At just about the same time that the Labor Department was announcing that April saw the smallest number of new jobs added to the economy since 2004, there was bullish news on several different levels concerning sales and production in a product market largely ignored by those looking for “indicators”: illegal drugs.
Last week it was widely reported that prices for cocaine were down and the quality of the product was up. Additionally, U.S. efforts to curtail coca crops have shifted from air and sea surveillance of trafficking to fumigating the plants, due mostly to military resources being pulled to other parts of the world. Alas, growers have gone to planting a greater number of smaller fields to evade fumigation, and U.S. officials estimate that Colombia still exported 800 tons of cocaine last year.
Also last week, coke police in Riverside County found a home in Norco where the walls had been torn down to make room for a home pot-growing facility filled with $8.5 million worth of plants. The house was only one of more than a dozen pot farm busts in “quiet Southland neighborhoods” in just the past few weeks.
And in more drug news, last week also brought TV news reports that rising production of opium in Afghanistan will mean more cash for terrorist organizations reaping the profits of those sales. Because military efforts there focus on routing terrorists, fewer resources are being devoted to suppressing poppy fields, and as a result growers actually doubled production in 2003. Assuming that some of that product ends up in the United States, it becomes yet another sign of the health, if you will, of the illegal drug trade.
Rather than drag out more circular discussions about a “war” on drugs, maybe the passage of time and the realities of directing resources away from “drug wars” are bringing us a fresher and wider view of the place illegal drugs occupy in American life.
We’ve certainly gone through a maturation of that relationship in terms of the number of adult parents who can talk to their children about drugs by way of their own experiences with drug use. Time has also proven that the determination of the producers of drugs to keep supplies flowing can’t be dismissed as low-life weasels out to make a quick buck. If the old TV jingle claims that “cotton” is in the “fabric of our lives,” then by now we should admit that drugs are as well.
Recently we had cause to be reminded that guns are also a part of that fabric. Still, be it wishful thinking or denial, we often tend to view life as tainted by these things; we don’t want to concede that they are part of the weave.
Years ago, a similar mentality prevailed regarding premarital and extramarital sex. Yeah, sure it was out there, but it was a kind of boogey man; it was not an everyday citizen. Time, the evolution of sexual mores in the 60s and 70s, and finally AIDS brought on a new kind of respect for sexual behaviors. We had them, we engaged in them, children and adults got pregnant or infected because of them. Our desire to keep all of that out of dinner conversation had proven disastrous.
I’m not sure we’ve yet made the same adjustment for drug use. There’s no question there’s more talk about it in homes. But in a 21st century where 2,000 deaths a year in Mexico alone are attributed to gangs fighting over drug trafficking routes, where problem drinking in America has either failed to decrease since 1980 or may be on the rise (especially among young people), and where an ugly and cheap “hillbilly” drug like meth has moved to first position… perhaps in-depth dinner discussions about Spider-Man 3 should be replaced with “Let’s go around the table and see what everybody’s using right now. We’ll start with Dad…”
In 1959 the idea that Americans engaged in chemical retuning as a facet of everyday living might have sounded alarmist. But now we have a president with a drug-use past, and the term “rehab” has been elevated to a cute metaphor in a pop song about lost love. We may still view drugs as a boogey man aberration in a more pleasantly painted view of everyday life, but the raw economics indicate that the hair of that monster is in our fabric.