Drug policy should adhere to cultural norms

The history of drug use is long and varied, spanning countries and cultures. Some cultures condone the use of certain drugs, while others forbid them completely.

In the U.S., all non-prescribed intoxicant drugs other than caffeine or alcohol are prohibited. While this stance has been agreed upon by U.S. citizens as the one to follow, problems arise when the U.S. attempts to influence other countries’ drug policies.

In Bolivia, the indigenous population has long used coca, the plant form of cocaine, for medicinal purposes. In a Nov. 6 2008 Reuters article, the U.S. included Bolivia on a list as a country that had ‘failed’ to cooperate in the war on drugs.

Bolivian president Evo Morales stands by his coca policy however, citing cultural factors. For Morales, to ban the crop ‘amounted to a ban of a culture,’ according to a March 12 article in the UK Telegraph.

Yemenis’ use of qat, a mild stimulant, also has the potential to be affected by the war on drugs.

Qat, a ‘national institution,’ has been chewed in Yemen for over 700 years, according to a June 8, 1999 Middle East International article.

As qat is not a cultural norm for Americans, the U.S. polices its use. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency states there is ‘no legitimate use for khat in the United States.’

Should the war on drugs expand to Yemen, the Yemeni culture would face the threat of their favorite national pastime being banned.

The Yemenis’ love of qat can be compared to the prevalence of caffeine in America. Although classified as a drug by the Federal Drug Administration, caffeine is consumed by thousands of Americans daily.

If another country were to start pressuring the U.S. to limit the amount of caffeine in sodas or energy drinks or to stop the sale of coffee, riots would ensue.

The U.S. has every right to police drug use within their own borders. But attempting to enforce policies in countries where certain drugs are culturally permitted is wrong and simply amounts to bullying by the U.S.

Leave a Comment