CNN shows Folly, Injustice of Prohibition on Cocaine

CNN is showing a new documentary on the Colombian cocaine industry. The two-part video is about 25 minutes long. It’s quite interesting and worth a watch if you’re concerned about the unintended consequences of the prohibition on certain drugs.

They only Catch the Harmless Ones

In part 1, we learn about Michael, a French citizen who got caught trying to smuggle cocaine out of Bogota on a flight to France. He had it strapped to his legs, which in my opinion is just stupid. This guy was naive. Of course they caught this guy. He was harmless. But they can’t catch the guys who are clever.

“Nothing to Do”

Michael got a six-year sentence in a rather primitive prison where he gets to lug huge bags of agricultural items on his back every few days. When asked about prison life in Colombia, he said “there’s nothing to do in here.” This really irritates me. Imprison someone, maybe, but bore them to death for six years without giving them a chance to do something constructive? That’s unspeakable.

Cocaine Prohibition Causes Amazon Deforestation

We also see a Colombian National Police team fly over a jungle region in the south of Colombia where there is significant deforestation. What’s in the deforested sections? Coca crops. Why? This question is not touched on, but the answer is obvious. Since southern Colombia is sparsely-populated, vast and not completely under control of the government, it’s a good place to do illegal stuff. If they could legally grow coca and make cocaine out of it, they wouldn’t need to deforest the Amazon.

Impromptu Cocaine Labs Poison the Amazon

Add to that the fact that these impromptu cocaine labs poison the pristine Amazon environment by dumping chemicals used in the cocaine manufacturing process. It’s an outrage. Governments would not accept a welfare policy that incentivized people to chop down trees and pollute a pristine environment, so why does our common narcotics policy include that?

Cops are Militarized

What’s more, sending police on anti-narcotics missions far outside the cities where they may face heavy armed resistance, turns cops into soldiers. As we have learned in the US, this can lead to police brutality. Having spent some time in Colombia, I can tell you it also results in a dearth of cops in the cities. Impunity is commonplace. These cops need to be walking a beat or responding to 911 calls.

Cocaine Prohibition Enriches Marxist Rebels

Finally, the documentary claims that the FARC, a Marxist rebel group that has terrorized Colombia for 50 years, make $50-70 million dollars per year from the prohibition on drugs. That buys a lot of weapons and pays for a lot of guerrillas, which quickly turn into kidnappings, infrastructure destruction, political assassinations and much worse.

Prohibition of Cocaine Precursors also Fails

In part 2, we watch police examine, and then burn, an abandoned drug lab. They note that it’s well-supplied, even in the middle of an enormous jungle. This alone speaks volume because the Colombian government makes vigorous efforts to control the sale of cocaine precursors. Clearly, the onerous regulations fail miserably – only inconveniencing those outside the prohibited drugs business.

Hundreds of Colombian Police Killed Annually

Hundreds of otherwise upstanding Colombian police are killed annually due to the prohibition on cocaine. It’s scandalous to sacrifice the lives of so many good and honorable young men on such a stupid cause. Just as the alcohol prohibition failed in the US, so are cocaine and other substance prohibitions failing miserably.

And the US trains these policeman who burn down drug labs. That’s your tax money at work.

Clever Smugglers Get Mules Through Daily

Also in this segment, we get deeper into the process of how “mules” smuggle cocaine out of Colombia in their stomachs. CNN sends someone in undercover as a potential mule and we learn that the cocaine is packed into “almonds”; small cylindrical shapes covered in latex and denture wax. Of course, they’re at least 2-3 times larger than any almond I’ve seen.

Mules Carry 1 Kilo and Earn $6,000 Euros

On the morning of a flight, the mule will ingest around 100 of these “almonds”, which is about 1 kilo of cocaine. They’re earn around 6,000 Euros. They take anti-diarrheal tablets, such as Lomotil and Pangetan, to keep from passing the “almonds” too soon.

The recruiter claimed that mules go to Europe daily, and we see a well-dressed gentleman who successfully smuggles his cargo.

It’s Time to end the Prohibition on Cocaine

As this short documentary clearly demonstrates, clever cocaine producers and smugglers operate successfully. Smugglers know how to get their product to markets in the US and Europe. Cocaine producers can just run away when the cops show up. But the cost to society is enormous. From dead cops to pollution and deforestation of the Amazon, good people suffer enormously because of this failed policy.

Even in the best case, it’s only the naive and harmless that fall into law enforcement’s net. The prohibition on alcohol in the US failed. So is the prohibition on cocaine failing. It’s time to end this idiocy.

27 October 2008