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Wednesday, December 16, 2009
By Steven L. Taylor

2008 was a high-water mark for the eradication of coca bushes, whether via aerial spraying or manual destruction.  This caused some pressure on the street price of cocaine, although the degree to which is had any significance effect on the overall cocaine industry is negligible at best.

While the drug warriors tended to speak about 2008 as the thin edge of a new wedge into coca cultivation, it would appear that this hasn’t been the case and 2008 is destined to be nothing more than one data point in a long-term trend wherein billions are spent and the cocaine continues to flow.

Indeed, as some dude wrote back in May, this was an expected outcome:

The bottom line here is that it is almost certainly the case that the supply issues are temporary ones and that the information reported hardly sums to a likely “retreat” in the cocaine trade.

The reason I am writing this post right now is that I have noticed two different stories in the last two days that have noted that 2009 was not as successful1 as 2008.

First, a story on crop sprayers in Colombia from the LAT (‘Top guns’ of Tumaco keep coca crops in check) notes:

The Washington-based Center for International Policy estimates that 2009 funding for coca eradication in Colombia was $105 million, down by $46 million, or nearly a third, from $151 million in 2007.

The coca destroyed this year will total 390,000 acres, down by one-third from the 570,000 acres sprayed and uprooted in 2008.

Despite declining funds and two fewer planes than the 14 available three years ago, Dave and his comrades press on. They continue to refine their techniques to match the narcos’ tendency to grow smaller and smaller crops in out-of-the-way places.

Second, yesterday’s El Tiempo reported that Por falta de plata, erradicación manual tuvo una reducción de 48% este año con respecto al 2008 [Due to lack of funds, manual eradication down 48% compared to 2008].

Mientras en 2008 se arrancaron 95.470 hectáreas, este año la cifra fue de 54 mil 180 hectáreas.

[While in 2008 95,470 hectares were uprotted, this year the figure was 54,1800.]

Don’t get me wrong:  I am firmly of the opinion that crop eradication is never going to be sufficiently successful to “win” the drug war.  As such, it is not that I am highlighting this issue to argue for more vigorous eradication programs or to argue that 2008 was some sort of success.  Rather, I am point all of this out to underscore that years like 2008 are often presented as finally being the start of some sort of success that justifies not only a)  everything that went before it, but also b) the need for deepening the drug war (see, for example, Plan Merida).   However, the basic pattern is clear:  short term successes (such as they are) are fleeting, and at the end of the day we remain pretty much in exactly the same place, while spending billions for the privilege. 

  1. I use the word advisedly in this context. []
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One Response to “Crop Eradication and the War on Drugs”

  1. Bill Harris Says:

    One need not travel to China to find indigenous cultures lacking human rights. America leads the world in percentile behind bars, thanks to ongoing persecution of hippies, radicals, and non-whites under prosecution of the war on drugs. If we’re all about spreading liberty abroad, then why mix the message at home? Peace on the home front would enhance global credibility.

    The drug czar’s Rx for prison fodder costs dearly, as lives are flushed down expensive tubes. My shaman’s second opinion is that psychoactive plants are God’s gift. Behold, it’s all good. When Eve ate the apple, she knew a good apple, and an evil prohibition. Canadian Marc Emery is being extradited to prison for selling seeds that American farmers use to reduce U. S. demand for Mexican pot.

    Only on the authority of a clause about interstate commerce does the CSA (Controlled Substances Act of 1970) reincarnate Al Capone, endanger homeland security, and throw good money after bad. Administration fiscal policy burns tax dollars to root out the number-one cash crop in the land, instead of taxing sales. Society rejected the plague of prohibition, but it mutated. Apparently, SWAT teams don’t need no stinking amendment.

    Nixon passed the CSA on the false assurance that the Schafer Commission would later justify criminalizing his enemies. No amendments can assure due process under an anti-science law without due process itself. Psychology hailed the breakthrough potential of LSD, until the CSA shut down research, and pronounced that marijuana has no medical use, period. Drug juries exclude bleeding hearts.

    The RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993) allows Native American Church members to eat peyote, which functions like LSD. Americans shouldn’t need a specific church membership or an act of Congress to obtain their birthright freedom of religion. John Doe’s free exercise of religious liberty may include entheogen sacraments to mediate communion with his maker.

    Freedom of speech presupposes freedom of thought. The Constitution doesn’t enumerate any governmental power to embargo diverse states of mind. How and when did government usurp this power to coerce conformity? The Mayflower sailed to escape coerced conformity. Legislators who would limit cognitive liberty lack jurisdiction.

    Common-law must hold that adults are the legal owners of their own bodies. The Founding Fathers undersigned that the right to the pursuit of happiness is inalienable. Socrates said to know your self. Mortal lawmakers should not presume to thwart the intelligent design that molecular keys unlock spiritual doors. Persons who appreciate their own free choice of path in life should tolerate seekers’ self-exploration.


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