Where Do Your Drugs Come From?

This article is about the hypocrisy of recreational drug use on elite liberal arts campuses. I'm wary about writing it. Others' inevitable perception of me as aligning myself with the Nancy Reagan, "just say no," smashing eggs with frying pans, DEA, War on Drugs bogey-men is almost enough to make me walk away from it. So first let me clarify my purposes. I could care less about the chemical effects of drugs on the body, or reasons for using them. There are some very persuasive social and economic arguments for the legalization of all illegal drugs. But as of right now they're not legal and your supplier isn't some mom-and-pop organization. Unless you've got a buddy with a prescription for the medical stuff that is likely coming from a legitimate, well-regulated U.S. grower making living wages, the reality is that neither your pot nor your coke goes well with your vegan, organic, locally-grown diet. I don't think drugs will necessarily kill you, but I know they're killing someone else.

Chances are good that your weekend dalliances into the drug trade are directly fueling the carnage to our South. According to an April 2 article in the Washington Post, the Mexican drug cartels responsible for over 10,000 murders over the past two years have an operating budget of approximately $10 billion—profits acquired from U.S. drug sales. Such a budget makes for an ominous opponent for the Mexican government whose entire national security budget amounts to $9.3 billion. So, ask yourself: what has your party allowance for the past academic year paid for?

According to a Frontline special report on the drug war, about 13 million Americans are casual weekend users, buying no more than a gram of cocaine or quarter ounce of weed for their immediate purposes. If you fall into this group, you've likely only funded a handful of machetes. Perhaps the same ones used in the decapitation of seven police officers in Chilpancingo on December 22, 2008. Or, you may fall into the category of five to six million Americans who spend $200 per week on imported drugs. In this case you're making a much more appreciated contribution—consider yourself a Platinum member. You may have even paid for the rocket propelled grenade launched into a Zihuatanejo police station on February 21, 2009.

And this is just Mexico. Though the FARC's activities have faded from the headlines in the past couple of years, let's not forget about Colombia—the real source of your late night thrills. Anastasia Moloney, a freelance journalist based out of Bogota, recently said in an interview on the national security blog Abu Muqawama, "The re-arming and/or the emergence of new paramilitary groups is a major problem for the government. The bottom line is that as long as Colombia produces cocaine, there will always be criminal paramilitary gangs."

Complain about the handling of the War on Drugs all you like, wear hemp skirts and insist on eating exclusively locally grown spinach, but know that your cheeky weekend lines are arming and funding some of the most malicious and bloody guerilla movements of the century.

Let's be clear: the atrocities are not one-sided and not entirely funded by you. Both the Colombian military and the paramilitary groups who picked up arms to combat the narcotics cartels have been accused of horrendous human rights violations. Since the deployment of the Mexican Army to combat the rising drug violence, accusations of human rights violations in Mexico have risen 576 percent, according to Mexico's National Human Rights Commission. The governments of drug states do not escape criticism, and neither does our own administration's execution of the War on Drugs and nonexistent gun control laws which facilitate the arming of the cartels.

But in the same way people have come to peek at the "made in..." label on their t-shirts and opted for the shoddily-but-American-made garments hawked at American Apparel, or insisted on fair trade fruit, shouldn't there be a movement for social responsibility within American academic drug culture? We are the consumers. We are the reason this trade exists.

I find it astounding that in an academic environment such as ours, almost no attention is given to the devastating and destabilizing effects of the drug cartels and a significant source of their funding—the otherwise socially responsible American college student. The inconsistencies, hypocrisies and failed policies of the War on Drugs have been well-documented. The resulting imprisonment of vast numbers of Americans, predominantly young male minorities, for non-violent crimes is a frequent source of protest for social activists. What is less noted are the hypocrisies of those students who perpetuate the drug trade entirely without consequence. In fact, in academic environments, where such a market should be most criticized, drug culture enjoys perhaps its most accepting population.

So the next time you're pondering your coffee selection after spending the morning fishing out albino bats in the cave, do yourself a favor and save the 10% markup on the organic fair trade feminista brew. The farmer you're saving from the ills of free trade may not want the support of the same person funding the destabilization of their economy and corruption of their government.