The Editorial: Fair Trade Dope

The Editorial: Fair Trade Dope

We, as a generation, are hyperactively engaged with the world at large. Quick to point out injustices, eager to identify with a cause, our generation is, as a whole, measurably more informed, vocal, and engaged than any before it. We, the self-described social entrepreneurs, human-rights activists, open designers, charity workers and social strategists, are driven by interconnectedness to effect change. Do good. Many (including myself for periodic bouts) are vegetarians, for both ethical reasons and the far-reaching negative effects of commercial meat production. We love the fair-trade label, as it signifies a highly scrutinised supply chain, and we vehemently avoid buying from companies like Walmart, whose environmental and social track records place them on par with any oppressive totalitarian regime.

But drugs, those magical merrymaking substances that allow for escape. Shifts in perception. We are as addicted to those as ever – I know girls who’d be right at home in the Doll House. Line. Martini. Line. Repeat. Funny thing, though, those drugs. One hit and our principles go out the window.

Illegal drugs are societally wrong – but not for the reasons you might think. While we focus on the consequences of drug abuse in one society, we seem to conveniently ignore the trans-national wars our smoking weed and snorting cocaine cause. A bit hard to imagine while on your face in that slick toilet at the hot nightclub, but societal structures create alternative market systems. Demand creates supply. And since society wants drugs, they are supplied from somewhere. Full stop. And that means, what we want in Italy and England and Canada creates extraordinary violence in Mexico and Afghanistan and in some dark corner of your city. Breaking Bad is real. Much of Mexico.

Now, there is nothing intrinsically unethical or morally wrong with inserting a mind-altering substance into your body. As long as it doesn’t lead to the harm of others (i.e. driving drunk), what you do to yourself is, and probably should be, your prerogative. That is what living in a “free” country, as we ostensibly do in the west, is all about. However, it is time to take a long hard look at our moral compass next time we light up our little glass pipes. If we value responsibly grown rice and free-range chicken, it is absurdly hypocritical to buy weed off an anon dealer on the street. You have no idea where it’s from, and like that cheap-o DVD player you bought at Walmart, you can be sure someone suffered to get it to you. In other words, we’re a hell of a long way from Fair Trade dope.

So, what should be done? Apart from staunch social conservatives (the most radical of hypocrites), most of us can probably pragmatically agree that it isn’t right (or efficient) for anyone to be locked up for using marijuana. And the more imaginative among us probably believe that some of the less immediately destructive substances should be available, controlled, and taxed: create suitable barriers, generate revenue, punish abuse – not use. (Works for alcohol – also once prohibited!) And most importantly, demand would be met by a transparent system, killing the business and power of the violent drug cartels.

This is clearly a much more complex issue than we have time for here. But, what do you think?

(And in case you’re wondering, my only drugs of choice are sherry, gin and coffee.)

The photos in this editorial were taken from the just-released book Poppy: Trails of Afghan Heroin from Dutch publishers Paradox, which traces the origins and wild trajectories of Afghan drugs around the world. A definite must read.

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