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Drug Policy is Conservation Policy

February 9, 2014
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There’s absolutely no doubt that illicit drug production threatens the environment in a number of ways. Prohibitionists, over the years, have tried to dishonestly coopt this basic truth as being an argument against drugs, as opposed to an argument against drug prohibition.

Things are changing and now those who care about conservation are realizing that they need to care about drug policy.

Narco-Deforestation: Linking Drug Policy and Forest Conservation

A new article published in the journal Science, co-authored by United Nations University researcher Dr. David Wrathall, provides compelling evidence that flows of drugs through the Americas are directly related to deforestation rates in North America’s most biodiverse and biosensitive region. The article, “Drug Policy as Conservation Policy: Narco-Deforestation” is the result of collaboration between researchers at the UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) and four US universities: The Ohio State University, Northern Arizona University, the University of Denver and the University of Idaho. [...]

The fact that drug crop eradication policies can push growers further into sensitive ecosystems is well documented. But the article references a parallel (but less-investigated) effect from drug trafficking interdiction programmes, which are deflecting drug traffickers, and their ecological impact, to new forest areas — a reminder to the international conservation community that “drug policy is conservation policy” and that continued protection of these ecosystems depends on an alternative policy approach to drug flows. [...]

The article concludes that while “drug policy innovations alone will never end deforestation in Central America … rethinking the war on drugs could yield important ecological benefits”.

Drug warriors have a lot of explaining to do. It’s getting harder and harder for them to do their thing unchallenged. And the challenges are coming from a variety of interests.

One of the things that has constantly annoyed me is the heavy use of the perfect solution fallacy (which is also a straw man) by prohibitionists and their apologists. You’re always hearing them say things like “legalization of marijuana won’t destroy the cartels” with the implication being that there is no benefit since the actual current criminals in those positions will likely still exist and still be evil.

Yes, we know that it’ll take more than marijuana to significantly dismantle the operations (and we hope to get there with regulated legalization of all drugs), but in the meantime, every bit of income we deny the drug trafficking organizations means they have a tougher time recruiting new members, bribing government officials, and having the economic power to do their will upon a variety of things (including the environment) unchecked.

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Pete Guither is the editor of drugwarrant.com

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