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Drug Trade Hurting Mexican Environmental Efforts -- Prohibition to Blame

Submitted by David Borden on
A piece in Mexico's El Universal called illegal drugs the "root of evil for conservationists." From deforestation in Chihuahua's Copper Canyon by marijuana and opium growers to make way for their crops, to cocaine dumping near the fragile reef nurseries in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico by traffickers, writer Talli Nauman laments:
The black market in narcotics wreaks havoc with the ecosystem. This happens wherever illegal substances are produced, where they are processed, along their shipping routes, in the drug-money laundering process, and in the operations to squelch the underground economy. Not to mention the establishment of furtive channels for species trafficking along the way.
Drug traffickers are even diversifying into the illegal wildlife trade in protected species, and using legally traded animals to hide opium and cocaine, sometimes resulting in the animal's death. You think I'm about to complain that the article made no mention of the idea that legalization could end these problems or at least seriously mitigate them by subjecting the trade to regulation. The growers cut down forests because they've been chased away from other places by the authorities. Shippers dump cocaine, presumably, because they are about to get caught and imprisoned if they don't. Drug traffickers have the money to invest in other businesses like wildlife trafficking because they made so much money selling drugs. These are all consequences of prohibition and the war on drugs in its current form. I'm not going to complain, though, because Nauman actually raised the issue, albeit briefly near the end:
If narcotics are decriminalized, then the black market might cave in, and along with it the smuggling relationships that undermine conservation efforts.
She then goes on to make some suggestions about things to do in the meanwhile. But she mentioned the idea. Perhaps it's because she is Mexican and Latin America has far more people who are rational about the drug issue and willing to speak publicly about legalization. See our Out from the Shadows conference archive for reporting, interviews and video from some of them. How especially embarassing, then, the reaction in the US to Mexico's attempt to do so low-level decriminalization of drug use earlier this year, that President Fox was going to sign until the US pressured him not to. US cable mouthpieces like Lou Dobbs ridiculed the move as outrageous and actually seemed to believe what they were saying -- how very, very embarassing.

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