On boycotting cocaine

This idea came up again this week, as I saw a number of people link to this article: Boycott Cocaine by Miles Hunt at Unharm, as a response to the devastating violence of the criminal drug market.

Morally we must boycott cocaine just as you’d boycott meat from any farmer that killed their livestock in a horribly gruesome way, or any company that refused to pay wages.

The solution to this problem is through abstinence as individuals until Governments deal with this problem properly by regulation

First, I will say that this is far superior to the absurd notions from some prohibitionists that getting everyone to abstain is a viable answer instead of legalization/regulation. That’s an argument that we’ve consistently debunked here at the Rant.

This is simply saying that prohibition is bad, it needs to be eliminated, but in the meantime we should encourage people to change their consumption habits to reduce the amount of money feeding criminal violence.

Sounds good. But it won’t work.

First of all, it’s important to understand how and when boycotts work. If you read the studies (check out the work of Brayden King), you quickly come to realize that boycotts almost never affect the bottom line. They work when the company being boycotted doesn’t want to be connected with the bad publicity related to the boycott (ie, use of slave labor, environmental damage, etc.).

But violent criminal drug organizations don’t care a bit about the bad publicity, so no boycott is going to affect them in that way.

Second, in those rare situations where a boycott works, there is usually a consumer choice (shop at a different company, buy local, etc.). This isn’t available in the cocaine market.

Third, there are natural changes in markets all the time. Over the past decades, there have been huge shifts – the explosion of cocaine use in the U.S. and then a dramatic reduction over years, with a shift in increased use elsewhere in the world. As long as the black market is in control, it adjusts to those variances seamlessly. Any affect from a boycott would be a tiny blip in comparison.

Finally, there is a danger that a boycott will make people think that they are doing something to help when they’re making no difference at all, perhaps reducing the effort put into true drug policy reform.

Look, if you feel better by avoiding use of cocaine until you can purchase it without the taint of criminal violence, by all means do so. That’s a perfectly fine moral choice.

But don’t think that participating in a cocaine boycott is going to save lives, or reduce the need for your efforts to end prohibition.

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11 Responses to On boycotting cocaine

  1. darkcycle says:

    Absolutely. Boycotts are only effective where the publicity hurts a companies ability to control the messaging associated with their products, and there are easy alternatives to choose. Comcast is a monoply in most of their service areas, and they are consistently named the worst company in the U.S. to do business with. So. Why doesn’t Comcast make any effort to improve? Why do they make their customer service so Byzantine and Kafkaesque? The answer is primarily because there is no easy alternative. You have no convenient choices. Drop cable and go to a dish, you give up decent internet speeds… DSL lines are slower and clunker. You lose the internet speed, and you have a second bill to pay. The basic cable plus internet is always exactly the same as internet only.
    Right now, there are at least six boycotts running against Comcast. The fact that I could only find six is a surprise to me, because at one time (having worked customer service for them in graduate school) there were 19 running at once for a short time. They have no effect on their bottom line.
    In fact, there are actually economic incentives for them to make their customer service even worse. Since you pay up in advance for service you haven’t used yet, most areas require them to credit you for service interruptions. But in order for you to get that credit, you need to report that interruption. It’s in their interest to make that process as difficult as possible.

    • Duncan20903 says:


      It’s one of the wierdest parts of living in left wing Montgomery County MD, we’ve got Comcast, Fios and in parts of the County some other company. I can’t recall the name because it isn’t in my wrong side of the tracks part of the County.. But I’ve got to admit this County does do some things right. We’re up to 70% of solid waste being recycled but amazingly (hold onto your hat) the County is not only making a profit, they’re proud of it. As well they should be but they’re a bunch of lefties and that makes it surreal from where I sit. Oh just to make this post on topic, it was the first Maryland jurisdiction and to the best of my knowledge the only one which has adopted an official policy against prosecuting possession of paraphernalia charges which the idiot Legislature neglected to decriminalize along with cannabis.

      As far as the cocaine boycott idea I think it’s so stupid that it actually makes me (momentarily) want to go buy some just to show my disagreement.Yes, I do know where the Yo boys work. But you’ve this one pegged DC. Boycotts are not just not buying from one source to punish them, it also requires that there be a source that’s rewarded for doing the right thing. In this case it’s the prohibitionists who would be rewarded, and they’re the ones that assigned this lucrative market to the organized criminal syndicates in the first place.

      Oh, I doubt that anyone who’s buying enough cocaine to even make a difference gives a flying fuck about anything else. At least I sure didn’t notice anyone with a working social conscience when I was in that cohort. I say “working” because I do certainly believe that I have a social conscience but it sure wasn’t turned on in those days. As a result I can’t dismiss the possibility that at least some of the other apparent psychopathic malignant narcissists in that crowd might also have a social conscience today. I guarantee that none of them are still smoking cocaine.

      From the “life liberty, and the pursuit of trivia” category, did you know that crack is in Federal schedule II? No fooling.

  2. thelbert says:

    i’ve been boycotting coke for at least thirty years, and i haven’t heard of any cocaine dealers starving.

    • Windy says:

      I have also, gave up coke long ago (late 70s or early 80s, can’t really recall exactly) thanks to trying free base, which made me want to crawl out of my body it made me so physically uncomfortable, haven’t had ANY desire for coke since then.

  3. primus says:

    This appears to be simply a variation on the ‘blame the consumer’ meme. You know, ‘If you buy drugs you are funding the Taliban’ tripe. This is just a different attempt to tie the consumer to the black market, instead of placing the blame where it belongs; on the politicians who created and maintain prohibition in the first place.

  4. thelbert says:

    this one hits close to home: http://www.reformca.com/raid_tshirt it’s like they know exactly what i look like.

    • Crut says:

      Meanwhile, this officer thinks he’s hot stuff for wearing a vulgar t-shirt. I remember that feeling from high-school when I wore a “Happiness is a good screw” shirt with a picture of a nut & bolt on it… Only time I was ever suspended…

      These ignorant Authoritarians, deep down, are cowards. They don’t dare to think for themselves, because that might cause them to be “different”, and being different is the scariest thing possible for them.

      I’d pity them, except for the fact that they carry firearms, and will shoot my dog or worse…

  5. claygooding says:

    That is no challenge for me either,,i walked away from coke in the early 80’s before the violence really started to get bad,,TMK.
    But I don’t see weekend partakers ever boycotting it,,many live for the weekends that start on Friday nite and end usually around sundown Sunday so the worn out soul can get 12 hrs sleep before Monday hits with full force.

    I would love to try some coca leaves on a Saturday afternoon sometime though.

    • claygooding says:

      I wonder if you vaporized coca leaf if it would melt the cocaine from it,,since it hasn’t had any hydrochloric acid added yet it would be similar to freebase chemically,,just not sure if the machine would vaporize it.

  6. allan says:

    yeah… cocaine. Leave it to the European/western mindset to take a sublimely effective plant and turn it into something else. Cocaine is one of the few substances so far I would call an experience where the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

    I’m pretty much boycotting modernity. What a sad state we are in. Collective consumer delirium. Fantasy beats reality ’cause reality sucks and takes effort. When can’t-be-ignored-this-time reality comes knocking on our common door a lot of folks will be saying “who? Huh? Did you bring my pizza?”

  7. Will says:

    Miles’ follow up post on our blog – Why boycott cocaine? http://www.unharm.org/why_boycott_cocaine

    ‘We’ve called for cocaine consumers to boycott cocaine due to the death and destruction in the cocaine supply chain. Is this boycott going to change the behaviours of cocaine cartels? Unlikely.

    And do consumers bear the full weight of responsibility for that supply chain? No they do not…’

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