We’ve called for cocaine consumers to boycott cocaine due to the death and destruction in the cocaine supply chain. Is this boycott going to change the behaviours of cocaine cartels? Unlikely.
And do consumers bear the full weight of responsibility for that supply chain? No they do not. The prohibition of drugs creates a black market just as the prohibition of alcohol did in the USA in the 1920’s. Prohibition hands lucrative markets over to criminals gangs who protect it all through violence and corruption.
Replace prohibition with legal regulation and the power of the cartels will erode. Violence will no longer be business as usual. A legitimate trade in drugs perpetrated by law abiding citizens must be better that what is happening now.
If legal regulation is the answer, why boycott cocaine?
The call is aimed at recreational users, the weekend pleasure seekers, the Friday night party goers keen for a line – people who have the capacity to choose between one drug and another – or to not use drugs at all.
I want to encourage these people to consider the impact of supply chains that operate in the context of prohibition – and to expand the circle of consideration to include people in countries where the drugs originate and the criminal gangs create havoc.
As Lisa Pryor argued in A Small Book About Drugs, ‘if you try your best to buy free range eggs and fair trade coffee does it really make sense to support without question one of the most vicious, unethical trades in the world?’
Many cocaine users are able to make a choice about what they consume. The ethical responsibilities around consuming drugs should not be treated as any lesser than the responsibilities around consuming any other product.
Our laws cause harm to drug users by deeming them criminals, and stigmatising their drug use, even while the vast majority are hard-working citizens that contribute much to our society. But this does not mean that users have no ethical responsibility for their choices.
In fact I would argue the opposite. Governments have failed and we must lead. We should be better than Governments and make choices that reduce harm – in this case by avoiding drugs where the harm associated with manufacture or supply are so great that ethically the use of such a drug cannot be tolerated. Cocaine is such a drug.