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Cocaine: Legalize It!

June 9, 2013

The Charmer, China Trade Clipper Ship launched 1854

The Charmer was built in Newburyport, Massachusetts by Geo. W. Jackman for Bush & Wildes of Boston.

My reason for posting a picture of this clipper ship here is to illustrate the advancement in naval technology during the opium smuggling that went on between the West to the East, in particular to its largest market, China. The era of the opium clipper ended when China finally legalized the drug trade after its defeat in the Arrow War, or Second Opium War (1856-1858). Here we have an example of the innovations of the markets at work despite making a market illegal.

Wrapper for opium packet. Singapore c.1920

According to Owens’ British Opium Policy, the British emissary Lord Elgin urged the legalization of opium imports (p. 221-229). Desperate for new tax revenues to rebuild after years of war and rebellion, the Chinese government agreed to legalize opium but reserved both the customs duties and the domestic opium trade for itself. There were many positive and negative consequences to the legalization of the opium trade but I personally believe the good outweighed the bad. One of the unfortunate consequences in terms of technology was the displacement of the fast clippers for plodding steamships and state monopolies replaced private traders. By the end of this article I will have hopefully and successfully made the point of the importance of legalizing the cocaine trade, but one of the unfortunate consequences will be that government will just continue to intervene to take its undeserved share of the profits.

smlpopp  Another unfortunate consequence, according to the International Opium Commissions’ Report and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Statistical Abstract of 1915, in the wake of opium’s legalization, China achieved a level of mass addiction never equaled by any nation ever before or since:  in 1906 the imperial government reported that 27 percent of all adult Chinese males were opium smokers. The same may happen here in the United States if we legalize cocaine, but if it did, would it pale in comparison to the bloodshed that has been experienced by scores of innocent and not so innocent people from the United States all the way down to Colombia throughout the so-called Drug War years? Lets look at a positive consequence of legalizing the opium trade in China. By the turn of the century, China was relying less and less on imported Indian opium. According to Rowntree’s Imperial Drug Trade, as addiction spread, so did poppy cultivation within China (p. 286-287). Imports from India began to decline as cheaper, domestic China brands of opium began to supplant the high-grade Bengal brands. Now could that be so bad? With an economy currently being in the state it is here in the United States, could we not use a new industry to bring segments of our population out of poverty and out of depending on the unconstitutional public welfare system where the government takes from its most productive member to give to its most unproductive member of society?

Foreign Factories at Canton 1830-1840, Sunqua

 

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