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May 7, 2015

The case of Maryjane Veloso, the Filipina convicted of drug offense whose execution in Indonesia was temporarily stayed, once more calls attention to the wisdom— or lack of it— of the war against drugs. Maryjane is really just one among the so-many casualties of this war. Indeed, how many thousands have been executed or sentenced to a lifetime in jail since the war started?  How much public funds have since been poured into the effort?  Yet,  illegal drugs trade has steadily flourished over time into a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide, and is growing more robustly than ever.  This alone should compel us to rethink our approach and strategy.

Society, no doubt driven by noble motives, takes it to itself the responsibility to shield its citizens from the menace of drugs. Thus it legislates laws in various degrees of severity in the fulfillment of this assumed responsibility.

The drug user though does not share such society’s concern; he rebels against it.  To him, it is simply his right, he exercising his own free will to satisfy his own cravings.  It is not for society to decide what pleasures he must indulge in or not.  At times, he must be perplexed: what’s the big deal? what wrong is there in his using drugs?  He enjoys the highs and the mind-bending effect it has on himself, why deny it to him?  It is not like he is causing any damage on anyone or anybody’s property that if caught he must be shot to death or be placed in prison for the rest of his life.  If  there be any harm, it is only on himself, but then that is his personal business.  A lot much like smoking or drinking or skydiving… Absent any moral restraint or bother, there being no inherent evil in his vice, he continues to seek the fulfillment of his desires, plays cat and mouse with the police if need be, and pays the price no matter how high— and to hell with the Government playing Big Brother on his life.

Now, where there is a buyer, at the right price, there is always a seller, count on it.   To the seller, it is simply business, no more no less.   The merchandise to him is just that, a thing to sell for profit.   Does a businessman care if his rope is intended for suicide?  Or the knife to kill?   Yet even in case he does and shifts to other wares to sell,  trust that someone will emerge from out of nowhere to take his place to supply the buyer the merchandise, if under the most forbidding circumstances, at the right price.

The thing is, prohibition accomplishes two things: one.  it limits general access of the public to the drug, but, two, it also jacks up the price of the merchandise.   The first is the intended result, the second the unintended.   From the original unintended consequence emerges a chain of undesirable spin-offs.   As prohibition jacks up the price of the product, at times astronomically, peddling drugs becomes an extremely lucrative business.  It’s the Law of Supply and Demand, nothing more. And because it is illegal, the criminal types naturally get to take full charge.  The kind to whom you would otherwise deny access to riches for the evil that they are,  inevitably they get to take control of a business that rakes in cash in overflowing abundance.  What happens when criminal minds have billions at their disposal?  Of course, limitless power to buy or force their way in and out of every nook and cranny of society.  To what extent do they now have control of our society, we could only speculate.  But if  the occasional cocky display of power and hints of incipient influence be any guide, we could only shudder.

Indeed, it is a difficult dilemma but we must make a choice.  Protecting society from the evils of drugs appears to have spawned a greater monster.


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