According to Stout (2012), morphine and laudanum were available everywhere before 1914 and heroin was given as a common prescription. The flow of drugs, regardless of their legal status, was easy and effortless. Stout makes the case that these early drug producers were mostly small local operations who used the money they earned to grow their home operation, hire local people, use local materials, invest in other local endeavors and help their neighbors, making their crop seem not at all different from corn or cotton. Prohibition in the 1930s made the trade more corrupt while increased demand starting in the 1960s in the U.S. caused these drug producers to expand and make connections. The trade became increasingly violent and militarized as groups began to expand and compete, taking over politicians, law enforcement, and the Mexican culture itself. While we tend to think of drug users as addicts belonging to street gangs, the reason the War on Drugs has been so ineffective is that the majority of users are casual users in the white collar professions. While the military action against drugs has proven to be ineffective, Stout suggests the true function of this action is to silence social protests and movements. The War on Drugs has been so fixated on the need for military force it fails to consider the Mexican economy’s dependence on it and the problem of unabated drug demand in the U.S. While legalization will not put an end to the many problems associated with the drug trade today, Stout argues it is a “necessary first step toward any decent, or even tolerable, outcome.”
What this article focused for me was the rationale behind why Mexico and the United States might be sticking to their stance that the War on Drugs requires military action. The many ways in which Mexico depends on the money – the wealthy professionals got that way with drugs, the politicians got where they are through drug money, the young people earn a living wage that way which they can’t do any other way – is enough evidence to prove that the country cannot simply shut down its drug trade. At the same time, public opinion on the issue of drugs demands, or demanded, a definitive response and military action is a pretty public response. Still, I agree with Stout that drugs should be legalized. It won’t solve all the problems at once, but it will at least open a way for us to work toward solutions that make sense.
Stout, R.J. (January 2012). “Do the United States and Mexico Really Want the Drug War to Succeed?” Monthly Review. Vol. 63, I. 8. Available October 24, 2015 from <http://monthlyreview.org/2012/01/01/do-the-united-states-and-mexico-really-want-the-drug-war-to-succeed/>