Legalisation would help the poor

The "war on drugs", as you say in your editorial "Wage war on poverty, not drugs" (3 April), is illogical, but it cannot be argued that prohibition provides an "effective form of overseas aid". Prohibition is bad for the rural poor in Latin America and the Caribbean for the following reasons:

- It enriches criminal groups and corrupts the political classes, leaving the poor exposed to extortion and displacement.

- It gives the state the right to destroy peasants' crops of cocoa and cannabis, thus ruining livelihoods.

- With the trade tightly controlled by oligopolies, the high street price is not seen by the producers.

Legalisation would remove some of the distortions to the market and allow peasant co-operatives to compete with the multinationals on quality and ethics, not price ("pass me the fairly traded joint" type of thing). However, with so many powerful people making money, and the US gaining influence in the region through its drug "wars", change will be slow coming.

Alexander Kasterine
a.kasterine@wye.ac.uk

This article first appeared in the 10 April 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The long war against democracy