Many outspoken advocates have been calling for the federal government to legalize marijuana for years, but now some are calling on President Joe Biden to legalize cocaine.
“The Economist” magazine and Columbia President Gustavo Petro are among the advocates for the latter. The publication made its case for legalization in an article published on Wednesday, Oct. 12 – nearly one week after Biden pardoned approximately 6,000 Americans convicted of minor marijuana possession.
“Prohibition is not working—and that can be seen most strikingly with cocaine, not cannabis,” the op-ed stated. “Since Richard Nixon launched the ‘war on drugs’ half a century ago, the flow of cocaine into the United States has surged.”
After noting Petro and Peru President Pedro Castillo favor decriminalization, The Economist outlined why it believes continuing the war on drugs would lead to more significant harm.
“Half-measures, such as not prosecuting cocaine users, are not enough. If producing the stuff is still illegal, it will be criminals who produce it, and decriminalisation of consumption will probably increase demand and boost their profits,” The Economist said. “The real answer is full legalisation, allowing non-criminals to supply a strictly regulated, highly taxed product, just as whisky- and cigarette-makers do. (Advertising it should be banned.)”
According to data, drug use and overdoses are surging, mainly because much of the drug is being laced with fentanyl.
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Petro used his inauguration speech and first address to the United Nations to vocalize his views on what he deems the failed war on drugs.
“It is time for a new international convention that accepts that the war on drugs has failed; that it has left a million dead Latin Americans during 40 years; and that it leaves 70,000 North Americans dead by overdose each year,” Petro said in his inauguration speech, according to the Daily Mail. “The war on drugs strengthened mafias and weakened states.”
He doubled down on that message on Tuesday, Sept. 20.
“The opinion of power has ordered that cocaine is poison and must be persecuted, while it only causes minimal deaths from overdoses. But instead, coal and oil must be protected, even when it can extinguish all humanity,” Petro said.
For years, criminal justice advocates decried America’s disproportionate targeting and arrest of Black citizens for drug offenses that just as many, if not more, white people committed but faced far less severe consequences.
Nixon’s domestic policy advisor, John Ehrlichman, even admitted during an interview that the war on drugs was racially motivated, according to an analysis by lawyer, author and activist Nkechi Taifa.
“You want to know what this was really all about?” Ehrlichman said. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.”
This, coupled with the billions of dollars invested in the war on drugs and the immense loss of human life in Latin America, are among the reasons advocates say the way to win the war on drugs is to legalize cocaine and regulate its use.
The Economist is the latest to come out in favor of that view.
“In private, many officials understand that prohibition is not working any better than it did in Al Capone’s day. Just now full legalisation seems politically impossible: few politicians want to be called “soft on drugs,’” The Economist said. “But proponents must keep pressing their case. The benefits—safer cocaine, safer streets and greater political stability in the Americas—far outweigh the costs.”
PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks at the Volvo Group Powertrain Operations in Hagerstown, Md., Oct. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) / 132 pounds of packaged cocaine with an estimated street value of $3 million, Dec. 17, 2015. (Office of the NY Special Narcotics Prosecutor via AP)