Monday, August 01, 2016

Trying to Understand Supporters of the War on Drugs

I recently made a comment on Boying Pimentel's article The rest of the world knows war on drugs doesn’t work, commending the author for a well-written article.  Little did I know that I would eventually engage in a "spirited" debate with a commenter named brightside.  Here it is:

Me:  Very well said, Mr. Pimentel.   

brightside:  What was well said? Are you just kidding or just like Boying? Out of touch with reality? What a waste of journalistic space.

Me:  Hello Mr. Brightside. Thanks for the comment. The reason why I said the article is well written because he presents his arguments well. He gives reasons why he thinks the war on drugs is a failure. These reasons include: 1) other countries such as Colombia have been fighting this war for 40+ years with little to show for it, 2) the drug war has created a black market for drugs that has only enriched drug lords, 3) mostly poor people are the ones being incarcerated (or killed) for low-level and non-violent drug offenses, 4) there are other more effective alternatives such as treatment, rehabilitation and even decriminalization of drug use and possession. So that's why I think its a well-written article. Of course, that's just my opinion.   

brightside :  Good you know it's just your opinion and Boying's too.

Me: No, I don't claim to be an expert on drug policy. Like Mr. Pimentel, we just see what we see and make our own conclusions, like everybody. For a drug policy expert, I would suggest listening to experts like Dr. Gabor Mate or Dr. Carl hart, a medical professional/professor from Columbia University in the US, who has studied the issue for 20+ years. You can find Dr. Hart's talk on drug policy when he visited the Philippines on the internet.

brightside: Not because it did not work in some parts of the world, more specifically in Columbia, means it will not work somewhere else. No amount of effort will matter in Columbia, because illegal drugs and its accompanying corruption have reached the highest levels of their gov't, the police and the military. Efforts, especially in the past, and up to now are more of lip service, also Columbia and other countries alike have very few other products to export and sustained their economy. Not because someone from a US university studied the matter or said so, will be taken as universally true, a colonial mentality syndrome. . . is it? 

Me: It is not just Prof. Hart who calls for a different approach. There's Pastor Pat Robertson, former Mexican president Vicente Fox and former US president Jimmy Carter, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. And it is not just Colombia where a war on drugs has not worked. It hasn't worked in the US, Mexico or Europe. Drug prohibition just doesn't have a very good track record. In the US, they realized this and are now allowing states to legalize or decriminalize cannabis, for example. That takes away some of the power from the drug cartels. In Switzerland, they have done programs like harm reduction. In Portugal, they have decriminalized all drugs. In 2004, they tried the drug war in Thailand, pretty much what the Philippines is doing now. Initially, it decreased drug use, but then drug use went up again anyway. Drug use has gone down in those countries that have tried a different approach (ie Portugal, Switzerland and US states like Colorado). I agree with you, that yes, its possible, that a more militant approach to the drug problem could work in the Philippines. But history has shown otherwise.

What do you think?  Who made a more convincing argument?

Photo credit:  Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition


DaPHne LAura said...

I believe both of you make compelling arguments because the last time I checked we are still a democracy hence anybody + his/her aunt can express their opinions. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to drug policy, we all want the best for our nation, hopefully a drugs free society where peace and order reigns. :D

Wil said...

Yes, we all want what's best for our country, but I don't think its possible to have a drug free society. At the risk of having 'colonial mentality' (hehe), I'm going to bring up Dr. Carl Hart once again who said, "People will always use drugs. They always have used drugs. We must learn to live with this fact." Source: