The Chinese used to pay their bureaucrats in opium – government control of the trade made it a valuable currency. Drugs generally are not expensive. Cider and beer are less than 3 pence a pint at the factory gate, a kilo of heroin about £800 at source, fags about 60 pence a packet without tax. One wonders if we could be taking something that made us feel better and was not a health risk? They told us once that abstinence was good for us and prohibitions have generally failed. Making something scarce and being able to charge a lot for it is central to capitalism.
I find myself wondering how the money flows in the drug trade. My old pub, now too boring to visit, requires me to fund a Middle Eastern capital fund that rents the building out, wads of tax and generally costs 5 times the off-licence price. Various sources for smuggled fags, booze and five and ten pound bags of ‘something’ are available with the runners making 50 pence or a quid on them. Somewhere up the chain there is enough money to keep wars going in narco states, tobacco companies engage in smuggling, a few flash gits make fortunes and the money finds its way into businesses. People in parts of Afghanistan and on the Everglades (my own local estate) work for a few quid because there is no other work. Skunk is raised in attics, cellars and old mills, and chrome polish is in demand by people with no cars. The benefit tokens being traded are in short supply, so we get a lot of minor crime. One guesses the dealers beyond the ten quid bag hope to latch into some kid and his parent’s money and that credit cards are owed plenty that bought coke. In all this everywhere there is misery, violence and weird propaganda. Darker episodes of Miami Vice had bankers recovering money lost in South America by funding the drug trade. We believe 7% of world finance is laundered.
We interdict less than 1% of the trade and might need to get as high as 60% to win any ‘war’. We catch mostly smallfry and it’s apparent everyone is expendable as the trade,like the show goes on. The mantra now is to legalise the trade so that we can treat the addictions in a medical manner. I suspect this is part of the answer and only part. The obvious thing is there is no mature debate and even what academics know is largely hidden from us. Politicians just whip up our moral panic. This isn’t hard.
My guess is we need to stop the benefit-sponsored army available to exploit – and I think this army is exploited in other trade too. But who really does the exploitation and what would they turn to if we had a legal trade? Some sources would have us believe a major link on drugs, oil and war stretching into our security services. I just tend to see pond life into drugs, prostitution,money lending and violence. I can see the next generation growing up under their influence too. I’ve seen police gold standard operations in arrest and rehabilitation, but these need to be increased by a factor of ten and are already costly.
Is the money generated really needed to fund something other than the trade itself? Is it a sway of supporting our Ponzi-scheme banks? I just don’t know.