Home > Participants Coming > Student interview with Sanho Tree

Student interview with Sanho Tree

Posted by Anthony Gonzalez

NOTE: Sanho Tree is one of the nearly 100 participants who will be on campus next week (April 5-9, 2010) as part of the annual Conference on World Affairs. His panel on Thursday at 2 p.m. will be about the Mexican Drug War. During the week he will speak on subjects as varied as Gays in the Military to the Politics of Avatar. The complete program is available on-line as are Mr. Tree’s events.

Sanho Tree is a fellow and director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. The project works to end the war on drugs and replace it with policies that promote public health and safety as well as economic alternatives to the drug economy.

In your bio you talk about the war on drugs. What exactly is the war on drugs?

The war on drugs is really about destroying drugs at the source and really about attacking the drug economy.  Mexico, Bolivia, Afghanistan, these are the places that coca is being harvested these are the places that poppy seeds used to make opium are being harvested these are the places that marijuana is being harvested and exported all over the world.  We need to attack the problem at the source of production but this is a lot harder than it seems.  There is simply too much land area to stop all of the sources of production.

Can the war on drugs be won?

The war on drugs is like trying to shovel water.  NO! The war cannot be won for a number of reasons. First of all this is a demand related problem.  There will always be demand for these substances and this means there will always be people willing to take the risk of supplying illegal drugs.   The demand is all-encompassing meaning there is not just one group of drug doers there are crack heads living on the street and big-time lawyers on Wall Street blowing coke and everything in between.  So to think that people on either the supply or the demand side or going to just up and quit is irrational.  This irrationality stems from the rhetoric we use. Using the word war is misleading war means using brute force to manipulate the will of your enemy so the context is poor.

What do you mean by alternatives to the drug economy?

Well the majority of the actual producers of the plants that get harvested and exported are poor farmers or migrant workers.   These individuals are people who are living on less than two dollars a day.  Drugs keep them alive, if these cash crops they work on disappear, so will they.  The drug economy gives them sustenance.  To even think for a minute that American policy can abolish these people’s lives we aren’t thinking rationally.  Alternatives to the drug economy are to contain and manage the problem rather than abolish it.  One example would be to replace the drug crops with some form of edible crop.  The problem is the new crop would not be able to compete globally because of the lack of infrastructure and American agricultural subsidies.  Giving them an edible crop would remove their dependence on the drug lords and cartels.

What do you think about Marijuana and the 4/20 protest at CU?

Firstly I think that cannabis should be legalized taxed and regulated similar to prescription medication or alcohol is now.  Our last three presidents have admitted to smoking at one point, numerous numbers of congresspeople have admitted to smoking including Newt Gingrich.  Drug laws are out of whack to an extent in the effect that they only target the low-income individuals.  If George Bush got the same punishment as someone in jail do you think he would be able to achieve what he has today?  No the laws are to stiff and extremely unfairly apportioned.

To the protest at CU, I believe that there are much better ways to go about protesting.  I do not think that any of the individuals should be arrested but it is definitely not the best method.  It gives the cause an extremely bad image.  It’s interesting but inappropriate and ineffective because nothing is really accomplished.



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