Drug Policy

Spurious Anti-Prop. 19 Arguments: Overseas Edition


Although on closer examination, you don't really have to cross any major bodies of water to get to Colombia, where President Juan Manuel Santos has taken to echoing American critics who oppose Prop. 19 because of the state-federal legal mayhem that's likely to ensue if the ballot measure passes next week. Santos says Prop. 19 will create a similar discrepancy on an international scale. Indeed, he argues that imprisoning Colombians for growing a product that's legal in California is no way to fight a drug war:

According to Santos, a legalization of the sale, transport and consumption of marijuana in the state would be inexplicable to a Colombian farmer who is criminally charged if he cultivates the drug.

"I said this to the United Nations, because I didn't invent this, that they are asking me if there is a way to explain that to a Colombian farmer who we throw in jail if producing marijuana, while at the same time it is legal there. This will result in a global discussion about the focus we've had in the war on drugs," the president said in an interview with Caracol Radio.

This would be typical pro-drug war pablum if it weren't for the fact that Santos is arguably held hostage by the very prohibitionist policies he's echoing here. Colombia has received $2.7 billion in U.S. military aid since 2006, largely in response to the threat that Venezuela-backed narco-terrorists have posed to the U.S.-aligned drug warriors in the Colombian government. Colombia is in something of a double-bind as far as the drug war is concerned: The government has made billions off of U.S. prohibitionism, and U.S. foreign aid all but saved Colombia from descending into failed state-like chaos in the mid-90s. But the government is also genuinely threatened by insurgents who are underwritten by the trade in illegal drugs. U.S. drug prohibition both imperils and bolsters a government like Colombia's, which justifiably fears the lack of a "united stance" in facing down the very organizations that threaten its legitimacy and existence. 

The problem is similar in Mexico. The government has to assert itself against the cartels in order to maintain its territorial and even civic legitimacy. But it can't do this without the help of the country whose policies gave rise to the drug war in the first place. You can criticize Santos for failing to point out the inherently paradoxical nature of a drug war in which he is an active participant. But with the remnants of the FARC camped out only a couple hundred miles from Caracas, you can sort of understand how he can feel threatened by a possible change in the U.S.'s attitude towards illegal drugs.

Which is all the more reason to support drug war-busting efforts like Prop. 19. It won't end the absurd, untenable status quo that simultaneously sustains and endangers countries like Colombia and Mexico. But it's an essential first step, even if it will bewilder the occasional Colombian peasant farmer.

NEXT: Reasontv: Porker of The Month for October 2010 - Debbie Wasserman Shultz!

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  1. BTW, The Economist endorsed “yes” on Prop. 19 recently.

  2. How much of the Colombian drug war is aimed at pot, as opposed to cocaine? As long as the war on coke continues unabated, won’t the situation in Colombia be pretty much unchanged?

    1. Yeah, to my knowledge there is essentially no Columbian weed being sold on our streets at this point anyway. I’m not really sure how our marijuana policies would have any effect on Columbian drug trafficking.

      1. Prop 19 would decrease demand for coke through substitution.

        1. imo weed is a pretty poor subsitute for coke.

          although a good one for alcohol.

          1. IMO coke is disgusting and no substitute for the doob.

  3. Help a grad student by taking a survey about political attitudes

    I am a graduate student at University of Illinois at Chicago conducting a study on political attitudes. I am looking for volunteers to take a brief survey (about 15 min). All responses are entirely anonymous. To take the survey, simply follow the link below.

    Additional information about the study and contact information for the principle investigators is provided on the first page of the survey.


    Thank you for your time.

    1. Go assfuck your mother.

    2. Let’s spam the shit out of this douchebag.

      1. Uncertain/Don’t Know

        Not at all


        If I get bored tonight, (s)he’s going to find an assload of young, black, gay-hating Democrats.

        1. Take it easy. The kid’s just trying to get through school. Why would you want to be a dick and screw with responses?

          1. If you solicit random internet participation, I can only assume you’re actively seeking dicks who screw with responses.

            1. Especially if your survey asks if you’d be willing to violate the civil rights of people who disagree with you.

              1. Of all the captcha-free comment sections on the internet, why the hell would you spam H&R? He’s lucky he wasn’t raped by bigfoot. Or worse. If SugarFree gets anywhere near the survey, that thing will crash from HTML tag overload.

  4. You say potato,
    And I say Oh no, no!

    (T)he Institute of Medicine, the health arm of the National Academy of Sciences, recommended that the U.S. Department of Agriculture stop participants of the federal Women, Infants and Children program, known as WIC, from buying potatoes with federal dollars. The institute also called for the USDA-backed school lunch program to limit use of potatoes.

    Under an interim rule, the USDA agreed to bar WIC participants from buying potatoes with their federal dollars. Potatoes are the only vegetable not allowed. Next year, the agency will roll out a final rule on the WIC program, which last year served 9.3 million children and pregnant and breast-feeding women considered at risk for malnutrition.

    The WIC program is a supplemental food program, and the determination was made that consumption of white potatoes was already adequate, said Christine Stencel, spokeswoman for the Institute of Medicine.

    “The recommendation was made to encourage consumption of other fruits and vegetables,” she said.


    1. See, anti-Irish racism is alive and well!

  5. This guy just wants to keep his power. He knows if it becomes legal here in Cali, the rest of the US may follow, and the cartels will erode his power because they will become legitimate businesses as opposed to the bogeyman he can claim to crusade (ha!) against.

  6. I don’t get the logic behind the prohibition arguments from Central and South America politicians. They are claiming that that the illegal drug trade is funding cartels that are causing all sorts of destabilizing problems in their respective countries. So one would think that a reversal in the prohibition of said drugs would bring down the amount of funds going to the cartels, thus lessening their ability to cause problems for the government.

    Instead they want to keep the prohibition, which is what’s causing the problem in the first place.

    Sense, this does not make.

    1. Because any politician of any influence in the aforementioned Central and South American countries is getting some grease from those bad-evil-wrong drug cartels.

      American drug prohibition is their retirement fund.

    2. Alternatively, they are dependent on Uncle Sugar Daddy to fight the narcos, and thus will say whatever he wants to keep that support (in this case, “no on Prop 19”). Consider it a paid political endorsement.

  7. I don’t get the logic behind the prohibition arguments from Central and South America politicians.

    Here’s the logic:

    You give me $2.7B in aid and I’ll champion any idea you want.

    Especially if it gives me access to high tech weaponry and military training. That’s useful for keeping me in power and I can show them off to visiting foreign leaders.

    1. Bingo: parrot the DEA and you get the monies. If there were no cartels, what would this asshole do?

      1. He’d still cry us a river. Regardless of the situation, it is all about the money – with the bottom line being that whatever the issue, it’s the pendejo NorteAmericanos fault. I’m not too concerned over Juan Valdez’s supposed moral quandry over pot, cause Juan ain’t messed with the bulky, low profit margin pot game for quite some time. The coke is where it’s at for the fashionable narcotraficante, and has been for quite some time. Let the pinche Mejicanos shoot each other up over that shit, amigo. . .

  8. Jesus said, Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. (Matthew 7:12).

    I know I would not want my child sent to jail with the sexual predators, or my aging parents to have their house confiscated and sold by the police, over a little marijuana.

    We can change the world when we vote.

    1. Amazing how people who love manufactured social mores and traditional values often forget the actual advice of Jesus, which is anathema to so much of our criminal justice system’s doings.

      1. Yes, I whole heartedly agree.

  9. The poor farmer is just like all of us that want an end to this bull shit drug war. The problem is nither country’s polititions people are behind them but they are still addicted to the old DRUG WAR MONEY

  10. How do you explain to the average US citizen that is locked up for having a few joints in his pocket that this is activity is totally decriminalized in places like Portugal?

  11. As I don’t watch local tv I was I bit surprised when the owner of my local watering hole brought this up. In fact, it wasn’t until I got home and fired up H&R that I realized the basis for his comments. Which were, to wit, that 1) Colombia (and please, Colombia with an ‘o’) would start exporting large quantities of MJ and that people would stop growing coffee, or something to that effect, and 2) the usual MJ is an entry drug and would lead to other drugs, ie coke.

    Well, this lead to one beer after another (Coste?a) and I went through the usual arguments but to no avail. No votes for Prop 19 in Guayabal.

    Well, I don’t pretend to know what Santos was thinking, other than the usual $$$ that Uncle Sam throws this way. But I sure hope the proposition passes and lets enjoy the ensuing circus.

  12. Tough noogies on them.

  13. How much of the marijuana used in California comes from Colombia, again?

    So we should not reform marijuana laws in California because we wouldnt want people arrested for drug violations in other countries to feel confused?

    If you think stoners are stupid, just wait until you hear an argument from a prohibitionist.

  14. Keep it illegal and send me $$!!!$$ billions $$$$ to equip my military to ramp up our the War on Drugs.

  15. The absolute best spurious arguments against prop 19 are coming from avowed marijuana smokers and growers, most of them California residents: http://www.rollitup.org/legalization-marijuana/

  16. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts.

  17. The Isthmus of Panama might look connected to Colombia on a map, but there is in fact no passable road through the preserved rainforest that abuts the Panamanian-Colombian border.

    So unless you plan to go all Bear Grylls on us, you’re either flying or floating “over seas” to get to Colombia from Norteam?rica.

    /I can out-pedant your intern any day, Nick & Matt
    //though I do like this one, his prose is springy

  18. Carcacas is the capital of Venezuela; Bogota is the capital of Colombia.

  19. Carcacas is the capital of Venezuela; Bogota is the capital of Colombia.

  20. While bullets fly into El Paso and bodies pile up in the streets of Juarez, and thugs with gold-plated AK-47s and albino tiger pens are beheading federal officials and dissolving their torsos in vats of acid, here are some facts concerning the peaceful situation in Holland. –Please save a copy and use it as a reference when debating prohibitionists who claim the exact opposite concerning reality as presented here below:

    Cannabis-coffee-shops are not only restricted to the Capital of Holland, Amsterdam. They can be found in more than 50 cities and towns across the country. At present, only the retail sale of five grams is tolerated, so production remains criminalized. The mayors of a majority of the cities with coffeeshops have long urged the national government to also decriminalize the supply side.

    A poll taken earlier this year indicated that some 50% of the Dutch population thinks cannabis should be fully legalized while only 25% wanted a complete ban. Even though 62% of the voters said they had never taken cannabis. An earlier poll also indicated 80% opposing coffee shop closures.

    It is true that the number of coffee shops has fallen from its peak of around 2,500 throughout the country to around 700 now. The problems, if any, concern mostly marijuana-tourists and are largely confined to cities and small towns near the borders with Germany and Belgium. These problems, mostly involve traffic jams, and are the result of cannabis prohibition in neighboring countries. Public nuisance problems with the coffee shops are minimal when compared with bars, as is demonstrated by the rarity of calls for the police for problems at coffee shops.

    While it is true that lifetime and past-month use rates did increase back in the seventies and eighties, the critics shamefully fail to report that there were comparable and larger increases in cannabis use in most, if not all, neighboring countries which continued complete prohibition.

    According to the World Health Organization only 19.8 percent of the Dutch have used marijuana, less than half the U.S. figure.
    In Holland 9.7% of young adults (aged 15 to 24) consume soft drugs once a month, comparable to the level in Italy (10.9%) and Germany (9.9%) and less than in the UK (15.8%) and Spain (16.4%). Few transcend to becoming problem drug users (0.44%), well below the average (0.52%) of the compared countries.

    The WHO survey of 17 countries finds that the United States has the highest usage rates for nearly all illegal substances.

    In the U.S. 42.4 percent admitted having used marijuana. The only other nation that came close was New Zealand, another bastion of get-tough policies, at 41.9 percent. No one else was even close. The results for cocaine use were similar, with the U.S. again leading the world by a large margin.

    Even more striking is what the researchers found when they asked young adults when they had started using marijuana. Again, the U.S. led the world, with 20.2 percent trying marijuana by age 15. No other country was even close, and in Holland, just 7 percent used marijuana by 15 — roughly one-third of the U.S. figure.

    In 1998, the US Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey claimed that the U.S. had less than half the murder rate of the Netherlands. That’s drugs, he explained. The Dutch Central Bureau for Statistics immediately issued a special press release explaining that the actual Dutch murder rate is 1.8 per 100,000 people, or less than one-quarter the U.S. murder rate.

    Here’s a very recent article by a psychiatrist from Amsterdam, exposing Drug Czar misinformation. Just put the following sentence in GOOGLE: “Amsterdam Psychiatrist Blasts US Drug Czars for Distortions, Fear-Mongering”

    Now let’s look at a comparative analysis of the levels of cannabis use in two cities: Amsterdam and San Francisco, which was published in the American Journal of Public Health May 2004,

    The San Francisco prevalence survey showed that 39.2% of the population had used cannabis. This is 3 times the prevalence found in the Amsterdam sample

    Source: Craig Reinarman, Peter D.A. Cohen and Hendrien L. Kaal, The Limited Relevance of Drug Policy.

    Moreover, 51% of people who had smoked cannabis in San Francisco reported that they were offered heroin, cocaine or amphetamine the last time they purchased cannabis. In contrast, only 15% of Amsterdam residents who had ingested marijuana reported the same conditions. Prohibition is the ‘Gateway Policy’ that forces cannabis seekers to buy from criminals who gladly expose them to harder drugs.

    The indicators of death, disease and corruption are even much better in the Netherlands than in Sweden for instance, a country praised by UNODC for its so called successful drug policy.

    Check out YouTube and watch Antonio Maria Costa doing his level best to avoid discussing the success of Dutch drug policy.

    The Netherlands also provides heroin on prescription under tight regulation to about 1500 long-term heroin addicts for whom methadone maintenance treatment has failed.

    The Dutch justice ministry announced, last year, the closure of eight prisons and cut 1,200 jobs in the prison system. A decline in crime has left many cells empty. There’s simply not enough criminals.

  21. Jesus said, Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. (Matthew 7:12).

    I know I would not want my child sent to jail with the sexual predators, or my aging parents to have their house confiscated and sold by the police, over a little marijuana.

    We can change the world when we vote.

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