by Kevin Carson
In an interview with Denise Maerker of Televisa, during her February trip to Mexico, Hillary Clinton explained why drugs couldn’t be legalized: “I don’t think that will work. I mean, I hear the same debate…. It is not likely to work. There is just too much money in it, and I don’t think that—you can legalize small amounts for possession, but those who are making so much money selling, they have to be stopped.”
At first glance, you might think this is just economic illiteracy. After all, it’s just common sense that the reason there’s “so much money” in drugs is BECAUSE they’re illegal. They fetch a black market price. If pot was legal and sold for the same per ounce as oregano, you think there’d be Mexican gangs fighting to control the border trafficking in it? The best way to “stop” the people “who are making so much money selling” is to make the stuff cheap and legally available.
It stands to reason that the biggest foes of legalization — even more than the drug cops — are the folks in organized crime who make money off the drug trade. I vaguely recall an anecdote about a “dry county” election somewhere in the deep south; the local bootlegger’s car was plastered with bumper stickers reading “For the sake of my family, keep X County dry.”
But on closer examination, I suspect Clinton’s remark was a Freudian slip. She wasn’t guilty so much of exposing her ignorance as of inadvertently giving the uninitiated a brief glimpse of the truth. The truth is that the government won’t legalize drugs is that there’s too much money — for them and their allies — in keeping them illegal.
It’s basic economics that creating a black market in any criminalized substance will, in turn, create organized crime networks that profit from trafficking in controlled substances. Prohibition resulted in the explosive growth of organized crime in America.
But what some people don’t realize is that one of the organized crime gangs that profit from controlling the drug trade has blue for its gang colors. On the crudest level, of course, you’ve got cops on the take who allow some drug traffickers to operate — just so long as they pay protection money. Or cops who seize the stuff and then sell it. But it would be a mistake to treat this as just a “bad apples” problem. Police culture is corrupted to its very heart by the Drug War. Drug criminalization doesn’t just enable the profits of syndicates in Colombia or Mexico. It props up a sordid empire of militarized SWAT teams that terrorize families and murder innocent people in their homes, of civil forfeiture larceny enabled by jailhouse snitches, and of “Interjurisdictional Drug Task Forces” overflowing with cash. The entire police culture associated with the Drug War — just as much as what we conventionally think of as organized crime — looks like something beneath an overturned rock.
The Drug War, in short, is where all the money is. You can’t legalize drugs because there’s too much money in keeping them illegal — for the cops.
On a much larger scale, the biggest narcotraffickers in the world are the U.S. National Security State and its clients. Afghanistan is a case in point. One reason the Taliban were so unpopular was that they stamped out opium production. The only place in Afghanistan where the poppies were being cultivated on a large scale was in the Northern Alliance territories. So the U.S. overthrows the Taliban, the CIA handlers on the ground set up the Northern Alliance as the new national government — and Afghanistan is once again the center of world heroin production.
Drugs can’t be legalized because there’s too much money in it — for the international spooks. That includes the big banks that launder all the drug money and buy politicians all over the world (including in the U.S.). It includes the CIA, which has historically used the drug trade to fund death squads and coups all over the world.
There’s too much money — for the state and its allies — in keeping drugs illegal. Kind of makes you wonder whose side the state’s really on.