Charbonneau: Legalize more drugs to protect the planet

David Charbonneau / Kamloops Daily News
December 19, 2012 01:00 AM

We can grow some drugs locally and fair-trade drugs can supply the rest.

Following the principles of the 100-mile diet, medical marijuana is best grown close to home to reduce transportation costs and support local growers. Kamloops' city council is sensibly looking at zoning of industrial land for marijuana crops and the federal government wants to reduce small grow ops in favour of larger facilities.

However, it's not practical to grow drugs such as coca and poppies close to home. And practicality aside, many of these growers could benefit from fair trade and legalization.

Coca leaf growers in Colombia now receive only a small fraction of the value of their produce and worse, they are forced to grow in an environmentally destructive way.

The U.S. war on drugs has done nothing to reduce drug use but it has destroyed huge swathes of arable land.

The so-called U.S. aid for Colombia has is a boon to helicopter manufacturers like Sikorsky and private security forces such as Blackwater but the effect on forests is devastating.

In an attempt to destroy coca crops, herbicides have been applied to 800,000 hectares of Colombia says Tom Feiling, author of The Candy Machine: How Cocaine Took Over the World, in his article for New Internationalist magazine.

Fair-trade drugs would result in sustainable agricultural practices and reduce harm to the environment.

Legalization of the coca leaf would stop the war on forests. Fair trade would improve wages for growers and economies of countries. Billions of dollars are now transferred out of countries by drug lords.

Profits are moved through banks to the very countries where the refined and concentrated drugs end up. Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice fined Britain's biggest bank $1.9 billion for money laundering. HSBC had moved $881 million for two drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia and accepted $15 billion in unexplained "bulk cash" across the bank's counters in Mexico, Russia and other countries. In some branches the boxes of cash being deposited were so big the tellers' windows had to be enlarged.

Once the war on small growers stops, legalization will mean that more of the profits from the sale of coca will remain in countries that need it most.

Criminal drug-trade fuels the war machines of terrorists. The Taliban and Al Qaeda of Afghanistan are funded by drug money from the growth of poppies, and the weapons purchased are used to kill Canadian soldiers.

"Legalization would open the way for the popularization of less intoxicating drugs, such as the coca tea and wine to be found in any Bolivian marketplace," says Feiling.

The principles of fair trade would not only reduce the toxicity and addictive properties of coca products but ensure that the growers are receiving a fair return. Fair trade would eliminate the middle men and increase government revenues. Legalization would eliminate the criminal element that suppresses wages for growers and fuels the drug wars between rival gangs who profit from the trade of concentrated and dangerous coca and poppy products.

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