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Things We Shouldn't Even Be Debating

Via The Houston Chronicle, here's what happens when the wrong people notice that the drug war is failing:

Frustrated by the nonstop flow of cocaine and heroin into the United States, some American lawmakers are promoting mycoherbicides, weed killers made from toxic, mold-like fungi that they believe could be used to eliminate illegal drug crops for good.

For years, mycoherbicides had been largely written off by many U.S. officials. They were concerned the fungi could mutate to kill legitimate crops and that their use overseas would violate the United Nations' 31-year-old Biological Weapons Convention and other treaties.

The whole "biological warfare is bad" argument is pretty strong, but there's more. The consensus against mycoherbicides includes some people who've never been correct about drug policy before:

U.S. Drug Czar John Walters voiced skepticism when questioned by [Rep. Dan] Burton at a congressional hearing about using Fusarium oxysporum on Colombia's coca fields.

"If you were to (use) it and it is not specific to coca, it could cause considerable damage to the environment, which in Colombia is very delicate," Walters said.

"Our judgement at the moment is that the case for mycoherbicides is not proven," said David Murray, a scientist* and one of Walters's deputies. "If there is a change in the evidence, we might revisit the issue."

But Dan Burton isn't listening, even though Walters and Murray are right for the first time ever:

"I'm telling you, the war on drugs ain't working," said Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., in a telephone interview from Washington. "And if it ain't working, you don't sit around doing the same thing over and over again.

"We have to use whatever tools that we think will work and that are safe," he said, "and mycoherbicides fit that bill."

This is really something. Dan Burton sees that the drug war is failing, but he'd rather try every stupid idea on earth than admit that war can't solve the drug problem. As his frustration grows, it's frightening to think what else he might bring to the table.

Still, it's troubling that John Walters is against mycoherbicide. We've never known him to question the efficacy of various insane drug war strategies, and seeing him interpret science correctly makes me wonder if I fully understand the issue. Perhaps he merely objects to the premise that other eradication efforts have been an obvious failure.

If nothing else, this ridiculous conversation demonstrates that drug warriors like Dan Burton and Joe Biden are sick of erroneously claiming progress in the drug war. Let's hope their candor inspires others in Congress to propose real solutions.

*David Murray is a scientist now? He usually claims to be a doctor. I guess for his purposes, the two are interchangeable. At least he's citing his scientific credentials in opposition of biological warfare.
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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