I'd Like to Give the World a Coca

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Some shocking sanity emanating from Peru, where President Alan Garcia is recommending that cocaine trafficking be combatted by… legalizing coca cultivation.

He added that he believed the best way to fight illegal coca plantations was to open new markets so that Peru's land could be used to produce coca for legal purposes.

Mr Garcia's culinary suggestions did not stop at a simple salad.

"You can put coca leaves in your roast dinners, in the oven, you can make many things which it will give a special taste to."

Garcia to be replaced by CIA-backed coup in 1,2…

(Via Alex Massie.)

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  1. Garcia to be replaced by CIA-backed coup in 1,2…

    Heh.

    Anyway, I think we’ve gotten past such crude methods. I hope.

  2. Not.
    The drug trade funds terrorism, remember?
    Do a line, kill a baby.

  3. Any call to legalize coca cultivation without recognizing that all the money to be made is in supplying the US with cocaine, is still failing to deal with the problem.

    Also, the bit about Garcia being replaced by CIA-backed coup (should you have counted down? i.e. 5.. 4.. 3..) It’s funny, but don’t think it can’t happen. The one thing you can be sure of; No way will the US ever allow a legal market in coca. We’ll start with the usual carrots and sticks (mostly aid money) but if all else fails, we won’t hesitate to go black ops.

  4. “Any call to legalize coca cultivation without recognizing that all the money to be made is in supplying the US with cocaine, is still failing to deal with the problem.”

    Not Peru’s problem.

  5. joe,
    How is it not Peru’s problem? Their economy is dominated by a black market, and their government is forced to choose between being a US puppet and being a US adversary.

  6. The one thing you can be sure of; No way will the US ever allow a legal market in coca.

    Haven’t you heard? China, India and the European Union continue to grow. Each one has a large population than the U.S. and a growing knowledge sector and an increasing appreciation for free(or free-er) market capitalism.

    In 5-10 years, America won’t be the biggest consumer and we won’t be able to impose our will as exclusively because there will be others looking for opportunities to squeeze us out.

    Being that many of the countries with severe drug laws do so – in part – to cater to the U.S., look for some countries to start adopting more rational policies.

  7. I recently travelled to Peru, and I got to try coca tea. It blows coffee out of the water.

    Actually, in the highlands coca cultivation is legal and common. The leaves are chewed by the natives. It makes a nice stimulant and is also supposed to help with altitude sickness. It is only illegal to extract the cocaine.

  8. I suspect President Garcia reads the newspapers; we’re a little preoccupied untangling our puppet strings elsewhere. As for the “money to be made,” the returns to the growers are pretty low. Alternative legal uses could likely compete for the leaf crop.

  9. Warren,

    If Peru legalized cocaine, presto, they’re economy isn’t dominated by a black market, but by a legal, regulated one. Bye bye traffickers’ militias, hello tax-paying corporations. Bye bye culture of lawbreaking, hello rule of law.

  10. I think the interesting aspect of this story is that “responsible” parties are actually speaking publicly about legalization.

    This is not the first such story and I will not be surprised when we hear more.

    Bill Walsh

  11. joe,

    An important part of that coca economy would involve smuggling it into countries where it is illegal, which is also where most of the value add comes in. The traffickers’ militias won’t go away, they’ll just focus on the smuggling end of the business. This would probably be good for the farmers, since they won’t have to be directly involved in the black market anymore, but as long as cocaine’s value multiplies once you get it across the US border the problems will persist.

  12. Matt XIV,

    Those “smugglers” would be operating legally in Peru. They’re no different than anyone else loading crates onto a boat.

    What am I missing here?

  13. I guarantee that if Peru did legalize cocaine, it would be bitchslapped with an embargo within 12 hours. This is why it will never happen until the US takes a different stance on drug policy.

  14. Joe, I’m for drug legalization as much as the next Reason commenter, but for as long as an export remains illegal in its destination country, the exporting country has to deal with the ramifications of smuggling. It’s not right, fair, or good policy, but it’s the ugly truth. We’re the cause of the problem, but it’s still Peru’s problem.

  15. Josh,

    Please expand on that. Do you mean that morally Peru has a responsibility to deal with the problem, or that there would continue to be the problems associated with a huge black market causing harm in Peru? If the latter, how? Why? What?

  16. joe, I’m going to guess that those crates won’t be plainly labeled with an accurate description of the contents, and loaded onto the boat in broad daylight. Even if, hypothetically, it were legal to do so in Peru, you know darn well that somebody would be watching the port, with or without Peruvian permission.

    So those crates would have to be loaded by an underground business that operates out of public view. And then many of the same pathologies of the black market would present themselves.

  17. “Mr Garcia said his country would continue to fight cocaine production by controlling the sale of chemicals like ether and kerosene used in the process of refining cocaine.”

    Great. Kerosene will become the new Sudafed.

  18. joe, I’m going to guess that those crates won’t be plainly labeled with an accurate description of the contents, and loaded onto the boat in broad daylight. Even if, hypothetically, it were legal to do so in Peru, you know darn well that somebody would be watching the port, with or without Peruvian permission.

    So those crates would have to be loaded by an underground business that operates out of public view. And then many of the same pathologies of the black market would present themselves.

    Discretion and privacy with customer information are inherently pathology-inducing? Do bookstores and websites like Amazon engage in a black market-like trade in books because they don’t make details about any customer’s purchases available to anyone who asks – and they sell books that might be banned in some repressive regimes?

  19. Eric-

    Amazon might not go around advertising who gets which book, but they don’t have to hide the fact that a truck was loaded with packages containing books, for fear that somebody might interdict the shipment of books at its destination. OTOH, a boat loaded with products that are legal in Peru but illegal elsewhere would have to take far greater precautions, precautions that might just result in criminal gangs operating in Peru.

  20. Thoreau – I find that hard to buy. Are there examples of criminal gangs running rampant in, say, countries that allowed the production of alcoholic beverages during Prohibition in the US?

  21. Eric-

    I don’t know, but I guess it would depend on the portion of the country’s production was destined for export.

    You can’t just load a boat up with products that are legal in Peru but not elsewhere, produce all of the usual paperwork for loading a boat with merchandise (records for the buyers and sellers, for the insurance companies, etc., not to mention customs and other things that libertarians might have problems with) and sail it to a country where that product is illegal.

    So shipments out of the country will have to be handled by businesses that don’t operate via the usual channels. And they can’t generate contracts or other paperwork to handle all affairs on the Peruvian side of the supply chain. Otherwise that paperwork might just migrate from a Peruvian office to a US courtroom, by fair means or foul. So if they can’t produce enforceable contracts or paperwork for export operations, they’ll have to handle it all underground.

    Given that exports will have to be handled by gangs, the next question to ask is the relative size of the domestic market and the export market. If the export market is significantly larger than the domestic market, then it’s safe to say that you’ll still have a big gang problem.

  22. joe,
    I completely support Peru (or any country, city or hamlet anywhere for that matter) creating a legal drug market.

    The part of the equation you leave off is the reaction from the US. The fist thing we’ll do is put an immediate end to all aid, then we’ll promise hundreds of millions in more aid if they reverse their policy. Then we’ll call for UN sanctions, possibly imposing a blockade unilaterally. If necessary we’ll topple the regime militarily, possibly with our own troops, or maybe paying someone else to do it (and in ten years we’ll have to knock off that regime).

  23. You can’t just load a boat up with products that are legal in Peru but not elsewhere, produce all of the usual paperwork for loading a boat with merchandise (records for the buyers and sellers, for the insurance companies, etc., not to mention customs and other things that libertarians might have problems with) and sail it to a country where that product is illegal.

    But Thoreau, that doesn’t imply that anything covert needs to take place in Peru. For that matter, Peru could make the pretense of of banning direct shipment of any export products to countries in which they’re illegal. The arrangements and smuggling could happen other countries entirely.

    Going back to Prohibition – to my knowledge, all the criminal gangs were in the US, and none were even headquartered in countries where the production of liquor was legal. They could buy that stuff and smuggle it, after all.

  24. Or, to put it another way…Someone buys coca in Peru, all above-board, and ships it to somewhere else. Maybe the ship stops in international waters and offload onto other ships, maybe they go to some other country and make arrangements. The point is that the illicit activity takes place outside of Peru.

  25. There is already a legal coca market in the Chapare section of Bolivia, farmers are limited to I think 15 HA only and cannot process into cocaine. This was in place before Morales took over.

  26. I understand everything that you guys are saying. But the bottom line is that no matter how legal it is to sell something in country A, no business in country A can put up a big sign that says “We export to country B!” if exporting to country B is illegal. Well, they can, I guess, and maybe the authorities of country A will even let them get away with it.

    But if they don’t want somebody quietly observing each departing shipment and making notes, they’ll need to have a “business that we don’t talk about, capisce?” A business that doesn’t keep paperwork and certainly doesn’t put its contracts in writing.

    Once you do that, there’s going to be a gangster element involved. It may not be as bad as it would be if their business was also banned in country A, but it will be there.

  27. But if they don’t want somebody quietly observing each departing shipment and making notes, they’ll need to have a “business that we don’t talk about, capisce?”

    Or maybe they don’t worry about it on the shipping end and let the recipients in country C worry about how they cover up getting it into country B.

  28. OK, but then country C will have a gangster problem.

  29. Thoreau – very likely. Peru is basically offloading prohibition and its problems on other countries, which I don’t see as unfair.

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