After leaving Cali I made my way to Medellín, infamous for being the headquarters of Pablo Escobar and the cocaine drug cartels of the 1980s. It is a much safer city now, modern and bustling with commerce. They even have a nice clean metro:

Another view of Medellín.

They passed a law that required art to be displayed in every public building and park. One such area, the Plaza Botero, contains several works by the artist and sculpture Fernando Botero, who was born in Medellín.

But Medellín has a darker side. Parts of downtown are littered with garbage. Casinos, sleazy bars and brothels are on every block. Homeless people lie on sidewalks, drunks stagger about, groups of grimy children sit and sniff glue and smoke God-knows-what. Beggars crawl around asking for money, some with limbs missing. I was sitting on a park bench and a filthy man staggered up asking for money. He had a open wound on his arm with blood dripping out. I was so nauseated I had to get up and leave. I found the area strangely fascinating and repulsive at the same time.

The overall success of Medellín must be due partly to the influx of all that drug money. Escobar was the tenth richest man in the world in the 1980s. He had to spend the money somewhere. This got me thinking about these archaic drug laws that governments pass. Billions of dollars are spent on the so-called “war on drugs”. The answer is simple: legalize marijuana and cocaine. We should have learned from Prohibition that outlawing mind-altering drugs is a recipe for disaster. The period in US history where most gangsters thrived was during the prohibition years. The same applies now. If drugs were legal supply would increase, prices (and profits) would fall, quality would increase and the problem goes away. Why are politicians so afraid to suggest this? The Libertarians are the only party brave enough to propose this solution.

Granted, demand and usage would also increase, and this would lead to more addiction problems, just as there are alcoholics now. But the benefits of eliminating the gangster element from the industry far outweighs this drawback. Plus, billions of dollars would be saved on law enforcement. You could abolish the DEA, courts would be freed up, and there would be less crowding in the prison system.