Pablo Escobar Hitman Speaks Out About Cocaine Legalization

By Keri Blakinger 07/20/17

"McDonald’s food probably kills more than cocaine. But people have the choice to take these things.”

 John Jairo “Popeye” Velasquez
John Jairo “Popeye” Velasquez Photo via YouTube

Pablo Escobar’s erstwhile hitman thinks cocaine should be legal, he said recently from his hiding spot in Colombia. 

Because of course he does. 

But even though John Jairo “Popeye” Velasquez’s stance on blow’s legality might seem entirely predictable, his reasoning can’t help but seem a little ironic: He wants to save lives. 

Popeye murdered more than 300 people for the notorious drug lord, and he’s been linked to nearly 1,000 killings.

But when it comes to coke, Velasquez says that regulating it and selling it on the up-and-up in pharmacies is a safer option—because it’s still better for you than McDonald’s. (Seriously, he said that.)

“Look, everything kills,” Velasquez told The Independent. “The soft drinks, whiskey, the beer. Cigarettes, marijuana. The bread. McDonald’s food probably kills more than cocaine. But people have the choice to take these things.”

Velasquez also argued that legalizing drugs would put a damper on the illicit drug trade—and the deadly gang wars it provokes. “The Drug War is an illusion,” he said. “It is all lies.”

Of course, it’s not so much that the war on drugs is “all lies,” but merely that its myth of success is—and Velasquez touched on that, too. “Every day the illicit trade grows and grows,” he added. And with that growing trade comes a growing death toll.

“Everywhere the Colombian cocaine goes: Great Britain, United States, South Africa, Ireland, it brings misery and bloodshed,” he said. “In the transit of cocaine a lot of people die. Thousands die. It destroys everything.”

And that’s why legalizing it and regulating would be a better option, he argued—it would eliminate the illicit trafficking and resulting violence. “More people are in danger when it is in the hands of the mafia,” he said. “In the moment it is legalized it will be sold in pharmacies, so your government should do that."

Velasquez was jailed for 24 years as a result of his bloody work for Escobar, who he described as “a God” and “a religion.” In deference to that religion, the retired hitman brutally gunned down hundreds—for what he described as a “dream” job. 

“I loved guns and Pablo Escobar was very friendly, very respectful, never shouted at anyone, and always paid the assassins for their work quickly,” he said. 

Now, Velasquez says he’s a changed man. He’s found God (like, an actual theistic figure, not just another drug lord) and the Holy Spirit. He’s not afraid of death—but has to move around and stay in hiding for fear of revenge from the families of those he’s killed.

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.