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The cocaine road - from Colombia to Columbus, Georgia

It’s a long way from Colombia to Columbus.

But cocaine finds a way, from the farmer’s field to the dealer’s corner. And between the farmer trying to feed his family and the crackhead feeding his addiction, a lot of people make a lot of money.

It’s a multinational trade, ranging the Western Hemisphere as far as from Peru to Canada, as not all the cocaine that comes into the United States stops here. Some keeps going.

As it goes north, cash goes south. But just as an addict gets only so much cocaine, the farmer at the other end gains only so much profit.

The money is in the middle -- in the cartels and corrupt governments that siphon off the growers, manage the manufacturing and protect shipments from South to North America, bloodying the United States-Mexico border with battles over major crossings; the in-country smugglers who take it from there; and the dealers who dole it out.

Here in the states, cocaine is distributed much like any other product in demand -- along major travel routes, from those thinning out like the strands of a spider web.

America’s war-on-drugs mentality tends to view the fight against cocaine as a battle against the drug itself, but eradicating the drug here in the United States essentially means dismantling an economic system, according to Paul Gootenberg, author of “Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug.”

Gootenberg says cocaine now is part of the global economy, a product imported not only in the United States, but also in Europe and elsewhere.

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