The “pot debate” has to extend past the border

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Recently in the media there has been much debate about the pros and cons of marijuana use, a reaction to the legalization of small amounts of weed in Colorado and Governor Cuomo’s announcement that New York will soon legalize medical marijuana. Perhaps the most widely-discussed is David Brooks’ piece for the New York Times that essentially amounted to “I, a successful white dude, smoked weed for a while but then I got tired of it. Therefore, pot is morally wrong and we shouldn’t legalize it.”

Other more progressive writers have certainly taken down Brooks’ and other conservatives embarrassingly privileged and unfounded arguments, but even so, what no one seems to be getting is this: it’s all well and good for a bunch of white journalists to argue about the politics of pot in the U.S. But has anyone stopped to consider where marijuana comes from?

Like, you know, Latin America? 

As someone who went to a school famous for its hippy culture, I had many friends who were vegetarians or vegans because they believed that consumption of animal products was harmful to our planet. Other friends refused to shop at certain stores that treated their workers poorly. Lots of people tried to buy fair trade, local, organic when they could. And most of those people smoked a whole ton of weed.

Why do so many people choose to ignore the consequences of consuming marijuana? I’ve found that this is not only the case here in the U.S.; living abroad in Brazil, many stoners had the same attitude. Except living in Rio, you know exactly where your weed comes from. In fact, many people go and get their weed by taking a bus into one of Rio’s favelas, and buying it off a local trafficker. Those same people can hear shoot outs happening just blocks away from their comfortable apartments in Rio’s wealthier neighborhoods. Yet pot smokers continue to fund the drug war in Rio by buying illegal marijuana from their local seller.

So how might legalizing the substance change its affect on poor communities of color in parts of Latin America?

Carolina Drake, guest posting over at Latino Rebels argues:

Those who smoke weed illegally bare the ethical consequences of not knowing if they are smoking blood tainted pot smuggled from Mexico. In this sense, legalizing weed in parts of the U.S. may positively impact Mexico by lessening the drug demand, which would logically lead to a decrease in illegal drug smuggling.

From the U.S. side, CBS News did a piece a few months ago about a 2013 study concluding that “proposals to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado, Oregon and Washington could cut Mexican drug cartels’ earnings from traffic to the U.S. by as much as 30 percent.”

In Mexico, the amounts of deaths have motivated public figures and intellectuals to argue for legalization, not to support stoner habits, but precisely to stop the drug-related violence. Mexican poet Javier Sicilia organized a caravan for peace which, during the months of August and September of 2012 traveled through the United States with the objective of reaching Washington and asking president Obama to assume responsibilities in the fight against drug traffic taking place in Mexico, and for a change in the United States’ drug policies.

So, to all major media outlets covering this issue: discussing pros and cons of marijuana use is only a small corner of the debate. Stop ignoring the countries who produce marijuana. Let’s consider both sides of the border when it comes to weed.

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Juliana managed to remain upright long enough to write this post. Horrible cold: 20 Juliana: 1.

Bay Area, California

Juliana is a writer, a speaker, and a consultant. Her blogging work focuses on feminist and racial justice movements lead by Latinas throughout the Americas, touching on issues such as environmental justice, immigration, colonization, land rights and indigenous movements. She has been a regular Contributor to Feministing since Spring of 2013, and also been published on the Huffington Post, Mic, and the Feminist Wire. Juliana studied Latin American and Latinx Studies at the University of California and is now based in the Bay Area where she has worked with various organizations on social media and communications strategy. In her free time, she likes to dance salsa and tango and practice Portuguese with her cousins via Skype.

Juliana is a Latina feminist writer and digital communications specialist living in California.

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