As much as we talk about fighting gangs, the real issue is drugs.
For the most part, drugs are why the gangs exist. Most of their business involves drugs. So, fighting gangs means fighting drugs.
And, it comes down to the basic economics of supply and demand. Gangs supply the drugs to the community. The U.S. war on drugs and our efforts up here to combat gangs is a battle waged on the supply side of the equation. We’ve been waging this war for a long, long time and there is no end in sight.
We have to realize that, as a society, the strategy of attacking the supply side isn’t working.
The solution then, must lie in attacking the demand side of the equation. There are two ways to attack that. Both have their downsides, but both will likely be more effective than what we’re doing now.
The crime and punishment guys will like the first scenario make drug use a major crime. Give automatic jail sentences for possession of marijuana, trafficking automatically carries a two-year sentence so traffickers do hard time.
Right now the average person who likes to smoke a joint or two will run the risk of carrying a bag of pot to a concert or carry it in the glove-box of the car. Making that possession a major crime won’t eliminate pot-smoking, but it will make it less prevalent and available in the community at large.
The downside, as Attorney General Mike de Jong said about getting rid of the two-for-one deal in remand, more people will be whiling away the hours behind bars.
The other way to tackle demand is to control it by legalizing soft drugs like marijuana.
If government controls the production and sale of marijuana (suitably taxed as a sin tax), there will be little or no illegal trafficking. Why would anyone deal with a gangster when they can get their pot at the pharmacy? Hard drugs are another story, so there would still be illegal activity and gangs. But it wouldn’t be as prevalent.
The downside, of course, is that legalizing marijuana is kind of like admitting defeat. Plus, even though it is a soft drug, it does have adverse health effects.
Some would say those effects are no worse than alcohol.
One thing is certain: our strategy of attacking the drug supply isn’t working. The police will tell us that no sooner do they take one drug dealer, or even complete gang, off the street, another steps in to take his place.
I’m not entirely sure which way is better. But one thing is certain. Attacking the supply doesn’t work. We have to change the demand.