AM on January 2


I know I know. I'm assuming we all understand there is a clear double standard when it comes to culturally accepted drugs (alcohol/tobacco).
posted by Captain Chesapeake at 12:05 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


where the finally can share lines before, during, and after Christmas dinner.

Who can eat after doing lines of coke?
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:08 PM on January 2


Who can eat after doing lines of coke?

Rob Ford.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:17 PM on January 2 [11 favorites]


On a more serious note, I understand the point this article is trying to make but come on:

I say that paying for coke is equivalent to donating to the Nazi party

It really isn't. Coke is a really shitty drug and the trade of coke is really fucked up, but it really is not the same as donating to the Nazi party. People buy coke because coke is a drug and people like drugs. They aren't sending the cartels a tax-deductible gift because they believe in the cause.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:20 PM on January 2 [6 favorites]


Also on a more serious note, applying this same moral standard to people who fill up their cars with unleaded every week is invalid why?

Also, legalization wouldn't eliminate the cartels, it's true, but it would dry up a significant source of revenue. Prohibition has been a massive gift to organized crime and terrorism. Maybe it's time we dried up that revenue stream, even if it means they won't vanish overnight.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:24 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


Coke may be a shitty drug, but even back when any corner pharmacy would sell it over the counter and people like Freud were hailing it as a miracle, it wasn't doing a fraction of the damage alcohol and tobacco were doing.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:26 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Knights Templar drug gang corners Mexican iron-ore trade with China.

[expletive deleted], ditto with MDMA.
posted by porpoise at 12:29 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


How is coke NOT a recreational drug?

I never trusted anything that 'helps' people work longer hours.
posted by mikelieman at 12:29 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


applying this same moral standard to people who fill up their cars with unleaded every week is invalid why?

I mean that's the thing, right? The author probably wrote this after driving to work on unleaded gas, on his suicide laptop while wearing his child-made clothes. Not to diminish the horrors of the drug trade, but even legal international trade has substantial ethical issues. We are all guilty of exploiting innocent people for our own ends.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:30 PM on January 2 [6 favorites]


The idea that you can morally consume, and earn a status of moral purity or superiority by dint of your consumption patterns, is one of the silliest and occasionally (when people caught up in this idea get an attitude about it) most infuriating things about liberalism.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:32 PM on January 2 [30 favorites]


Fnarf: "I'm also skeptical of claims that violence would vanish with legalization. It certainly didn't happen with the US Mafia after the legalization of alcohol. The crime syndicates are too powerful and too entrenched to just shrug their shoulders and go out and get nice office jobs. "

You seem to be suggesting that the Mafia controlled the liquor trade after Prohibition ended, which AFAIK is not true. The Jim Beams and DeKuypers of the US weren't geographically limited to mafia-controlled regions.

The fact that the Mafia found ways to successfully diversify is not an argument for maintaining the War on (brownpeoplewhouse) Drugs.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:33 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


U.S. gun stores sell weapons back down the line to enforce this system

Coke usage doesn't kill anywhere near the number of people that guns kill, and reducing or eliminating gun sales would clearly have an impact on reducing cocaine-related deaths. From a disease or epidemiological standpoint, I submit that arms dealers are more evil and that guns are among the very worst things the human mind has invented. At least, a great deal worse than cocaine when comparing death and injury impact.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:37 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


I submit that northern Mexico was a violent gang-ridden place before cocaine existed.

I am a Mexican.
You have no idea how the war on drugs has changed this country, for the worse.

15 years ago, Mexico City was the most dangerous place in the country. People from other states were afraid to come here, because it was common to be pickpocketed, robbed, or to have your car stolen.

Now, Mexico City is considered the safest place in the country. People would rather be pickpocketed than having their complete family kidnapped or murdered. Here, you don't have to pay rent to the mob if you want to drive a taxi or have a fucking fruit stand.

My family comes from the central-northern part of the country. They were ranchers and traders. Now the whole state is overrun with Zetas. Young men aspire to be narcos or thugs. People are being kidnapped in the peaceful town my grandma lived in. I don't visit anymore.

I do blame drug users for their part in what has happened in Mexico and South America.
posted by clearlydemon at 12:42 PM on January 2 [86 favorites]


I never trusted anything that 'helps' people work longer hours.

What if you only work the same hours but get more done?
posted by Soupisgoodfood at 12:45 PM on January 2


The idea that you can morally consume


Isn't this the idea behind vegetarianism/veganism, though?
posted by josher71 at 12:47 PM on January 2


Yes, both of which discount the harmful conditions of the migrant workers picking their vegetables.
posted by elizardbits at 12:49 PM on January 2 [10 favorites]


What if you only work the same hours but get more done?


I believe it was MeFi's own The Whelk who suggested in another context, "Productivity is for machines"
posted by mikelieman at 12:51 PM on January 2 [5 favorites]


Yes, both of which discount the harmful conditions of the migrant workers picking their vegetables.

At some point no matter what you consume there is exploitation? Is that the idea?
posted by josher71 at 12:53 PM on January 2


People have a lot of different reasons for eating vegetarian and vegan diets. Many vegetarians and vegans are aware of the conditions of migrant farmworkers. This has fuck-all to do with TFA.
posted by Cookiebastard at 12:53 PM on January 2


This has fuck-all to do with TFA.

I disagree, but noted. It's hardly a massive derail.
posted by josher71 at 12:55 PM on January 2


At some point no matter what you consume there is exploitation? Is that the idea?

More or less. I mean, at some level it becomes a very deep question about blame and causality. Like, what if I buy some local kale or something from a guy who then takes my money and buys cocaine or blood diamonds or whatever. And soon we are in the rabbit hole. Nothing matters everything is terrible hail satan.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:58 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


Goodness gracious.

Trying not to support particularly fucked-up industries isn't a lost cause.

Yes, you're going to find that somewhere in your personal supply chain, some asshole has made shitty business decisions and passed the savings on to you.

But if you want to talk about moral purity you're gonna have to be a bit more specific to not sound like you're swinging at a big straw man.
posted by entropone at 1:01 PM on January 2 [8 favorites]


From a disease or epidemiological standpoint, I submit that arms dealers are more evil and that guns are among the very worst things the human mind has invented. At least, a great deal worse than cocaine when comparing death and injury impact.

The discourse with respect to drugs and guns in the US is maddening, and like Mexico, Canada has to deal with the consequences of a cross border trade that sends guns to our gangs. Not that Canada has to deal with anything like the violence in Mexico, of course, but the guns in most of our murders here in Toronto come from the US, and are in the hands of our drug gangs.

On the one hand, it's considered politically impossible to impose restrictions on magazine capacity or mandatory background checks for buying things that are carefully designed to make killing people as effortless as possible.

On the other hand, it's also politically impossible to stop throwing racialized people in cages and destroying their lives for having too much overpriced white powder that makes you hyper and kinda annoying and is moderately addictive. Making jokes about the systematic sexual torture of these people once behind bars is fine though. Also, if they get killed, they had it coming.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:01 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


Snorting coke = eating food???

You know, many people eat locavore diets, grow their own vegs, purchase fair-trade produce, etc.

The thing is, you gotta eat. And there are people who try to make ethical choices about where they obtain their food.

No one really has to snort coke.
posted by Cookiebastard at 1:01 PM on January 2 [10 favorites]


Many industries have human costs that most of us would consider unjust. There is a moral obligation to consider those costs. What is most relevant here is that:
Cocaine is a luxury item, and potentially addictive. It is not the only business of organized crime in Mexico, but it is a primary and highly profitable one.
The disruption to northern Mexico and other parts of the country is a lot greater than the disruption to the US during alcohol prohibition.
US cocaine users are not the only ones benefiting from, and facilitating the actions of, organized crime in Mexico. There are also some banks and firearms exporters. But this is evidence of how the cocaine economic system has become larger and more wide-spread. It does not remove moral culpability from the users who give money to organized crime.
posted by neutralmojo at 1:02 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


Kinda funny how few people are acknowledging the insights in this thread from someone with first-hand knowledge of how the drug trade has transformed Mexico. It's so easy to think in (and detach from) abstract ideas like "legalization."
posted by KokuRyu at 1:05 PM on January 2 [5 favorites]


That was literally 2 comments before we got a little distracted by somewhat tangential issues, how about you give us a second to get back on track.
posted by elizardbits at 1:06 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


About the weed: if you buy home-grown--let's say, from your cousin, Marvin--then you don't support the cartels.

Anybody who wants a chemical high can get it. Its legal status mostly affects the price they'll pay for it, not whether they'll be able to get it. We spend billions on the Drug War every year. Our funding backlog keeps getting worse, because of increasing prison populations (and other law enforcement programs) we must fund in order to deal with it. Our so-called War On Drugs is the most cynical of shams. I'm pretty sure that the billions we spend each year on anti-drug enforcement could be redirected in a more effective way than shipping guns to foreign police forces, or building warehouses in Mississippi for druggies (for example, education, treatment programs).

Users in the US directly fund the cartels down south. There's no point in dancing around that. I don't see blaming either the cartels for the existence of American users, or vice versa. Each plays his part in this sad situation. I do believe that American users ought to acknowledge their contribution to it, because it's not insignificant. It may be convenient to shift the topic to shirts made in China, or vegan-burgers, but that line of reasoning seems a bit precious to me.
posted by mule98J at 1:07 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


Criminalise something lots of people want: violent crime happens. Pictures at eleven.
posted by Decani at 1:14 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I do blame drug users for their part in what has happened in Mexico and South America.

Sure, they share some of the blame, but how much blame belongs to the drug warriors and gun dealers? These are some of the most politically untouchable forces in US society, and they get to dictate policy worldwide. On the other hand, you have drug users, whose visibility and targetability is directly proportional to their marginalization and powerlessness.

But by all means, let's continue to accept the "enforcement" narrative of the violent control freaks and arms dealers profiting from both sides of the drug war.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:14 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


It may be convenient to shift the topic to shirts made in China, or vegan-burgers, but that line of reasoning seems a bit precious to me

Nah. All of this is about arbitrary line drawing. Cocaine is a product imported to the US. It's subject to the same economic and political forces that determine the conditions under which clothing, meat, jewelry, fuel whatever is made. People are largely pawns of a bigger economic system that forces them into some situation - whether it's selling drugs or working in a sweat shop. I think it's better to view the problem as a primarily economic and political issue, and not one about drugs or drug users particularly. Because then you don't get all the prejudices about "drugs are bad" informing the discussion. It seems easy to take a moral stance on the cocaine trade because drugs and t-shirts enjoy vastly different perceptions in our culture.

I do blame drug users for their part in what has happened in Mexico and South America.


I do get that. But I blame the government (ha!) more than users. I can't help but think that if the situation in Juarez was happening over the imaginary line so that it became our problem, the discussion over drug laws would be much different here in the US.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:21 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


No one really has to snort coke.

This is true, although I think a lot of us buy "unnecessary" items that have blood and exploitation in the stories of their manufacture. A lot of clothing, for example.

That said, I really disagree with the idea that it's all or nothing--that if you can't make the "right" choice all of the time, it's never worth making the "right" choice. I know that I will continue to buy things whose components aren't all ethically sourced. I still won't buy blood diamonds. I don't think that's hypocritical.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:23 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


It isn't hypocritical - just arbitrary. I do not think not being able to act wholly moral 100% of the time implies we should not attempt to, but we need to be logically rigorous when we examine the reasons for doing one thing and not the other.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:25 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


No one really has to snort coke.

No one really has to drink alcohol.
No one really has to drive a car.
No one really has to use a cellphone.
No one really has to have sex.
No one really needs to own a pet.


Okay, I'm bored now.
posted by Decani at 1:26 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


I do blame drug users for their part in what has happened in Mexico and South America.

Blame away. Now, back to appropriate policy responses to the drugs trade: everyone seems to agree that legalisation is the best response, but politically impossible. I consider this failure to be a disaster - and I speak as someone who lost a father to drug addiction.
posted by alasdair at 1:50 PM on January 2


No one really has to drink alcohol.
No one really has to drive a car.
No one really has to use a cellphone.
No one really has to have sex.
No one really needs to own a pet.


Okay, I'm bored now.


You may be bored, but there are discussions to be had about every single one about these about attempting to be ethical in their purchase and use. A lot of people actually do care about how they spend money, and where the money goes when they spend it, and try to be cautious to impact the world around them as gently as possible. Discussion of the impact of our spending habits is a useful discussion.

But, you know, if you find it boring, that's your prerogative. There may be another thread about a subject you think is worth considering and discussing.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 1:50 PM on January 2 [13 favorites]


>>No one really has to snort coke.

>No one really has to drink alcohol.
>No one really has to drive a car.
>No one really has to use a cellphone.
>No one really has to have sex.
>No one really needs to own a pet.


Well, yeah. Exactly. All those luxuries have far-reaching consequences as well, which are worth considering when incorporating them into one's lifestyle.


(Oh, wait, were you going for some kind of an Ayn Rand kind of statement, where all that matters is your own pleasure?)
posted by Sys Rq at 1:50 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty: "The idea that you can morally consume, and earn a status of moral purity or superiority by dint of your consumption patterns, is one of the silliest and occasionally (when people caught up in this idea get an attitude about it) most infuriating things about liberalism."

Consumption patterns are not really special. The same question can be asked of any behaviour: why is someone doing it?

From a consequentialist standpoint, if we both agree that behaviour X is "good", then I'm not going to judge why someone is doing it, because the important thing is that they're doing it. They could be doing it for selfish reasons like feeling good about themselves or looking attractive to the same/opposite sex, and that's OK. If they're not doing it, then I'd be very interested in why not.

I think it's a great thing that people reflect on their consumption patterns, and try to make decisions that are consistent with their personal ethics. And that people feel that others might hold them accountable for their choices.
posted by tybeet at 1:55 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


Cocaine use is a key element in a system that has been wreaking havoc in Mexico. The connection is more clear, and the harms are more needless, than in the counter-examples being mentioned.

Yes, cocaine users are not just drivers of the system, but subjects of a larger social & economic system that facilitates consumption and addiction. The fact that the US political system has favored a "tough on crime" approach more than a public health approach has meant a missed opportunity to reduce consumption.

The devastation in Mexico, and the very real role of US cocaine consumption in it, is further reason to support prevention and addiction treatment programs. It seems rather entitled to dismiss these human costs, or treat them as nothing more than abstractions.
posted by neutralmojo at 1:58 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


20 plus years of selling Johnson & Johnson
I started out as a baby face monster
No wonder there's diaper rash on my conscience
My teething ring was numbed by the nonsense
Gem Star razor and a dinner plate
Arm and hammer and a mason jar, that's my dinner date
Then crack the window in the kitchen, let it ventilate
When I let it sizzle on the stove like a minute steak
posted by Teakettle at 1:59 PM on January 2 [5 favorites]


Legalize it so I can buy Fair Trade cocaine.
posted by Joe Chip at 1:59 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


Yes, you're going to find that somewhere in your personal supply chain, some asshole has made shitty business decisions and passed the savings on to you.

But if you want to talk about moral purity you're gonna have to be a bit more specific to not sound like you're swinging at a big straw man.


Everywhere in your personal supply chain, some asshole has made shitty business decisions and passed the savings violence on to you. Your money funds criminals, and they aren't nice people. The cocaine business is savage. Cocaine is bad for you, and I wouldn't support legalizing it. It's more often used by whiter/ wealthier people - crack & meth are more used by poor and non-white people. You can buy clothes that were made humanely, food, housing, etc. You can't buy cocaine that isn't blood-soaked.

That's one reason I support making pot legal. It's not very bad for you, and its problems are more manageable. Illegal pot growing is often an environmental mess for state and national parks and forests, funds criminals, and penalizes, sometimes severely, people who use it innocuously. I'm in Colorado, and the legalization of pot, while getting lots of media attention, seems to be no big deal in terms of unpleasant consequences. There will be a surge in visitors, who will, I hope, be able to get home with their pot without hassle. Money, court time, jail time, spent on restricting pot looks like a huge waste.

Also, I think believe heroin from Afghanistan is still benefiting the Taliban, would welcome better information.
posted by theora55 at 2:11 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


I don't use cocaine, haven't since I was very young. Don't use pot, either, as the effects aren't terrific anymore, though trying again might be fun. I cheerfully use alcohol and caffeine. It would be interesting for people posting here to note their cocaine use status.

Also, I think believe heroin from Afghanistan is still benefiting the Taliban, would welcome better information. s/b Also, I think heroin from Afghanistan is still benefiting the Taliban, would welcome better information. Missed the edit window.
posted by theora55 at 2:17 PM on January 2


liberal guilt + cocaine = the hippest shit ever

big time bump this
posted by zscore at 2:19 PM on January 2


It would be interesting for people posting here to note their cocaine use status.

Nice try NSA!
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:20 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


Lutoslawski, ha.
posted by theora55 at 2:21 PM on January 2


It seems rather entitled to dismiss these human costs, or treat them as nothing more than abstractions.

I don't see anyone here doing that. What I do see is lots of people pointing out that admonishing cocaine users isn't going to accomplish anything. Actually doing something to take the cocaine trade away from murderous drug gangs would, though.

Your money funds criminals, and they aren't nice people. The cocaine business is savage. Cocaine is bad for you, and I wouldn't support legalizing it.

I'm quite frankly sick of having opponents of legalization simply ignoring this argument, rather than engaging it. How would legalization be worse than funneling billions of dollars to murderous thugs? All you've said is cocaine is bad for you. Guess what, so is McDonalds, and so is alcohol. How is cocaine worse? Because it funds violent criminals? Then take it away from them, and tax it in order to pay for ameliorating the harms it causes, like we do with liquor and tobacco, which are much more likely to destroy the lives of users.

Saying they won't vanish overnight isn't an argument to stop giving them a hugely lucrative market to fight a perpetual war over.

For all you authoritarians who need your law and order fix, howabout some sanity please on the arms trade maybe? I'd like to see a world where buying coke is easier than buying a handgun or an AR15, because quite frankly, murder appliances shouldn't be available on layaway at Walmart, and a video of a public official consuming a drug somewhere between Valium and alcohol on the harm scale isn't worth killing over.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:26 PM on January 2 [5 favorites]


An end to the war on drugs would take the wind right out of the cartel's sails, as someone can simply grow the coca plant elsewhere.

Or grow avocadoes
posted by IndigoJones at 2:29 PM on January 2


The article is about the connection between the problems in Mexico and the use of coke in the US. I agree that some sort of decriminalization/regulation/legalization is one possible solution. Independent of that, what we are seeing is that that cocaine use has continued despite the terrible consequences in Mexico. People boycotted grapes for less severe abuses. That is an important and deeply sad commentary on its own.
posted by neutralmojo at 2:59 PM on January 2 [8 favorites]


Kinda funny how few people are acknowledging the insights in this thread from someone with first-hand knowledge of how the drug trade has transformed Mexico. It's so easy to think in (and detach from) abstract ideas like "legalization."

Legalization is exactly how to combat the negative effects of the drug trade on Mexico. What makes you think that supporters of prohibition repeal are detached from those problems rather than specifically addressing them?
posted by Justinian at 3:07 PM on January 2


You folks understand that your chocolate was almost certainly harvested by slaves, right? Under capitalism there is no moral consumption.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:58 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


The idea that you can morally consume, and earn a status of moral purity or superiority by dint of your consumption patterns, is one of the silliest and occasionally (when people caught up in this idea get an attitude about it) most infuriating things about liberalism.

You folks understand that your chocolate was almost certainly harvested by slaves, right? Under capitalism there is no moral consumption.


On the surface, Pope Guilty, it seems like you're saying, "...so fuck capitalism," which is a little more extreme than I might've gone, but, yeah, fair enough.

But it kind of also sort of seems like you might really be saying, "...so don't bother trying to consume morally," and that you really, really, really like your cocaine.

Care to clarify?
posted by Sys Rq at 4:18 PM on January 2


Pope Guilty: "You folks understand that your chocolate was almost certainly harvested by slaves, right? Under capitalism there is no moral consumption."

I'm confused. Do you think Fair Trade is bullshit? Or do you think everyone who works under a capitalist system is a "slave"?
posted by tybeet at 4:36 PM on January 2


At some point no matter what you consume there is exploitation? Is that the idea?

Yes, that's the beauty of the capitalist system; no matter what you do or how ethically you attempt to consume, you will always consume the end products of horrendous exploitation, legal or otherwise, somewhere down the line.

That's why you can't consume your way to a better world.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:46 PM on January 2 [4 favorites]


You can't consume your way to a better world, but you can place sharp constraints on your consumption. Of course it's discouraging to know that you can't ethically consume all the things you want to consume, but hey, life is tough.
posted by MetalFingerz at 4:51 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I'm confused. Do you think Fair Trade is bullshit?

Fair trade is a nobel idea, but what ends up doing in practise is legitamise all the non-fair trade products, becoming just consumer label like decaf or sugar free or organic. It's just a choice you make as consumer that you want your chocolate to be slavery free rather than sugar free this time, but if you chose something else, no worries, because all your choices are equally good.

And of course this sort of thing puts the blame on the people least able to change anything, the end consumer, rather than either getting the producers and buyers to clean up their act, or get the government to do it for them.

But of course three-four decades of neoliberal propaganda, the cult of the individual and consumer "empowerment" have made these two options neigh impossible. Heck, the asswipes in what stills calls itself the Dutch Labour Party are happily going along with the idea that society has no obligations to help anybody and all state help should be tit for tat. You're getting a pension? Then you better help sweep the snow from your stoop, citizen.

So yeah, buy fair trade coffee if it helps settle your consciousness, but don't expect it to change anything.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:52 PM on January 2 [6 favorites]


Of course it's discouraging to know that you can't ethically consume all the things you want to consume

You can't ethically consume all the things you actually need, long before you get into such obscurities like cocaine.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:54 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I submit that the drug trade—and specifically cocaine—is among the worst things that the human mind ever invented (which is saying a lot, since we are especially good at inventing horrible things).

Is it possible that Erik Vance doesn't know that "cocaine" and "the drug trade" aren't the same thing. There was a time when most of the cotton in the United States was cultivated by slave labor. That doesn't mean that cotton is slavery.
posted by layceepee at 4:59 PM on January 2


On the surface, Pope Guilty, it seems like you're saying, "...so fuck capitalism," which is a little more extreme than I might've gone, but, yeah, fair enough.

But it kind of also sort of seems like you might really be saying, "...so don't bother trying to consume morally," and that you really, really, really like your cocaine.


Okay, see, a lot of what's bullshit about liberalism is that liberalism focuses obsessively on the individual to the exclusion of systems. Probably the most common, everyday instantiation of that focus is what this thread is about, which is the attachment of morality to consumption choices- once contemptuously (and accurately) derided as the idea that you can "save the world by shopping". In terms of actually making a difference as opposed to just making yourself feel good, your personal habits of consumption are completely meaningless. Snort all the coke you like if that's what your thing is. Refusing to take coke, or buy Coke, or eat at Chick-Fil-A, or shop at Wal-Mart, or any of a million little individual actions that people to do to feel good about their consumption, is meaningless. If it makes you feel better about yourself, hey, great! Feeling good about yourself is nice as long as you don't use it as an excuse to be a dick to people. But don't be deluded into thinking it does anything other than make you feel good about yourself, because you alone- and I understand full well how much this hurts to comprehend- are nothing. We don't live in a world of individuals, whatever Margaret Thatcher may think. We live in a world of systems and structures and societies, and making real, actual change requires that you operate on the level of systems and structures and societies. Organized- and I mean organized, not "post this to your Facebook wall!" slacktivist horseshit but actually working with other people in a structured way- mass boycotts, the application of financial or political leverage, the ability to withhold or deliver votes- these are things that incite change and make differences.

(You might be saying "but those are things that are systematically denied to all but the wealthy who perpetuate and profit from the exploitation!" You'd be 100% right, and that's part of why liberalism is capital's immune system.)


I'm confused. Do you think Fair Trade is bullshit? Or do you think everyone who works under a capitalist system is a "slave"?

Fair Trade is absolutely bullshit. We've wrangled all these poorer nations into situations where local farmers can't compete with our food imports, so they're not physically forced but economically coerced (which makes it okay! honest!) into a position where their only real choice is to grow cash crops to export to us for money. Fair Trade is fundamentally the idea that this is 100% acceptable and okay and correct and that the only problem with this situation is that the farmers should get paid at least a certain amount of money. It's like applying calamine lotion to a measles rash and sending the patient on their way- sure, it'll make the sufferer feel a bit better, but it doesn't even attempt to address the root of the problem.

As a final note I would point out that Fair Trade and other "ethically produced/sourced" products almost universally cost more. So in addition to the piles of shit heaped upon the poor by capitalism, the ideology of "ethical consumption" also condemns the economically disadvantaged to a morally inferior state since they cannot afford the "ethical" premium.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:00 PM on January 2 [20 favorites]


MartinWisse: "Fair trade is a nobel idea, but what ends up doing in practise is legitamise all the non-fair trade products, becoming just consumer label like decaf or sugar free or organic. It's just a choice you make as consumer that you want your chocolate to be slavery free rather than sugar free this time, but if you chose something else, no worries, because all your choices are equally good."

I'm not really sure what you're getting at here. Why would fair trade legitimize non-fair trade? Wouldn't it do the opposite by way of contrast? Why would all choices become equally good? By analogy, if you're trying to lose weight, then would you think a sugar-free product is equal to a sugary product? Why would fair trade be any different to someone who disapproves of slavery?
posted by tybeet at 5:01 PM on January 2


I've been to Mexico City, and I've spent time in Ciudad Juarez (right after the embassy murders), and I've seen men with guns driving around in trucks. I spend a lot of time reading about the drug war's effects on our friends to the south, and it is truly horrifying.

I reject the comments above about how all consumption is morally bankrupt. I'm not saying that one can ever be pure, but there are ethically sourced diamonds, and there is free trade coffee, and there's domestically produced oil, and USA-made clothing.

My drug of choice is alcohol, and I buy it mostly from regional brewers on my side of the USA. Every once in a while, I walk down to the local brewpub, fill up my growler, and walk home. It's not perfect (as we could argue about where the guys downtown got their hops and barley and yeast), but it's pretty good.

But to return to the subject of the article, there is no ethically sourced cocaine. And until we have full hemispheric legalization, every dollar you spend on blow goes directly to organized crime. And it's not the fuzzy-warm gangsters from the Godfather, no. It's people who dismember men and women and then hang their body parts from a freeway overpass, and everyone else is too scared to even take down the corpses.

Let's just see what's on today's Juarez section of the El Paso Times, shall we? *Two severed heads found on Christmas. *More than 450 killed in Juarez in 2013. *Six killed in three separate shootings on New Year's.

I'm not happy about the exploitative labor practices behind my strawberries or behind my Apple products. But nobody's decapitating workers in the Foxcomm plants.

So yeah, you buy cocaine, and you might as well be putting bullets in people's brains. It's that simple.
posted by math at 5:04 PM on January 2 [9 favorites]


I'm not really sure what you're getting at here. Why would fair trade legitimize non-fair trade? Wouldn't it do the opposite by way of contrast? Why would all choices become equally good? By analogy, if you're trying to lose weight, then would you think a sugar-free product is equal to a sugary product? Why would fair trade be any different to someone who disapproves of slavery?

It reduces "slavery or not slavery?" to the status of a consumer choice. It's like having a vote on whether or not homosexuals are human beings- yes, the correct choice between the two is that homosexuals are human beings, but if you're having a vote on the matter your society has gone horribly, horribly wrong even if "homosexuals are human beings" wins.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:06 PM on January 2 [5 favorites]


Pope Guilty, I sympathize with your desire to locate the problem at a system level by pointing the finger at capitalism. I don't think capitalism is perfect by any stretch of the imagination. At the same time, I recognize that I am living in a capitalist society where I must consume goods to meet my needs. And because I must consume, I choose to consume in a way that does the least harm. I don't think I can "consume my way" to a better world, but I can certainly try to avoid consuming my way to a worse one. Every consumed good comes with choices, and some are worse than others.
posted by tybeet at 5:22 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


I miss cocaine sometimes.

I don't miss some of the crazy horrifying shit I saw when I got a little too close to the trade when I was living in Mexico way back when. Part of the reason I put it aside decades ago, before it got its hooks into me, as it did for more than a few people I knew (some of whom I've since lost to the drug).

Drugs are fine; the drug trade is despicable, in part because it has been made the province of criminals by Official Definition.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:24 PM on January 2


Every consumed good comes with choices, and some are worse than others.

Can you seriously not understand how constrained your choices are? You're not choosing between -100 and +100. You're choosing between -50 and -55 and thinking you're doing good by choosing "correctly". There is no correct choice. You've been systematically denied the opportunity to make a correct choice. Society encouraging you to invest much of your sense of self in the paltry bad choices you're allowed to make is part of how you are denied real choice.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:37 PM on January 2 [5 favorites]


Also on a more serious note, applying this same moral standard to people who fill up their cars with unleaded every week is invalid why?

This article made the rounds on social media a few days ago, and i gave up after trying to make this sort of point.

Pretty much, it's because this is just too easy and smug of a circlejerk to pass up. Nearly all the people i saw +1'ing this article or "sharing" it were just-out-of-college-age people who work in the service industry or other entry level jobs and see coke as something that uptight hollywood hills type "bad guys", and abercrombie wearing rich kids in BMWs do.

I'm not making any judgement here saying that i don't think coke is a fucked up thing to buy. Just that this has gotten so much attention because it's so easy to externalize for the lefty young person as something that's purely a symbol of the "other" group that is sort of represented, at least on the parental side, as the SUV driving republican gun nut who hates gay people.

I don't think this is about coke at all, i just think this story is perfect circlejerk fodder because it allows a lot of people to point to the other group of people they think is "ruining the world" and go "AHA! SEE! if we got rid of the people buying this stuff which is JUST THEM the world would be so much better of a place!".

I realize that was the case pretty much as soon as i got a ton of pushback for bringing up the gas thing, or pretty much anything else as a "but people do this too and it causes a lot of violence and harm, wheres the circlejerk about that?" and just got a canned responses of something i often use myself, but weaponized in a different way. Ye olde "yea, and there's starving children in africa, that doesn't make this not a problem worth discussing". The difference is i usually bring that up against someone derailing a discussion about some LGBT issue or internet spying or something, but in this case its a discussion about a huge meta-problem and comparing it to other meta-problems is suddenly off limits?

Yea, a lot of people just want a smug circlejerk. Not on here so much, but in general.
posted by emptythought at 5:42 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


From the always eloquent Pope Guilty: In terms of actually making a difference as opposed to just making yourself feel good, your personal habits of consumption are completely meaningless.

I strongly disagree. Consumer spending is a huge, perhaps the largest, factor in politics and in the economy, both global and local. As you yourself said, mass boycotts, the application of financial or political leverage, the ability to withhold or deliver votes- these are things that incite change and make differences. And are these mass actions not just the sum of individual actions? And is a mass boycott not just the aggregate of millions of individual, ethical people making a decision not to buy grapes, or products from South Africa, or cocaine from South America?

To take an extreme example from a smaller market, I don't think anyone would argue that there's no moral difference between cosuming a Coca-Cola or a Chick-Fil-A sandwich versus child pornography. There's a huge difference, and there's a definite correct choice on one of these.
posted by math at 5:44 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


I don't use cocaine, and I don't know if any of my friends do. None the less, I can see that most of the violence caused by the cocaine trade occurs only because it's a prohibited drug. The trade would be wiped out if people stopped using cocaine, but I think it's clear that this isn't going to happen. The only way to wipe out the criminal trade is by decriminalising it. There will probably be some social cost to this, but I think it's better than the present situation.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:09 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty's reasoning reminds me of why I dislike smug displays of charity by hardline conservative folks, like making a big deal out of giving a turkey or two to a shelter or poor family during the holidays and making sure everyone is aware. Some have told me that they don't believe in welfare and a social safety net because it removes their ability to give more to charity. In other words, "I want to pick and choose who gets assistance personally, I wanted to be thanked, and a tax deduction is not enough. I want to pay less into society as a whole, and have more money in my pocket so that I can judge who deserves it."

I suspect the cocaine trade to this day is being used as a cash cow by intelligence services. Certainly the business of interdiction and selling / donating military hardware is a form of economic stimulus, and drug lords are excellent consumers of goods and services the world over.

Demand in the US might come down by doing things like eliminating crushing poverty, increasing employment numbers at all levels so that lower classes have hope and upper-class laborers aren't compelled to destroy themselves to stay in the game. We all need more help than we realize. Demand for vice is humanity 101. When demand increases it's usually a sign that the house is not quite in order.
posted by lordaych at 6:33 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


I thought this argument got laughed out of rational circles back in the Bush administration.

I remember after that asinine ad came out where some dude was telling his friend that the weed he smoked helped fund international terrorism. I bought a shirt from T-ShirtHell shortly thereafter that had a big pot leaf on it and the phrase "I helped fund international terrorism" around the leaf.

It's the prohibition, stupid. That's all it is. That's it. Nothing else to see here.

Anyone who says otherwise is the same kind of delusional statist that thinks that prostitution should be illegal to protect women, and believes it's actually possible to enforce it's illegality. The same kind of delusional statist that thinks what we should just round up undocumented migrants and deport them, and believes this could actually be accomplished.

The very first thing anyone interested in power and law and governance needs to understand is that there are some things you can't prevent people from doing without resorting to Stalinesque levels of oppression. Blow is one of these things.

I'll take this up a notch: if you support drug prohibition, you are the one killing Mexicans. If you have a loved one who's been killed working for the DEA, their death was their own fault. Being part of the apparatus that creates organized crime means that if organized crime kills you, it's your own stupid fault.

The availability and street price of coke and heroin has gone down, adjusted for inflation, since the drug war began.

To paraphrase Bill Hicks: "There is a war on drugs, and it's being won by people who are ON drugs. What does that tell you about your strategy, buddy?"
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:45 PM on January 2 [8 favorites]


big time bump this

I see what you did there.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:21 PM on January 2


Can you seriously not understand how constrained your choices are? You're not choosing between -100 and +100. You're choosing between -50 and -55 and thinking you're doing good by choosing "correctly". There is no correct choice. You've been systematically denied the opportunity to make a correct choice.

Yeah, I love DEVO as much as the next guy, but unfortunately the perfect is still the enemy of the not quite entirely shitty. Idealism is effectively equal to defeatism.

Besides, the only choice we're actually discussing here is the choice between [buying cocaine] and [not buying cocaine]. One of those is unequivocally the better choice.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:10 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


Don't do cocaine because it turns you into a goddamn asshole. You know how there's 100 different types of drunks, from the happy to the belligerent to the morose? And just as many different types of stoners or dosers? All people on cocaine are fucking assholes. The only question is what kind of asshole.

Then again if you are the kind of person who sneers about caring about how much the drug cartels have raped Mexico (and I don't use that word lightly) well then, you probably are already are an asshole.
posted by aspo at 8:12 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


I'm not going to defend cocaine usage, but that kind of lack of nuance is pointless Nancy Reagan talk.
posted by planetesimal at 8:22 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


... there's domestically produced oil, ...

Can you give us some details of how you make sure that the gas you use doesn't support cruel acts in the Middle East?
posted by benito.strauss at 8:28 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Come on, if you can't see that this is a transparent attempt to get people who aren't scumbags to support the drug warriors who are the real, actual source of the cartels' power and wealth, you're hopelessly naive. You want to be mad at somebody for the mafia's crimes? Be mad at the politicians and lawmen who provide the mafia with an illegal market. Be mad at the actual cause of the violence. Coke's a shit drug that makes people into assholes, but if it weren't illegal it wouldn't be controlled by mafia filth. The George Bushes and Barack Obamas and Richard Nixons of the world- the scumbag politicians who support, execute, and escalate the drug war- are why the cartels and mafiosos are involved with the drug trade. The mafia doesn't run the furniture industry. The mafia doesn't run the computer industry. There's no bottled water cartel. Face up to the system and be mad at the people who are the actual cause. Barack Obama is far, far more culpable for the violence in Mexico than some coke-addled club kid.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:28 PM on January 2 [13 favorites]


Besides, the only choice we're actually discussing here is the choice between [buying cocaine] and [not buying cocaine]. One of those is unequivocally the better choice.

Not true, some of us are discussing the choice between having a conversation about our individual actions as consumers and our collective actions as citizens. Personally, I believe our choices as citizens are more important than our choices as consumers, and I am tired of a dominant narrative that erases our role as citizens.

Also, completely ignored in this conversation is the profit the cartels derive from other drugs. It's not just cocaine, but heroin, meth, MDMA and marijuana. It's actually pot that is likely the single largest source of profit for the cartels, not cocaine. So let's talk about how that joint you smoked on NYE paid to kill judges, shall we?
posted by [expletive deleted] at 8:54 PM on January 2 [3 favorites]


Yes, Barack Obama chose the wrong reaction (enforcement instead of legalization) to the club kid's insatiable demand for coke. But without the club kid's action, none of this would be necessary.

Yes, I agree with you that legalization is the only sane way out of this, and I think that the country as a whole is starting to realize this. But we had to do the prohibition first, so that we could say, "Look, we did everything we could to keep these drugs out of your hands. We demonized you, we locked you up, we took away your cars and your homes and your children, and still, still, you kept asking for it, demanding it, and it's killing us and killing our fellow citizens around the globe. We can't stop you, so we will have to let you have it."

It doesn't always have to be this way. We've prohibited ozone-depleting aerosols, and yet the mafia didn't sweep in with black-market hair spray. We've prohibited whaling, and yet there's no corset cartel that's smuggling in whale bones. So there are some things that we like and that we want and that, once they're prohibited, we managed to do without them and just get on with our lives. But not everything. Despite prohibition, there's still a thriving market for rhinoceros horn, because some people are idiots. And despite near-universal condemnation, there's still a market for child pornography, because some people are pedophiles. And there's a market for cocaine, because some people are, I don't really know, just fallen.

Prohibition isn't always the wrong answer. Sometimes it's the right answer. It's failing for drugs, and it's high time to give up the drug war. But that doesn't change the fact that the reason why it's failing is not because of some inherent conspiracy or corruption in government but because of our own weakness, our own desires and our own inabilities to stifle them. Every dollar that pays off a judge in Juarez or buys a bullet in Texas comes from our own trembling sweaty hands. We can't help ourselves, and that's the real crime here. The rest is just consequence.
posted by math at 9:04 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]



... there's domestically produced oil, ...

Can you give us some details of how you make sure that the gas you use doesn't support cruel acts in the Middle East?


Well, it's limited to the Midwest and Mountain parts of the US, but Sinclair Oil is, I believe, an entirely North American operation from drilling to refining to marketing. I remember (on a cross-country drive) filling up my car in Wyoming at a Sinclair station situated next to a huge refinery, and I remember thinking about how that gas I was putting into the station wagon was perhaps entirely sourced and refined within just a few miles of where I was standing.

(But most of the time I use the Chevron station down the road, and who knows where that gas came from.)
posted by math at 9:20 PM on January 2


Yes, Barack Obama chose the wrong reaction (enforcement instead of legalization) to the club kid's insatiable demand for coke. But without the club kid's action, none of this would be necessary.

You're basically taking a situation where 100% of the responsibility lies with those who have the most power and insisting that 100% of the obligation lies with those who don't have any. This is exactly what I'm talking about when I talk about liberalism obsessing over the individual. This is a systemic problem. The individual morality you're trying to impose on the situation is meaningless and serves the interests of the elites who are making the system/structure/society-level decisions.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:24 PM on January 2 [8 favorites]


Prohibition isn't always the wrong answer. Sometimes it's the right answer.

You're ignoring the primary difference between the examples you give (and other things that prohibition works for) and drugs. Spewing ozone depleting chemicals into the atmosphere or hunting whales to extinction are wrong in and of themselves. Drugs are wrong for the sole reason that the government says they are wrong. Prohibition does not work and is morally indefensible in the latter cases but not in the former. It's the difference between malum in se and malum prohibitum.
posted by Justinian at 9:30 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


There's also not a demand for ozone depletion in and of itself, so once non-ozone depleting hairsprays were available, there was no demand for the old ones because non-ozone depleting hairspray is a perfect substitute good for ozone-depleting hairspray. Whaling still goes on, but the demand for whale meat is actually miniscule and it's been slowly going out of fashion to consume for decades. Prohibition is not a big deal for either of those things because the demand is low or nonexistent. For substances which have a high demand like intoxicating drugs, prohibition is not a workable strategy.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:35 PM on January 2


You're basically taking a situation where 100% of the responsibility lies with those who have the most power and insisting that 100% of the obligation lies with those who don't have any. This is exactly what I'm talking about when I talk about liberalism obsessing over the individual. This is a systemic problem. The individual morality you're trying to impose on the situation is meaningless and serves the interests of the elites who are making the system/structure/society-level decisions.

Hell yes I am.

Oh, I'm with you on issues of education, of poverty, of discrimination, of financial chicanery, of just about every other ill that society faces. These are clear cases where the responsibility lies on those above, yet they try to put the obligation on those of us below. And I hate that corrupted version of enlightened liberalism that tries to cast the blame on the individual for not maximizing his or her potential, and that punishes people for doing something foolish like getting sick, or like dropping out of school to support their family. I have no argument there.

But cocaine, to me, seems to be a totally different item. It's completely extraneous to our lives. It's a complete and total choice on our parts to cast ourselves into that pit.
posted by math at 9:42 PM on January 2


Oh, good point on the differences between prohibition of ozone-depleting hairspray and prohibition of drugs. I hadn't thought that one out as carefully as I could have.
posted by math at 9:43 PM on January 2


You have to purge that infernal and misleading sense of morality about drugs and shift to an evidence-based approach.
posted by planetesimal at 9:45 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I think when you get right down to it that is correct; the prohibition of drugs is a moral policy rather than a rational one.
posted by Justinian at 10:00 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


I'm not happy about the exploitative labor practices behind my strawberries or behind my Apple products. But nobody's decapitating workers in the Foxcomm plants.

If you read Disposable People or anything by Kevin Bales you see that this idea of responsible consumerist reform is essentially impossible. There is a literal population of slaves that our global economic system rests on.

Somebody upthread said if you buy cocaine you might as well put a bullet into someone's head. But then if you purchase electronics you might as well put cancer into the lungs of some Chinese kid. Or if you buy clothing from Thailand you might as well invest in a slave-brothel.

So yeah, it really is Capitalism that is the problem.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 10:03 PM on January 2 [2 favorites]


And it's certainly well and good to make a moral decision about one's own drug use or lack thereof, but the problems arise when this is projected on others.
posted by planetesimal at 10:06 PM on January 2


Prohibition on it's own doesn't cause drug-related criminality. It might be necessary but it isn't sufficient. Prohibition plus continued demand for drugs in spite of their illegality causes it. You have the power to change your personal contribution to the latter. I'm all for ending prohibition of most drugs but if you are concerned about drug-related violence, wouldn't the optimal thing be to support ending prohibition while at the same time not funding violence by buying (certain) drugs until that happens? It's not an either/or choice. The fact that your actions only have negative consequences as result of a misguided social policy doesn't let you off the hook just like that. You are responsible for the consequences of your actions in the real world social and legal environment in which you make them, not for what the consequences would be in some alternate universe social utopia.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 11:40 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


And it's certainly well and good to make a moral decision about one's own drug use or lack thereof, but the problems arise when this is projected on others.

If it's a problem to impose it on others then it isn't really a moral decision, it's just a personal preference. If you have a moral obligation not to do something because it violates someone else's rights in some way, then you also have a moral obligation to try to stop others from do so.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 11:53 PM on January 2


I think when you get right down to it that is correct; the prohibition of drugs is a moral policy rather than a rational one.

There's really not much outside of mathematics that is "rational"
posted by thelonius at 12:09 AM on January 3


If using drugs directly violates others' rights "in some way" no matter how indirect, a very low bar, and people are expected to literally impose that opinion on others in some measurable way and deny them the right to have their own opinion without being imposed upon, then you've opened the door for every other example of the miserable things mentioned upthread we buy at the cost of others' quality of lives or lives period and we're all just shitbags who should be imposing on each other all of the time.

Surely you don't intend that and it's a matter of values and intensity, where cocaine is especially violation-y because it's cocaine.

Not sure why I'm saying "morals aren't laws" and leaving it at that, but a lot of people have "morally rooted" and highly varied opinions about homosexuality, living with a partner prior to being married, looking at porn, or even smoking cigarettes or drinking but long ago realized it's not worth the trouble of imposing their views, especially since we don't live in a theocracy, and many of the morals aren't actually laws but merely culturally variable differences of opinion mostly tolerated by a greater community of disparate people who have agreed to co-exist.

In polite company people regularly choose not to impose their morality on others in most situations especially after growing up in a diverse population and finding that "others" often have their own opinions that they'd like to impose on you. Usually when we choose our battles and don't impose our morals on each other, we stand a better chance of peacefully co-existing, or even dispassionately sharing our opinions in a way that engenders mutual respect rather than defensiveness and fear.

The notion of "moral obligation" is rooted in values and we all pick and choose how intensely to pursue a "moral obligation" based on how much we value the particular value in question, how close we are to the person on the other side of the conflict, how free we are to express a difference opinion, etc.

I'm not sure how I feel about cocaine in particular, it's certainly intense but is de facto legal for the upper classes from the producer nations and around the globe. Someone yesterday suggested that legal marijuana in Colorado would particularly damage the poorer classes and keep them in chains. I think it's absurd but maybe cocaine is so evil that it would do exactly that. Except right now all we know is that it's incredibly cheap despite the drug war, and it's incredibly hard to tease apart its effects on society when enormous swathes of the black male population end up serving mandatory minimum sentences and being taken away from their children. Maybe it seems crazy to imagine cocaine dispensaries from Compton to Beverly Hills but like I said, if you're pulling in a decent salary, you aren't going to run into many problems obtaining it and using it discretely in the comfort of your enclave or entourage.
posted by lordaych at 12:14 AM on January 3


L.P.Hatecraft: Prohibition on it's own doesn't cause drug-related criminality. It might be necessary but it isn't sufficient. Prohibition plus continued demand for drugs in spite of their illegality causes it. You have the power to change your personal contribution to the latter.

That personal contribution is a drop in the sea. Unless that personal contribution balloons into something large enough to make a dent, it remains a symbolic self-cleansing act.
posted by daksya at 12:36 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]


I'm gonna kick out a roughly-conceived opinion on why I think legalization is the answer when it comes to substances for which there is insatiable demand that seems to be met no matter the consequences. That's the thing about cocaine vs. ozone, like PG said nobody really needs CFCs if they get what they want from an alternative product, unless there's some other reason to value CFCs over the alternatives. Case in point: pseudoephedrine is a better decongestant for many people than its "new formulation" phenylephrine (what you find in Preparation H, just a factoid, has no bearing on efficacy).

The former is great for making meth and so the latter was introduced into the marketplace to phase it out and many pharmacists will attest that it's ineffective other than bringing along the same negative side effects (namely high blood pressure). In my experience, it makes my heart race far more than pseudoephedrine.

So many states have registries and strong regulations against it, but ultimately they acknowledge that it has a high demand, people value it over the alternative, and by and large society can be trusted to obtain pseudoephedrine in modest amounts.

Then we have ephedrine, which can also be used to make meth, but in general is just more popular all by itself for its dirty blood-pressure-skyrocketing stimulant and thermogenic effects. Ohio Senator Orrin Hatch had a lot of problems with the proliferation of meth back in the 90's and basically wanted to ban any discussion of illegal drug production (in partnership with D. Feinstein IIRC), including marijuana cultivation, due to the meth scourge. He wanted to conveniently bundle them altogether as equally terrible and basically make it illegal to discuss them.

But he also was completely in favor of unregulated unfettered access to herbal supplements including ma huang, which contains highly variable and often potent quantities of ephedrine. He didn't see marijuana as an "herbal supplement" but ma huang was a-OK, possibly because of the history of Mormon Tea in his great state of Utah.

Ma Huang supplements could contain wildly variable doses of ephedrine and people were dying from strokes, aneurysms, and other cardiac events, often due to the combination of Ma Huang with MAO inhibitors like Yohimbe, and the "hot dose" unpredictability of an herbal supplement that happened to pack a punch that could send you to the emergency room, with potentially more risk of death than cocaine since users tended to gain rapid tolerance more quickly than cocaine, and the recreational effects tended to be weak while the cardiac effects were potent. This was no good.

Ma Huang was basically banned entirely because it was too potent and unpredictable. Pure ephedrine medications were relegated to always containing 200mg of guafenesin for every 12.5 of ephedrine, to discourage its abuse and promote its primary "legitimate" medical use: treating acute asthma and bronchitis.

People still want ephedrine and they tend to willingly consume it with the guaifenesin but don't take the crazy doses that were popular during its heyday. They get runny noses and clear the phlegm out of their lungs with ease and if they consume too much, they might puke. Some of them probably get it illegally. But in my experience, most people who really liked to take a lot of ephedrine were also really into cocaine during the 80's. Or they're really into Adderal or Ritalin now. These substances are all safer for recreational use. Really!

A common argument against the economic benefits of legalization is that black markets will continue to flourish due to the high taxes typically imposed on vice when it's regulated. The bad guys who kill people in the cold-blooded pursuit of power will continue to find a way to stay in business. But more often than not, the bad guys have to find a completely new racket or at least diversify across multiple business models. To deal with the average customer, you price the legal market to match the black market, except the legitimate market is accompanied with less expenses and risks due to being open and tolerated, it's less hassle for the consumers, and you can divert much of that inflated "black market price" into education and treating the systemic and societal problems that lead certain people to destroy themselves with the assistance of drugs.

Bad guys who don't completely abandon a newly legitimized market often find it irresistible not to get somehow involved with the legitimate market without maintaining a criminal element advantage like tax evasion. But this tends to bring them to the surface and expose them in due time in a way because there are so many more "touch points" involved in acting legit. Diversion is irresistible to organized criminals but strong regulation and accountability will catch them far more often than arresting low-level dealers on street corners or arming paramilitaries.

But flushing bad guys into multiple areas is not a bad thing unless you have absolutely no rule of law. Rule of law tends to be destroyed when criminal networks have more power than legal authorities. That happens when they have unrestricted access to an enormous market that demands a constant flow of expensive consumable product.

Getting them into more and more "legit" markets hurts their profit margins and gives you plenty of opportunities to catch them on mundane charges like "mail fraud."

They should be found and put in jail for being bad guys who shoot people to meet their professional career objectives. Not for having objectives and pursuing them.
posted by lordaych at 12:43 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]


I didn't mean to use scare quotes on "legitimate" with respect to ephedrine to discredit that use, but like whipped cream chargers that contain pure nitrous oxide, a shit-ton of it is purchased for other uses (general stimulation, weight loss and body sculpting, poor man's Ritalin, etc).

Ephedrine is a great decongestant for the lungs, while its partner pseudoephedrine tends to work better in the nasal passages. For stimulation use it's nowhere near as safe as caffeine, methylphenidate (Ritalin), or even, yeah...cocaine.
posted by lordaych at 12:48 AM on January 3


Wal-Mart ain't too concerned when sales numbers drop as individuals in the aggregate decide not to shop there for one reason or another, but self-defeating irrelevant leftists furiously thinking the most purest thoughts of futility at them really has 'em running scared.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 1:02 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


lordaych:

Not sure why I'm saying "morals aren't laws" and leaving it at that, but a lot of people have "morally rooted" and highly varied opinions about homosexuality, living with a partner prior to being married, looking at porn, or even smoking cigarettes or drinking but long ago realized it's not worth the trouble of imposing their views, especially since we don't live in a theocracy, and many of the morals aren't actually laws but merely culturally variable differences of opinion mostly tolerated by a greater community of disparate people who have agreed to co-exist.

In polite company people regularly choose not to impose their morality on others in most situations especially after growing up in a diverse population and finding that "others" often have their own opinions that they'd like to impose on you. Usually when we choose our battles and don't impose our morals on each other, we stand a better chance of peacefully co-existing, or even dispassionately sharing our opinions in a way that engenders mutual respect rather than defensiveness and fear.


I know what you mean, but statements like "I respect your right to believe that homosexuality is immoral, but I don't accept your right to impose it on others", are basically ways to keep the peace between family members, co-workers and so on. It's a way to politely "agree to disagree". That's fine as far as it goes, but don't mistake it for any kind of moral truth, or abuse it as a license to regard morality as just an opinion. Social conservatives are wrong about homosexuality because homosexuality is not immoral, not because they impose their moral beliefs on others. You need to recognize this as just some bullshit that people spout to avoid a fight, that can be dispensed with as soon as the Overton window shifts enough that they don't need to. It is simply unworkable to treat morality as something that we should always suspend belief on because that would be assuming a particular point of view. It's also self-contradictory because it treats the idea of tolerance for other people's moral beliefs as an absolute value while treating actual moral beliefs as just opinions.

daksya:

That personal contribution is a drop in the sea. Unless that personal contribution balloons into something large enough to make a dent, it remains a symbolic self-cleansing act.

This falls foul of Kant's categorical imperative (what if everyone acted like this?) but suppose you don't believe in Kantian ethics. Isn't this mentality basically a license for all kinds of anti-social behavior? Why vote for example, it's not like your single vote makes a difference on its own. Why not beat your wife up, it's not like one instance is going to make a difference to the domestic violence stats in the grand scheme of things. In general, unless you are some kind of person of consequence like a politician or a military general or the CEO of a large corporation, none of your actions makes any real moral difference to the big picture. So why not just be a complete asshole to everyone you encounter? Anything else is just a symbolic self-cleansing act.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 4:55 AM on January 3


L.P.H: Why not beat your wife up, it's not like one instance is going to make a difference to the domestic violence stats in the grand scheme of things.

Because that would be actual concrete harm directly and acutely connected to my actions, irrespective of its effect on aggregate violence. Whereas the contribution of a single cocaine user at the margin to the global circumstances of the drug trade is noise.
posted by daksya at 5:13 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Because that would be actual concrete harm directly and acutely connected to my actions, irrespective of its effect on aggregate violence. Whereas the contribution of a single cocaine user at the margin to the global circumstances of the drug trade is noise.

Purchasing drugs causes actual concrete harm: it places money in the hands of criminals who can use it to buy weapons, buy off judges and corrupt police, pay for hits and so on. The only difference is that you don't know specifically that it was your particular purchase that enabled it. Drug users are like members of a firing squad: individually they can each claim ignorance about whether it was their bullet that killed the victim, but collectively it's obvious that they are responsible.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 5:37 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


L.P.H: it places money in the hands of criminals who can use it to buy weapons, buy off judges and corrupt police, pay for hits and so on.

Who *can* -> that's a potentiality, unlike your first example of domestic violence, where each act is necessarily and directly connected to harm.

Drug users are like members of a firing squad: individually they can each claim ignorance about whether it was their bullet that killed the victim, but collectively it's obvious that they are responsible.

If instead of a squad, it was just one person shooting, that target would still be dead. All the squad does is enable one to avoid pinpointing personal culpability. Unlike cocaine, where if there was just one user, literally, then there would be no industry to support that user, and no bloodshed to accompany the cocaine (ignoring legalized scenario for now). The violence is connected to the profitability, which is, crudely speaking, connected to overall volume of demand, strength of prohibition enforcement among other things. That's why for drugs like LSD which have a low niche demand, there's hardly any violence associated. So, unless the overall volume can be affected, individual abstinence is just a soul balm.
posted by daksya at 5:59 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Ohio Senator Orrin Hatch

Here in Ohio we grow our own unpleasant politicians - no need to borrow any from other states.

Please put Mr. Hatch back in Utah where he belongs.

Thank you.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:19 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]


Who *can* -> that's a potentiality

That's not an important distinction if we are talking about cartels with a history of violence. If you give them money then "can" is effectively "will".

If instead of a squad, it was just one person shooting, that target would still be dead. All the squad does is enable one to avoid pinpointing personal culpability. Unlike cocaine, where if there was just one user, literally, then there would be no industry to support that user, and no bloodshed to accompany the cocaine (ignoring legalized scenario for now). The violence is connected to the profitability, which is, crudely speaking, connected to overall volume of demand, strength of prohibition enforcement among other things. That's why for drugs like LSD which have a low niche demand, there's hardly any violence associated. So, unless the overall volume can be affected, individual abstinence is just a soul balm.

I think you're seizing on irrelevant parts of the analogy here. The individual's marginal effect isn't what is important as to to whether the individual is partially culpable for the cumulative effect of the behavior of a collective, it's whether the ill effects would occur if no-one partook in the behavior. If not, then everyone who takes part shares culpability. It might take only one member of a firing squad to kill someone, but tens or hundreds of cokeheads to produce the first drug-crime related fatality, but why does that matter? That's just a matter of degree.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 7:11 AM on January 3


L.P.H: It might take only one member of a firing squad to kill someone, but tens or hundreds of cokeheads to produce the first drug-crime related fatality, but why does that matter?

Because just the individual user stopping won't stop the violence; if there are, say, 5 million past-year cocaine users, it can't even be shown to have stopped 1/5,000,000 of the violence. This linkage isn't a linear phenomenon.

This isn't about whether the individual user is partially culpable, of course they are. Your original assertion to which I replied was, "Prohibition plus continued demand for drugs in spite of their illegality causes it. You have the power to change your personal contribution to the latter.", thus implying that an individual could, via abstinence, alter levels of violence. As an individual, they would be acting at the margin, hence they can't. You'd need a successful mass proselytisation effect for that to happen. And if the aim isn't to induce lowering of violence, then it's just a self-regarding move.
posted by daksya at 7:28 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]


The funniest part of the description of cocaine users in this thread is describing them as "fallen." Yeesh.

I feel as if everything in the world is tainted. No decision I make regarding purchases (legal or illegal) is without a hidden evil. It's depressing.
posted by agregoli at 7:31 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


My solution to all this:

* Declare an end to the Drug War. Exit the UN Narcotics treaty. This will allow other nations to back out also.
* Legalize all drugs, and enact laws ensuring the purity of drugs that are sold. There would be different levels of purity required when your product is being sold as a single compound vs an extract vs plant material. As a consumer you can be assured that you know what you are getting.
* Disband the DEA.
**Give a lifetime pension to everyone in the enforcement arm to avoid a coup d'état (while monitoring them with the recently revealed surveillance apparatus to ensure this doesn't happen. Half joking with this one.).
**Roll the science and research arm up into the FDA. The DEA is sitting on a lot of great data that is not public. Imagine a site like Erowid backed by all this data.
* Drugs can only be prescribed by a doctor or claim to have therapeutic value if they pass through the existing FDA certification process. Otherwise they are buyer beware, but as previously mentioned the buyer has good assurance and good quality information available to them.
* Provide services and education for anyone whose drug use has become a problem for them or their family.
* Immediate amnesty for all who are incarcerated for drug offences.
* Tax drugs at a reasonable level to fund all of this. Allow for different drugs to have different taxes, ie so that ones that put more burden on the social/health services system can have their cost ratcheted up to make up the shortfall.

You may ask "but what about new chemicals whose effects are largely unknown?" I posit that a lot of the "experimentation" with research chemicals that people subject themselves to is largely due to the illegality of more traditional drugs in the same categories. Why would you take "Spice" if you have legal access to cannabis? Why would you take some random research hallucinogen when you have access to LSD, DMT, psilocybin, mescaline? Why would you take "bath salts" when you have access to amphetamines or cocaine? Further, a lot of the subsitutions that people make aren't even research chemicals. Why would you shoot up krokodil when you have access to heroin? Why would you huff paint? Heres a great talk by the Erowid founders from 2011 which touches a lot on this subject.

Allow for real controlled scientific research into new chemicals, but for recreational use most people will stick with the gold standards.
posted by Joe Chip at 7:44 AM on January 3 [1 favorite]


What's sad is that there is one category of drug that needs greater policing - and that's antibiotics. Most of the consequences of recreational drugs comes from the drug wars themselves, and we could do a lot better on the rest of those consequences if we diverted money from punishment to treatment (as Joe Chip argued in detail right above).

But the consequences of antibiotics ceasing to work will almost immediately kill more people than all the illegal drugs ever, put together.

It's a shame we're putting all the work in the wrong place. I'm sure if we ever do start to get antibiotic-resistant plagues, the survivors will share a good laugh afterward at how stupid we were.... not.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:40 AM on January 3 [2 favorites]


I tend to agree with people who say that sugar is our biggest drug problem.
posted by planetesimal at 11:58 AM on January 3


So, this is my first MeFi post, although I was introduced to the site a while ago when someone posted a "Best of Reddit something or other" and someone somewhere found something I wrote there catchy, so I've been lurking since around then and watching folks do their thing here while working up the muster to jump in. I hope I don't lower the quality of discourse.

I feel really critical of the article being discussed- and feel like the hyperbole and myopic focus really serve to detract from the issue of the problems and horrors that are consequent of the narcotics trade- it feels accusatory and hysterical, and when the proponent of a serious issue takes that tone, it is fuel for the people who want to dismiss the gravity of the situation.

The positions and declarations it contains are easily dismissed and deconstructed, and it comes off as emotion laden blogging, not journalism. And perhaps if it settles for being only the former, it could be powerful.

I know- know- for a fact that blanket generalizations like:

'So yes, I say that paying for coke is equivalent to donating to the Nazi party.'

Are absurd and easily disproved at best, and simply embarrassing hysterics at worst. The idea that the harm and threat is a quality intrinsic to cocaine and cocaine trade, thus universal and intractable, is gross stereotyping- in the same breath the author accuses those who don't sympathize as wholly doing so out of latent bigotry and racism. The irony seems palpable to me.

At the same time- it goes without saying that the horrors and crimes occurring need to be addressed and we need to find ways to mitigate these terrible things- and in that respect I agree completely with the writer. But the assessment, approach and presentation seem juvenile and highlight the real substance filling the work- a core of emotion rather than investigative conclusions, barely encompassed by a fragile crust of actual informative content and cut and paste 'journalism'.

I submit that we as a culture, as a species, get the journalism that we permit to exist and validate by accepting as content.
posted by cat_mech at 2:35 PM on January 3


math: Prohibition isn't always the wrong answer. Sometimes it's the right answer. It's failing for drugs, and it's high time to give up the drug war. But that doesn't change the fact that the reason why it's failing is not because of some inherent conspiracy or corruption in government but because of our own weakness, our own desires and our own inabilities to stifle them. Every dollar that pays off a judge in Juarez or buys a bullet in Texas comes from our own trembling sweaty hands. We can't help ourselves, and that's the real crime here. The rest is just consequence.

This is a crappy, hand wringing pearl clutching conclusion though.

It operates under the assumption that doing drugs is inherently wrong or bad, or some kind of childish selfish thing like wanting to eat the entire cookie jar while moms asleep or something. You don't get to pick and choose on this one. Either you think this about ALL drugs including alcohol, tobacco, etc or it's totally hypocritical and completely falls apart at the seams.

Our own weakness isn't the primary, or even a good reason why the drug war is a bad idea. It's a bad idea because it's built entirely on false pretenses and is just as full of shit as Reagans welfare queen rhetoric and "the war on welfare fraud"(or really, the war on public services and the social safety net). You build this up with a bunch of extra fluffy nasty prose like certain people on here do when arguments about eating meat get brought up to try and make it sound like more of a damning zing, but you have no actual point here.

The problem isn't that "we can't help ourselves", it's that a bunch of people would rather millions died than some people got high. And a lot of that is for the same kinds of puritanical bullshit reasons that they'd let mothers die in hospitals rather than get abortions, and lie to them the whole way along.

I'm not trying to expand this in to a greater meta argument about any of those issues at all, this isn't the place for those discussions. Rather i'm saying that you can't just put the onus of solving this on the heads of consumers like you or this article above does. The people doing the drugs are not inherently in the wrong here, nor are they the root cause of this problem.

Is it immoral to do coke right now knowing what's happening? yea. Is it somehow bad to do coke in general, or is it the fault of these people who buy the coke that the drug war is awful? no, fuck that.

I really think you should reflect how much you sound like a militant vegan or pro lifer though, and also that unlike both of those no even remotely sound argument can be made against the morality of getting high any more than it can about having sex without sounding like a conservative pastor.

agregoli: The funniest part of the description of cocaine users in this thread is describing them as "fallen." Yeesh.

Seriously, most of the descriptions in here sound like the horrors of drugs anti drug speeches i heard in catholic school. lot of good that did.
posted by emptythought at 4:52 PM on January 3


Here's a thought:

Some clouds don't have silver linings.

For Weed, think Mexico.

For sugar, think Hawaii.

This puts me a bit closer to the camp that wants to focus on the crime, not the tool. The fact of prisons proves the failure of laws.
posted by mule98J at 11:22 AM on January 4


If the Drug War is Failing, Where Did All the Cocaine Go?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:00 PM on January 26


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