The hidden link between the war on drugs and the destruction of the environment

Not enough people understand that the war on drugs is a war on people, but even fewer people realize that the war on drugs is a war on nature. Here we’re not going to discuss the reasons behind prohibition and all the very serious moral questions surrounding it. Instead we’re going to talk about some of the direct effects that prohibition has on the environment.

Crops eradication

A Colombian soldier patrols an area being aerially fumigated Source :
A Colombian soldier patrols an area being aerially fumigated Source :

Fumigation campaigns, are a commonly used method for drug crops eradication. Chemicals are used to  kill the crops, but they are also poisoning the soil and damageing the pristine forest around them. Spraying herbicides from planes is a particularly imprecise method and the collateral damage is massive. The chemicals are directly threatening wildlife by poisoning and shrinking their habitat, but they are also a threat to cattle and water supplies. Many of these eradication campaigns are taking place in very biodiverse regions  and this causes significant habitat lost for countless species.  Beyond the direct damage of drug crop eradication , theere is  a baloon effect. Tightening control on one place or in one area pushes the producers in another area : usually deeper into the forest. Harsher enforcement is limitting the supply but  this only make the production more profitable and it increases the incentive to grow. Read more in this detailed report : “Count the costs 50 years of the war on drugs”. 

An article on Vice News also bring our attention to the devastation of the fumigation campaigns. They have been in the center of a 15 year multi billion aid package from the US to Columbia.  ” For years, government planes sprayed glyphosate — the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Round Up — onto illicit coca crops, with notable impacts on wildlife, food crops, livestock, and the health of nearby residents.” 

“The amount of land required to supply cocaine, marijuana, and heroin demands is quite tiny,” McSweeney added. “It becomes an environmental problem because the fields keep getting destroyed, so in order to meet that demand, they have to keep moving around — drug policy keeps that cultivation mobile.”

Fundamentally bad for the environment

prohibitionBeyond the countereffective law enforcement practices, drug prohibiton is fundamentally damaging for the environment. A lot of drugs are based on plants and are therefor produced in nature : cocaine, opium, cannabis for example. Prohibition is the kind of policy that puts the whole production and distribution process outside any sort of regulation. The people who produce are already outside the law, so they clearly don’t have to comply with any sort of environmental regulations or safety measures. In order to hide from the police, growing operations are often moved into the wilderness, causing deforestation and pollution. Prohibition is always going to be bad for the environment, because it puts a whole industry outside of any legal regulation. If the production would be legal and regulated the vast majority of the damage could be mitigated. Learn more on the effects of cannabis prohibition on California’s environemnt.

The environmental problems caused by our global policy of drug prohibition are enough of a reason for our lawmakers to take urgent action and create sensible legislation regulating the production and distribution of many illegal substances.




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