If the entire population of Ripon was killed in 2010 because of drug violence every politician in the four corners of the United States would be getting the Full Monty from voters to do something.
There were 15,273 deaths in Mexico – almost exactly Ripon’s population – killed in drug-related violence in 2010. Many were simply innocent bystanders. All were killed to protect one of the most lucrative enterprises on earth which is keeping American drug users supplied.
We can say this isn’t our problem, but it is. It is terrorism, pure and simple, committed to protect profits of an illegal activity that exists due to American demand.
There are 17,000 people each year in the United States whose deaths are attributed to non-legal drugs. That is out of 37,485 drug-induced deaths overall in 2009 based on Center for Disease Control statistics. That means 20,000 deaths were caused by misuse of legal drugs.
We have a drug problem. And just like when one neighbor has a drug problem it impacts the whole neighborhood. Such is the case with the United States and Mexico.
Obviously legalizing drugs isn’t a magical pill, if you will. It will do nothing to alleviate the family-related issues such as poverty and even thefts required to keep people supplied. It may not accelerate the problem either.
Free drugs might indeed reduce some of the crime. It is also clear that the war on drugs as it is now being executed isn’t working. At the same time the amount of gang-related homicides attributed to the drug trade varies wildly from urban area to urban area going from 5 percent of gang-related killings to almost 25 percent. That underscores the fact drugs aren’t the major source of gang violence – something all Americans tend to be hyper sensitive to – although drugs may provide them with their main source of income.
So what do we do to reduce drug violence in Mexico, crime and blight in the United States associated with drug use?
Build more prisons? Provide guns as the federal government did to those working for drug cartels in a warped plan to lay an argument that gun control will somehow stop drug violence? Make all drugs legal? Have the government provide free drugs to users? Make drug laws tougher? Make the penalties for drug use weaker?
Unless you are at either extreme of the spectrum on the drug debate the answer lies somewhere in between. The most pragmatic approach – and ultimately the one that will be the most effective – will come from a multitude of conflicting solutions.
Treat illegal drugs for the poison and cancerous blight they can be but at the same time give individuals more freedom with caveats. Severely sharpen the penalties for anyone who accepts payment for drugs or provides them to anyone under 18 years or age while weakening the penalties for those who posses and use drugs.
Give businesses, insurance companies, and other carte blanche to discriminate against those who consume and abuse “controlled” substances. You don’t have to rent to a drug user. You don’t have to retain a drug user in employment. You don’t have to provide health coverage payment for illness a client has that was induced primarily by abuse of a controlled substance.
Take a libertarian view. Individuals can throw their lives away but everyone else who chooses not to partake doesn’t have to pay for it.
Sure it would be rough for the first couple of years or maybe a decade or so. But by then perhaps most people will get the message. It would be much more powerful than “just saying no.” Yes, lives will be lost. That has to be weighed against the lives being lost by this country diverting limited resources to engage in a battle that is nothing more than a deadly vicious circle.
The problem – when all is said and done – is the fact a market exists for the Mexican drug cartels, gangs, and others that push drugs. Legalizing it may reduce the drug-related crime but it will do nothing to reduce the cost to society that drug abuse brings to states, cities, neighborhoods, and families.
Make it about choice. And with all choices, there is a price you must pay.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.