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I am a neolibertarian minded individual who feels that freedom and individual rights take precedence over the wants of government. I believe government exists to serve the people and not to protect us from ourselves. I am an advocate for private firearms ownership, smaller government, reduced taxes and freedom to live your life however you choose, providing you do not directly hurt others.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Bio-War on Drugs

The title link is to the story about how congress wants to use a bioweapon in the war on drugs. Here are some quotes:

This infection, first detected in Asia, has rapidly spread across the United States. It is caused by a mold-like fungus that can penetrate the cornea of soft contact lens wearers, causing redness and pain that can lead to blindness—requiring a corneal replacement. That same week, the House of Representatives passed a provision to a bill requiring that the very same fungus be sprayed in “a major drug-producing country,” such as Colombia.
Before I get accused of distortion, it should be noted that the idea behind this is not to harm people but rather to use the fungus to destroy cocaine crops. It is believed that the eye-ball eating variety is a mutation and it is not absolutely certain that using this fungus to fight cocaine will result in epidemic blindness. Nevertheless, if we spray entire areas with it, who knows what will happen to the people who live nearby?

I find this sort of thing to be very disturbing. Our country spends far too much effort and tax dollars fighting a war against drugs that it will never win as long as both people and mind altering substances exist anywhere on the planet. If people are willing to do something as vile as sniff glue, lick frogs and suck Nitrous Oxide out of cans of whip cream for a buzz, what makes anyone think that laws will stop drug use?

According to the article, after 30+ years of research on this fungus, the following groups have "all concluded that the fungus is unsafe for humans and the environment":

  • The Office of National Drug Control Policy (a.k.a. the Drug Czar’s office)
  • The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
  • The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
  • The U.S. State Department
  • The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Here are some more quotes:

“Fusarium species are capable of evolving rapidly. … Mutagenicity is by far the most disturbing factor in attempting to use a Fusarium species as a bioherbicide,” wrote David Struhs, then secretary of Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, in a 1999 letter rejecting the use of the fungus against Florida’s outdoor marijuana crop. “It is difficult, if not impossible, to control the spread of Fusarium species.”
The DEA stopped funding Fusarium research in the United States during the early ’90s after it learned that Fusarium infections can be deadly in “immunocompromised” people—not only AIDS patients and those with other illnesses, but also those who are severely malnourished. The University of the Andes in Bogotá has recently reported that 12 percent of Colombian children suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of biohistory should realize that this is a bad idea. There are countless examples of people introducing new species into areas that quickly went out of control and devastated their new habitats. (Search on “invasive species destroy” for examples.) In this case, if the fungus is known to be both aggressive and prone to rapid mutation, it is extremely unlikely that we can predict what effects it will have on a new area a few years after it is introduced. We already know that it can attack eyes and kill people under certain conditions. What might it do in 10 years after it takes over new regions and has time to evolve into something worse?

This is a bad idea even if the fungus doesn’t run amok and mutate into something nasty. If we successfully harm cocaine production, the world supply of cocaine will go down and the demand will remain unchanged. As a result, cocaine will become an even more valuable commodity, and those cocaine growers who survive the fungus attack will become dramatically more powerful and wealthy. Addicts will take greater risks and commit more outrageous crimes in order to obtain enough money to feed their habits. People will be even more willing to kill for drugs and control of drug markets. Those who want cocaine and cannot obtain it will turn to other drugs.

We would be much better off legalizing, regulating and taxing drugs. It would immediately take the profit out of it for criminals (why illegally buy overpriced stuff of dubious quality from a gang-member/dealer when you can go to the drug store?). The drug lords and smugglers would suddenly find themselves without a source of wealth and power. The tax revenue would help pay to incarcerate people who commit crimes while intoxicated. Drugs can indeed be harmful to users and society, but outlawing them only makes matters worse. Look at prohibition: When alcohol was illegal, gangs flourished. The gangs had money to bribe police officers and judges, buy Thompson machine guns, etc. With this as a foundation they were able to amass vast amounts of power and even found political dynasties (the Kennedy family, for example). It is not in our national interest to guarantee wealth and power to criminals by maintaining the war on drugs.



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