|English | Español||November 19, 2017 | Issue #33|
“Attack the Wrongheaded Drug Policies”
A Letter from Baylen Linnekin in Washington, DC
By Baylen Linnekin
To support Baylen’s scholarship, use this link.
Right now, I’m a writer for the Drug Policy Alliance website. (For better or worse, I work a block from the White House.) DPA is an organization fighting against the U.S. drug war. I write a lot about the struggle in various U.S. states to legalize marijuana for medical use, to decriminalize marijuana for personal use, and to offer people drug treatment as a humane alternative to prison.
The types of pieces I most enjoy writing tell of the injustices done – in the name of keeping the children safe – by the U.S. government to Americans and people in countries like Bolivia.
In one of my favorite recent pieces, I wrote about a ridiculous U.S. government alternative-development program that uses my tax dollars to help grow asparagus in Peru. Why then the program? Well, because my government has concluded that asparagus is so much nicer than coca or opium or some other illegal substance. Never mind that the Peruvian asparagus turns out to be of lower quality than U.S.-grown asparagus, or that the asparagus subsidies cost American taxpayers millions of dollars, or that the Peruvian farmers could make more money, farm less land, and do less work by growing coca, or that this program is hurting American farmers – all that matters to the U.S. government is that the program makes a good sound byte in its rotten and futile war on drugs.
I’ve also written for A World Connected, an excellent website that counters what I believe are myths and errant criticisms surrounding globalization – the fantastic, inevitable, life-bringing, edifying touch of the global free market.
In my piece for A World Connected, without even delving into the many ways that drug legalization would help people in the developed world, I point out the benefits legalization of all drugs – all drugs – would bring to poor farmers in developing countries. A free market trade in coca, cannabis, and opium would benefit the rich and poor in supplier and consumer countries.
In short, I believe that globalization – of drugs, fabric, art, computers, etc. – can benefit everyone. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on the subject at the Authentic Journalism program.
I’m also looking forward to meeting other journalists and seeing the effects of the drug war for myself. The opportunity to meet coca growers and politicians – and some coca growers who are politicians – is an unbelievable opportunity to learn about the injustices wrought by my government on innocent people half a world away.
Reading the biographies of my fellow participants in the 2004 class of the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism is humbling, because each person I’ve read about is quite accomplished. I can’t pretend that my life has been as interesting as those of my Authentic J-School peers.
In writing this pitch, I thought hard about some angle that might compel one to read to the end of this piece – an end where I inevitably ask for their money to support the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism. What might make my narco-bio as compelling as that of someone who grew up in Chiapas, the daughter of an indigenous rebel and a former Sandinista, and worked farming yucca to save enough money for college in Sweden?
So there I was, fishing for dollars without a hook… and then former President Ronald Reagan died.
I immediately recalled how spectacular were his failures (the drug war, his AIDS policy, intervention in Latin America and the Caribbean) and successes (defeating communism, spreading freedom in Eastern Europe).
When I was 14, I didn’t think communism was half bad, but I wanted to see for myself. When I heard that some people in Boston were putting together a soccer team to travel through Eastern and Western Europe and the USSR, in spite of my status as a mediocre player, I signed up – raising money by selling (likely bogus) raffle tickets – because I wanted to see for myself. Frankly, I didn’t believe what Reagan said about communism, and actually found appeal in the egalitarian world it promised.
Not long after my Aeroflot flight landed in Moscow, I found that not only was Reagan right about communism, he was morally, ideologically and intellectually justified in actively opposing it.
Even under burgeoning glasnost, Russians were not free. Their suffering was a paradoxical elephant in the room. Though they lived in a country of vast natural resources, they endured food shortages and bread lines. Though their government promised to take care of their every need, it permitted the people no rights of free speech or assembly. And though their government was ostensibly founded for workers, those same workers had no right to work where they wanted and earned low wages making inferior products they could never afford to buy.
Unfortunately, even as Reagan rightly attacked these Soviet paradoxes, he never made the connection that the same economic liberties he so cherished should extend to those who farm coca, marijuana, and opium. Worse, Reagan incarcerated hundreds of thousands of Americans – a great percentage of whom were people of color – for doing nothing more than engaging in the nonviolent buying, selling and use of drugs.
Reagan was wrong about a lot of things, and in many cases his errors of indefensible inaction or belligerent action got innocent people killed.
Was he right to send troops to Latin America, trade arms for hostages with Iran, or invade Grenada? Emphatically, no.
Was he right that economic liberty is a human right? Definitely.
And so while I mourn the loss of a sick old man and celebrate the good things he did, I mourn the great man he might have been had he the sense to see the inconsistency, futility, and sheer ignorance of the war on drugs.
And so here I ask you to please support me and my fellow participants in the Narco News School of Authentic Journalism. Your donation will help ensure that a corps of authentic journalists is at the ready to attack wrongheaded drug policies like those championed by President Reagan.
You can send your donation to:
The Fund for Authentic Journalism
P.O Box 71051
Madison Heights, MI 48071 USA
Or make a contribution, online, via this link:
Support Baylen’s scholarship via this link:
Support all the scholars, the J-School, and Narco News via this link: http://www.authenticjournalism.org
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism