10 February 2002
THE COCA AND THE COCAINE WAR
The current War on Drugs involves skirmishes in an arena with two fronts: The consumer and the manufacturer. The successes and failures of the battle are not clearly identified without first looking at how the battle can be ultimately won. When it comes to cocaine, the problem of punishing the whole instead of the individual is hard to define. Many countries use the raw ingredient, the coca plant, as part of a social and cultural structure. The only way to win the War on Drugs is to focus war efforts on fighting the manufacturer of the finished cocaine product.
The War on Cocaine has been trying to fight a battle on two fronts. The first objective of the American government is to deter the consumer from using illegal products. The genesis of punishment against users is sited in the 1914 Harrison Act, in which addicts and others that possessed drugs were punished for buying or possessing cocaine or heroin without a prescription (Bertram, 26). This act began a trend that still today allows law enforcement to arrest the user along with the supplier. The supplier (drug trafficker) is the key in this type of police action, because most of the time the user will be unaware of the exact origin of the substance or have any knowledge as to where it was purchased or manufactured. The main problem with this type of arrest is that 70 to 75 percent of the narcotic arrests per year are for possession and only 25 to 30 percent are for actual drug trafficking offenses. Although the user should not be overlooked, a greater emphasis ought to be focused on the supplier in order to reach the actual manufacturer of the illegal substances.
The other front of the battle of the War on Drugs comes from locating and shutting down the manufacturers of cocaine. Cocaine is manufactured from the coca plant, the drugs main ingredient. When the government imposes sanctions on different nations for growing the coca plant, careful considerations must be made. Just like any other market, there may be underlying circumstances for growing the plant that are perfectly innocent to the illegal cocaine market.
The key influence of the coca market comes from the Andean countries of South America: Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia. These countries are responsible for almost exclusively cultivating the coca plant, but Colombia is the main processing nation of the plant into cocaine, at nearly 70 percent (Stares, 2). The problem with fighting the producers of the coca plant is that not all of the operations are geared toward making the illegal substance. In fact, many of the producers within this region use the plants as a crucial element of social status and cultural values.
The main problem that the American law enforcement agencies have encountered from other nations is the social barrier to outlawing these narcotics. The coca plant has a significant social value in the Andean culture, just as the tea and coffee have a social value in American cultures. The Andean people chew the coca leaves, and this is done as a social function to protect one from spiritual influences. The families use the coca matu plant (green coca with a leathery texture that is unpleasant to taste) to offer for sacrifice to idols and to prepare corpses during the wakes of the dead (Leons, 68). The Andean people have become accustomed to the coca fields and have centered an entire society on this crop. When a young Andean couple marries, a crop is started with the painstaking planting process. Throughout the years of the marriage and with the edition of new members in the family, the field begins to grow until it reaches the final maturity, along with couple.
The only solution to fighting the cocaine manufacturers is to strike the operations that are actually producing the illegal product. Careful consideration must be made to identify the crop as a cocaine development field before fumigation is acceptable.
The two fronts, the consumer and the manufacturer, of the War on Drugs are not easy to identify. In order to succeed the manufacturer must be identified, punished, and put out of business. Failures will result when cultures are destroyed as collateral damage in the never-ending battle to keep cocaine off the streets of America. The social circles that use the coca plant as part of a social and cultural structure should be protected, but not totally ignored. The only way to win the War on Drugs is to focus war efforts on fighting the manufacturer of the finished cocaine product.
Bertram, E. (et al.) DRUG WAR POLITICS: THE PRICE OF
DENIAL. Univ Cal: Los Angeles, 1996.
Leons, M.B. and Sanabria, H. COCA, COCAINE, AND THE
BOLIVIAN REALITY. State Univ of NY: Albany, 1997.
Stares, P.B. GLOBAL HABIT: THE PROBLEM IN A BORDERLESS
WORLD. Brookings: Wash DC, 1996.
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