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FROM THE EDITOR: Society needs to come to terms with failed drug war

It was sometime during the mid-1990s. The Mexican Peso was suffering a steep devaluation. It was about the time Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gotari was on his way out of office in 1994.

The incoming administration of Ernesto Zedillo was facing a fiscal crisis, and one quick solution to help stabilize that nation’s faltering economy was to work with Mexican drug cartels, convince them to keep their billions at home in Mexican banks, an effort to avert a more serious fiscal crisis. It worked.

This deal with the devil, of course, had a payoff for the drug barons — it meant an already pretty ineffective government turning a blind eye to the growing power of the cartels, which by that time were running smooth, multi-billion dollar, international smuggling operations with tentacles in the world’s global financial markets already. Sure, there was a little bloodletting here and there. The bags of decapitated heads, bodies dissolved in barrels of acid and boys and men hung from highway overpasses, were not yet upon us, though the Cocaine Cowboys of the 1980s in Miami were a solid prelude.

How far have we come since then? Not very. This country is being flooded with illegal drugs, despite the hundreds of billions of dollars spent to fend off the physical and spiritual onslaught.

Blame Mexico and its cartels all you want, but this country’s appetite for illegal drugs is insatiable. Prisons and jails are filled with drug users. Court dockets overflow with drug cases. Visit Pahrump’s own drug court on Monday afternoons to see what I’m saying. The courtroom almost overflows with bodies, mostly young, but more than a few older people, too. Nevada and the Southwest, friends and neighbors and loved ones are all deeply impacted by the nation’s drug problem.

Like drunks, druggies usually have plenty of underlying issues to their behavior. Some just want to get high and maybe it all starts out that way, but look deeper and the drugs and alcohol are mostly symptoms of other problems. Poverty, stupidity, immaturity, depression, emotional abuse, neglect, exposure, genetics, you name it, and any one of these can lead to addiction.

Plenty of people grow up and out of this murky underworld, survive it with a few tales about their wild days. Just as many though seem to succumb to it; they die or end up involved in the sort of drug-fueled criminal behavior that destroys their lives. These people literally trade their lives for highs.

Society can’t seem to shake the disease of addiction, not with all of its might and material wealth.

Some countries allow open drug use with a lot of stigma but limited social problems as a result. Some countries will put you to death for selling drugs. The United States will coddle you the first few times until you get so bold as to get caught with a few pounds of something or dare hurt an innocent person.

No matter what the consequences, stigmatization in the Netherlands, death in Malaysia — that country will execute you over seven ounces of weed — or three hots and a cot, and maybe some prison rape in the U.S., people in ALL of these countries STILL use illegal drugs, every day!

Recently, the medical marijuana debate has poked through Nevada’s rough exterior, with actual action toward allowing real dispensaries, so that real people can get real relief for real problems.

Used to be a felony if you got caught with so much as a pot seed in this state. Those darn casinos; it was okay to whore, get drunk, maybe skim a little off the top in the count room, go bury someone in the desert, but don’t you dare get high!

Times have changed. For the better. I’m all for that.

But as unpopular as this is going to sound, even a little contradictory — chalk it up to my selfish American nature — I am coming around to believing that all drugs should be legal.

Legalize it all. Sure, there will be some problems as a result, but what do we already have, small drug problems? Is our society accomplishing one damn thing with all of its money in courts and cops and prisons? Not in my opinion. Not a damn thing has been accomplished since Nancy Reagan told all of us to just say no back in 1982. Nothing, except a lot of misery for a lot of people, mostly people marginalized by this society in the first place, the most troubling aspect, but right on par with our nation’s dark history.

This country’s drug problem is so bad in fact that whole other countries in our own hemisphere have been upended in the scramble to sell us rich Americans dope. People are being slaughtered in droves to sell your kid a cheap high. Slaughtered. Your kid gets high, but that Mexican mother’s kid, that Colombian mother’s kid, that Venezuelan mother’s kid just got dead.

It’s just become too much. This country has got to be strong enough to recognize that our drug problem requires a total revolution in thinking.

Legalize it all. Privatize it. Suck the allure of the illegality out of the drug culture. Sap the money from the killers. Educate the masses. Love and treat our suffering neighbors.

There simply is no other way forward in my view.

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