Guest Commentary

Promote freedom and stop violence at the same time by legalizing all drugs

For years, I have argued for an end to drug prohibition. It seems like a rather simple moral argument to me: If one is free, not a slave, then one has dominion over his body, mind, etc. He can eat, drink and read what he chooses, and travel at will.

Alarmingly, this is a minority opinion in America today. We have become rather comfortable with the notion that recreational drug use, like alcohol consumption, ruins lives; therefore, it ought to be illegal. We are comfortable with suppressing the market through law enforcement, knowing that enforcement only costs money and the lives of a few criminals and narcs.

But will we be as comfortable if and when the wars between competing drug cartels move to this side of the border?

It is not as far-fetched as you might think. Consider the findings of George Friedman of Stratfor Global Intelligence (, a private intelligence-gathering firm. According to Mr. Friedman, the drug cartels warring in northern Mexico have actually formed small armies that are well-equipped and well-trained. In these areas, they actually rival the Mexican army.

Mr. Friedman says the current violence is a result of drug cartels fighting each other over who gets to transport the product. Transportation is one of the four regions of the illicit drug business; in order, those regions are production, refinement, transportation and distribution/sales. Production and refinement can take place anywhere in Latin America, often in Mexico. Transportation is in the border area of Mexico and the United States.

Can you guess where the distribution and sales area is?

The present war is over transportation rights. The next one may be over distribution and sales, and if so, it will take place here. If you want to see what American cities might face in the future, go to northern Mexico today. Actually, do not do that; it may be a bad idea.

Meanwhile, according to Mr. Friedman, agents of the cartels are in Mexico City offering powerful politicians the "silver or lead" choice—that is, the choice between big money if you cooperate, and death to you and your family if you do not. As for this war possibly coming to the United States, ask yourself: Do you think that American politicians love their families any less than do Mexican politicians?

On March 27, El Universal reported that two men were caught performing surveillance on Public Security Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna's wife and daughter. They had Luna's home address.

So we are witnessing the commandeering of an entire country, Mexico, by drug cartels, with the prospect of private army turf wars in American cities.

The drug cartels can do this, because they have virtually unlimited funds and virtually no scruples. I do not know how to work the scruples angle, but the funding can be stopped through broad-based drug legalization.

The key term is "broad-based." There is a temptation among those who do not take this to heart to compromise by agreeing to legalize marijuana while keeping the "hard stuff" illegal. This would be a useless gesture. The idea is to deny funds to the violent criminals, not to rearrange their product offerings. If people want to buy it, it must be available above-board.

There may be a temporary increase in recreational drug use after the suppression ends, though I do not believe that the change will be dramatic in the long run. Anyone can acquire just about any drug today (though an old guy like me might have to find a high school kid to make the connection). Cultural mores are a far greater determining factor than statute law in affecting drug abuse rates.

It saddens me that so many people engage in this sort of self-destructive behavior, but I'd prefer an increase in it to the corruption of our governments and blood in our streets.

An estimated 8,000 people have died over the last two years in northern Mexico from drug-cartel warfare. Do you still feel comfortable?

Jonathan Hoffman

Jonathan Hoffman moved to Tucson from Connecticut in 1977 and never looked back. He attended the UA, ran for City Council Ward III in 2001, and made regular contributions to the Guest Commentary section of the Tucson Weekly for over five years. He helped launch the Southern Arizona News Examiner. He is a former...