also if you’ve ever spent any time around crack fiends or meth tweakers, watched someone be arrested for dealing, or heard/witnessed/been in gang violence related to drugs, you know how damaging drugs can be to communities and homes and families. if you’ve ever walked into a classroom to find that multiple students of yours struggle with cognitive development and learning abilities due to in utero drug exposure, you know what the long-term effects can be. if you’ve ever found massive mounds of potting soil, fertilizer, and toxic waste and effluent on your lands, you know what generations-long pollution looks like.
drugs can save lives; they pay for homes, educations, food on the table…they helped my friend gain the weight he needed to continue with chemotherapy when he was struggling with cancer. they help my grandmother with her near intolerable pain from having 4 different botched back surgeries in the last 20 years.
they also steal lives. I’m not just talking about the millions of people locked up for dealing or possession. I’m talking about the murders, the overdoses, the chronic addictions, the brain damage, the people trapped producing and dealing for generations. on a more abstract level, I’m talking about the batterams the LAPD used to destroy homes, looking for crack; I’m talking about the millions of civilians mass-murdered and exposed to toxic chemicals (napalm) throughout the Americas and Southeast Asia due to US government-produced knowledges on where drugs are and what they finance; I’m talking about the thousands of Trayvons, whose deaths were attempted to be publicly legitimated due to suspicions of drug possession.
some may argue that those things can’t be attributed to drugs—they’re part of systematic racism. this is true, they are due to systematic racism. but you can’t separate systematic racism from drugs, because the drug industry in its entirety is the system in which racism is embedded. racial stereotypes affiliated with drugs are not going to go away when drugs are legalized. privilege of consumption based on exploitation of production is not going to go away. addiction, competition, gang violence, imperialism, pollution—none of that is going to go away when your recreational coke and marijuana is legalized, and you’re a damn fool if you think legalized production will be confined to mom and pop shops. it takes money, technology, space, and skill to cultivate and produce drugs—it’ll be a lot cheaper to hire superexploited brown labor to produce that on an industrial scale. moreover, I’ve witnessed first-hand what happens when small local grows get outsourced and the industry crashes—they move on to bigger risk enterprises, larger more militarized grows, or cheaper drugs (ie marijuana to meth). decriminalization led to a total bloating of the market, lowering prices and making people whose survival depends on drug production increasingly desperate.
all decriminalization did is make it easier for upper-middle class college students to consume drugs, and make the lives of people producing said drugs exponentially harder. I’m not saying permanent criminalization is the answer; I’m saying talking about drug industry reform as solely an issue of legalization is beyond privileged.