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Friday, July 30, 2021

Column: Crack is not whack

Legalizing marijuana in the U.S. would be extremely convenient, but entirely immoral. And yet, this difficult decision has now become the only one for Guatemala President Otto Perez after a great increase in drug trafficking through Mexico to the U.S.

Perez’s proposal comes as drug cartels have taken over large sections of Guatemala and other Central American countries, instigating some of the highest murder rates in the world.

A friend who attends UC Davis but currently resides in Guatemala, noticed that many more citizens have hired bodyguards that go so far as to follow their clients just outside to their mailboxes.

U.S. Congressional Research Service filed a report in May 2011 indicating that 95 percent of all cocaine entering the United States flows through Mexico and its waters, with 60 percent of it first transiting through Central America.

What’s more is that with these drug exchanges comes political transformation. Although many leaders of Latin American countries were elected and determined to crush organized crime with an iron fist, they are now conceding to dealers and democrats.

After just a month in office, Perez has reconsidered his platform on advocating tough military action against drug cartels to now maintaining the region’s strongest stance on drug legalization. His latest position aroused criticism from both Guatemalans and Americans over the weekend, where both argued for and against his authorizing the trade and consumption of all drugs.

El Salvador President Mauricio Funes fumes over (sorry, it was too easy) the lasting effect legalization will have over people’s perceptions and moral consciousness. “Imagine what it would mean,” Funes said. “Producing drugs would no longer be a crime, trafficking drugs would no longer be a crime and consuming drugs would no longer be a crime, so we would be converting the region in a paradise for drug consumption…”

One analyst surmised that Perez’s about-face could be an attempt to coerce the U.S. into providing military aid, currently prohibited by Congress because of past human rights abuses.

But Perez’s advocates said his change of mind came out of the growing realization that if demand keeps increasing (the UN estimates opiate use rose 35 percent worldwide from 1998 to 2008, cocaine by 27 percent and cannabis by 8.5 percent), the small country will never have the resources to fight the flow of illegal drugs from producers in South America to the world’s largest consumer market in the U.S.

“Are we going to be responsible to put up a war against the cartels if we don’t produce the drugs or consume the drugs? We’re just a corridor of illegality,” says Eduardo Stein, a former Guatemalan vice-president who chaired Perez’s transition team.

The watered down version of this global news story is that those fat blunts and dime bags stuffed in backpack pockets (you know who you are) have not only been accumulating dust bunnies, but also tension between conduit (Guatemala), conductor (U.S.) and constructor (Mexico). The United States’ absolute need for and addiction to drugs is proportionate to how deeply another country will suffer.

New evidence, however, suggests we may all be better off sinning, choosing the low road for the high one, and feeding, in every sense of the word, those addictions.

The Global Commission on Drug Policy claims that the war on drugs has actually failed and is more harmful than helpful. The Commission sides with Perez and other proponents of sanctioning drug users because anti-drug policy fuels organized crime, costing lives and millions of dollars.

Political leaders and public figures alike should not be so reticent as to admit what many confess privately: that evidence suggests our efforts to repress the world’s sweeping drug problems are but futile, and that those same efforts should be directed toward a battle that would be more easily won through legalization.

If you are still considering traveling to Guatemala after reading this column, contact CHELSEA MEHRA at cmehra@ucdavis.edu because she has already packed her bags.

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