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Dysart Willis

Peace in Columbia means cocaine boom here

When the war started, Lyndon Johnson was U.S. president, the Beatles had just launched the British invasion and "The Sound of Music" was thrilling audiences in Raleigh movie theaters. You might think that the reference is to the Viet Nam War, but we are actually referring to the recently concluded war between Columbia's government and FARC rebels.

What does it have to do with us? A lot. The peace deal reached more than 2,000 miles south of us has resulted in a cocaine boom that is driving down prices here. The bottom-line results can be read in newspapers and viewed in TV reports: arrests for cocaine trafficking and cocaine possession are on the rise.

Fields of coca crops blanket Columbia's hillsides as farmers there take advantage of the details of a peace plan that will pay people to stop growing the illicit cash crop. The payments are having the effect of motivating more farmers to grow coca, rather than the other way around.

There are now 460,000 acres of coca, a report in the Washington Post states. That translates into more than 700 square miles devoted to producing the plant that is at the root of the cocaine production process.

Coca prices have crashed, the Post reports, but the end of the war against FARC has regardless made the war on drugs more difficult. Columbian output of cocaine surged to 710 metric tons last year, the U.S. government says. That's up from 235 metric tons just three years earlier.

While the Columbia government pursues its strategy of paying farmers to stop growing coca, American law enforcement officials will continue their strategy of hoping that harsh punishments for drug possession and drug trafficking will prove to be deterrents.

Whether you are facing North Carolina state charges or federal drug charges, you can speak with a Raleigh attorney skilled in protecting rights and freedom.