Commerce of Cocaine
January 3, 2006 7:29 AM   Subscribe

Drug policy reform in Colombia [via]
posted by daksya (13 comments total)
The bolivians might be the first to do this.
posted by delmoi at 7:55 AM on January 3, 2006

The hope is, of course, that by legalizing narcotics it will get rid of the dangerous gangs that come with it. I don't think this will be the case. Trafficking will still be run by various cartels and criminals. If you look at the purpose this violence serves, it is to replace the justice system. I can't go to court because you stole several tons of cocaine, ergo I can't seek restitution and I can't lock you up so I have to kill you. Columbia does not have a strong justice system and the whole political machine is corrupt. This may very well be a chick-and-the-egg problem, but legalization will not solve it. A step in the right direction? Perhaps, but no a cure-all.

In a perfect world legalization would come with strong help from the UN to reform the court system in Columbia. That is a third-party to make sure the courts are fair and the various growers and suppliers find it easier and safer to go to the court system. Of course this will never happen.

Separate question, I see great potential in this drug called "cocaine". If I were to set up a subsidary in Columbia commercially growing cocaine and cannabis, but for domestic use, would I legally be able to report those profits?
posted by geoff. at 8:24 AM on January 3, 2006

Legalization won't help Colombia much, because most of the product is shipped overseas where it's illegal. So, after legalization, will registered firms export the contraband? That doesn't make sense. Legalization in US and Europe is key. Ironically, if that does happen, maybe coca supply will come from within, thus severely weakening* the cartels and making legalization in Colombia a moot point.

*60-65% of Colombian cocaine is successfully exported outside South America. 20-25% is seized. 15-20% stays within South America. Unsure how much of that 15-20% stays within Colombia.
posted by daksya at 8:42 AM on January 3, 2006

It'll be a boon for their tourism industry. The export question is a good one, presumably cartels will still need to exist in order to export. but if everything inside the country is legalized and regulated, it should greatly reduce the violence.
posted by delmoi at 8:44 AM on January 3, 2006

delmoi : It'll be a boon for their tourism industry

Why? Europeans and Americans aren't going to go to Colombia to snort cocaine, not when there's no cocaine drought at home. Possession of personal use quantities does not carry criminal penalties.

but if everything inside the country is legalized and regulated, it should greatly reduce the violence

posted by daksya at 8:54 AM on January 3, 2006

Legalization would be a small step in the right direction, but I doubt if it is a step that can be taken alone.

Violence in Colombia is a multiple equations system. Besides the cartels, Colombia has a guerrilla movement that controls large portions of the country. Originally a left-wing revolutionary movement, nowadays this forces mix themselves freely with the drug lords forces. There are also right wing paramilitary groups, originally formed to fight the guerrilla but that nowadays serve as security forces for drug and land lords. And then there are the military, deeply corrupt, controlled in more or less equal shares by the central government, Washington, the cartels and the land lords.

Legalizing the production of a product that cannot be legally exported anywhere will not exactly boost the economy and will certainly invite economic sanctions or even military action from the US (one must notice that Evo Morales in Bolivia has stated in no uncertain terms that his government, while legalizing the growth of the coca plant, will continue to fight the production of cocaine).

As notice above, the control of cocaine production and distribution is only one factor in a very complex situation.
posted by nkyad at 9:05 AM on January 3, 2006 The violence is caused by competition over the profits generated by the extreme mark up OUTSIDE of Colombia. Within Colombia the drug has very little value. The only way to eliminate the gangs is to eliminate the sky high profit margin, which will only happen when prices in the marketplace (U.S. and Europe) fall to a point that makes profits very small. Otherwise, it's just like running rum over the Canadian border during one was making the money by selling in Canada.
posted by spicynuts at 9:06 AM on January 3, 2006

spicynuts : "Otherwise, it's just like running rum over the Canadian border during one was making the money by selling in Canada."

But you should acknowledge that the Canadians were making a lot of money selling a legal product to Americans who would then suffer the risk of taking the product to the US. The Canadian industry took a profit, the Canadian government collected taxes and nobody in Canada needed to worry about organized crime and such.
posted by nkyad at 9:17 AM on January 3, 2006

The alcohol industry was an established industry, both nations were developed and besides the US, no other large nation prohibited alcohol sales.

Capone controlled or at least was strongly connected to, several Canadian liquor suppliers. I suspect had prohibition gone on longer or the US was less vigilant in prosecuting crime bosses like Capone -- Canada would have had been infiltrated by crime.

Note in the US specific laws (such as distributors cannot own liquor stores) were put in place to prevent organized crime from running the liquor industry past prohibition. Such vigilance is needed, I suspect, in order for Columbia to successfully legalize cocaine. As others have stated the huge profits and illegal nature of exporting is also a large problem. Liquor in Canada would never have reached the large profits of cocaine.
posted by geoff. at 9:24 AM on January 3, 2006

Why? Europeans and Americans aren't going to go to Colombia to snort cocaine, not when there's no cocaine drought at home.

Just like Europeans and Americans don't go to Amsterdam when there's no weed drought at home? Of course, Amsterdam offers a lot besides that and I think it would be rather difficult to effectively center a tourism industry around getting really coked up for your entire vacation. I know someone from Ecaudor and he said he would often run across really spun tourists stumbling around the streets after going way overboard with their sudden access to lots of good coke for low prices.
posted by nTeleKy at 9:38 AM on January 3, 2006

If I had to go to Amsterdam to get drugs I wouldn't do drugs so much.
posted by wakko at 10:25 AM on January 3, 2006

Well, the point is, and the article mentions it, to legalize abroad. Between the lines, it's yet another wrong wrought by the developed countries on those which are less so. Just like sugar subsidies in Europe, cocoa duties or what have you.

Legalization is not a cure-all (geoff.), but it's a step in the right direction. LSD was legal in the beginnings, and how much wrong has it done? So was cocaine a century ago, and who cared? It's just the state meddling too much with the economy, creating huge opportunities for illegal profits and a whole underground system of violence and non-civilization.

If US invested all that effort in directing young people's lives towards more meaningful goals, all these drugs might as well be legalized (and regulated) worldwide, just like any other product. There could be a ban to take any drugs (including nicotine) in specific places, like the horeca industry and public buildings, and that's it, no?
posted by Laotic at 10:38 AM on January 3, 2006

Oh yes legalization is a step in the right direction. I'm more concerned about the political situation there (courts, local governments) and the corruption. In my opinion they don't have the resources to deal with it from within, which means they need outside help. Getting outside help means sacrificing legalization, which means more corruption from illegal practices, ad infinitum. I think it's a good experiment, they should at least try it, but I don't have that much hope it will solve much.
posted by geoff. at 11:45 AM on January 3, 2006

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