On the October 5th episode of the Colbert Report the comedian did a story on the drug war in Mexico. The piece highlighted the fact that Mexican journalists are being intimidated by the drug cartels and featured a discussion with National Public Radio correspondent John Burnett. Judging from what Burnett had to say maybe it would be a positive development if journalists stayed out of decisions about drug policy.
First Burnett made the argument that consumers of Mexican drugs were responsible for the violence instead of putting the blame where it certainly belongs on those who support drug prohibition. Unlike Mexican cocaine there is no economic violence associated with Mexican tequila, the difference being that one is illegal and the other is not. The users are not the ones who created the black market with its attendant mayhem.
It is the people who support the current policy, like Burnett, who have the blood on their hands because the bottom line is that if drugs were legal tens of thousand of people recently killed in Mexico would be alive today. Drug prohibition does not actually keep people from using drugs; in fact there is considerable evidence to suggest that it encourages greater consumption, therefore in reality the laws are merely a symbolic statement. Anyone who says drugs should remain illegal is in effect saying that my symbolic declaration of disapproval is more important than the lives of those people killed by the policy.
The NPR hack also says repealing alcohol prohibition in 1933 did not end organized crime. However he neglects to mention the ending the ban on spirits dramatically lowered the amount of violence associated with their use and criminals were able to shift their activities to narcotics only because those substances remained illegal. Burnett’s contention seems to be that the measure legalizing marijuana in California will make things much better but it will not make things perfect therefore it should not be passed.
Lastly, even though there is absolutely no evidence that using marijuana impairs cognitive ability Burnett still repeats that slander. Unfortunately in the coming weeks before Californians vote on whether or not to legalize Marijuana we can look forward to many more examples of shoddy journalism, ignorant prejudice and spurious claims. As Jacob Sullum points out some very intellectually bankrupt arguments to oppose the measure are already beginning to appear. These include among others the ludicrous idea that it will not produce any revenue, the false contention that it will change the present laws against impaired driving, and the absurd notion that employees will have the right to use marijuana on the job. Sullum concludes by reminding us that, “if the nightmare scenarios described by Proposition 19’s opponents come to pass, the rest of the country will learn from California’s example. And if they don’t, that also will be instructive, which is why federal drug warriors are so determined to defeat the initiative.”
Cross posted on The Trebach Report