A column in opposition to war, epecially the war on drugs

It is no secret that I think war is a dismal choice for solving problems or righting situations. I have not seen or read about a war that did anything but exacerbate the original problem or set the stage for a future war. Very often it is the decisions of the so-called victors that set the stage for future wars. They willy nilly divide territories into countries without consideration of the culture or the people.

Wars without boundaries are even worse. The war on poverty certainly did not solve the problem in the U.S. The war on terrorism and the war on drugs are two great examples of endless wars that result in no solutions, only an increase in the problem and in the corruption of those fighting that war.

One of the main reasons I chose Costa Rica as a place to live is that the government and the people of Costa Rica believe as I do: War solves no problems. No matter how difficult, peace is better. So far it has worked very nicely for Costa Rica and for me, at least when it has come to territorial wars or differences between countries. And I, like other residents of this country, do not live in fear of terrorist attacks or that a loved one will come home terminally maimed or damaged as the result of a war.

But now we are faced with the war on drugs, something the United States government has foisted upon this country as its own war on drugs keeps expanding, costing more in both lives and treasure.

As every other long-time resident will tell you, when I first arrived in Costa Rica, violent crime was rare. I was told that the people who were up to no good were “opportunists.” They would steal something if the opportunity was there. I do recall a man in a group at a kiosk waving his 5,000-colon note wanting change, and a passerby simply plucked the bill from his extended hand and took off. I also had my apartment entered and my computer stolen when I was not at home. It was, I learned, an inside job accomplished by the trusted guard and my new maid. As I recall, none of these crimes was the result of someone on drugs. They were opportunistic.

Today, crime takes up much of the news. Violent crimes and crimes with weapons seem to grow daily. I am sure there is a correlation between the presence in Costa Rica of the war on drugs, and the increase in crime, and the incidents of corruption in the police force.

It is no secret that statistics show that more people die from alcohol use than from drug use. Violence and murders within families are often the result of alcohol and/or amphetamines.

Marijuana as a contributing factor is almost unheard of. The reports connecting marijuana to the commission of a crime are based upon the assumption that marijuana causes one to be violent or to commit a crime. There are no data to confirm this assumption. Arrests related to marijuana alone are usually for possession or of people involved in the illegal trade of the substance.

Because substances like marijuana and cocaine are illegal, it is impossible to do research freely on the efficacy and medical uses of the plants from which they are derived. In some countries where it is allowed, such research is showing that marijuana has a number
of medical uses with far fewer damaging side effects than many prescription drugs.

I used marijuana in the 70s both for medical purposes and pleasure. I have more adverse and lasting side effects from the medical treatment I received than from the pot.

I am making this argument because a conference of Latin American countries is meeting in Costa Rica this week to discuss how to deal with the drug traffic and crime in the future.

I was surprised at the result of the survey of 1,200 people showing that 81 percent of them think crime will increase if drugs are decriminalized. I disagree. It is a small voice that I have, but I am convinced that most of the crime committed related to drugs is because of the simple fact that the selling and buying of drugs has been declared illegal. How can you control a product like marijuana that is so easily and cheaply grown, has such a large markup and satisfies the basic need of humans to experience a different reality?

I hope at least the people involved in the discussion will treat marijuana differently than other drugs under consideration.

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