A recent study published by the Royal Economic Society shows that there may be a link between some states passing medical marijuana laws and decreased violence associated with Mexican drug cartels. This appears to be especially stronger in border states.
The Free Beacon reports:
To determine the effect of medical marijuana laws on violent crime rates, the study authors performed three comparisons: They studied crime rates in counties before and after the introduction of medical marijuana; then between counties with and without medical marijuana; and finally, between counties at the border and further inland.
Combining these conclusions results in a reduction of 12.5 percent in the violent crime rate for border counties. Analysis using an alternate data set produced even more stark declines in violence: medical marijuana has "lead to a 40.6 percent decrease in drug-law related homicides in Mexican border states," the study says.
"We find that when a neighbour to a Mexican border state passes a MML [medical marijuana law], this results in a significant reduction in violent crime rates in the border state. More generally, we find that when a state passes a MML this reduces crime rates in the state in which the nearest Mexican border crossing is located. This evidence is consistent with our hypothesis that MMLs lead to a reduction in demand for illegal marijuana, followed by a reduction in revenue for Mexican DTOs, and, hence, a reduction in violence in the Mexican-border area," the study concludes.
You can read the full study here.
On this day in 1933, Congress responded to the growing number of states and citizens who decried the failed war on alcohol by ratifying the 21st Amendment. By effectively repealing federal alcohol prohibition, this historic event allowed states to determine the best way to deal with alcohol without interference from the federal government.
Tomorrow, history will begin to repeat itself as the ballot measure approved by voters in Washington officially goes into effect, making it the first state to remove all penalties for marijuana possession by adults. The federal government would be wise to learn from history and do what it did 79 years ago: get out of the way.
When it comes down to it, marijuana prohibition and alcohol prohibition are nearly identical, both in their intentions and in their failings. Both products are popular, and both prohibitions cause great harm to society. The laws that put non-violent alcohol users in prison and enriched violent gangsters like Al Capone are eerily similar to those that have destroyed the lives of millions of otherwise law-abiding marijuana consumers and propped up the cartels responsible for the daily violence south of the border.
Despite the glaring similarities with alcohol prohibition, there are still many government officials who simply do not see the parallels and insist that we cannot let responsible adults purchase marijuana – a far safer product than alcohol - from legitimate businesses instead of in the underground market.
Unfortunately, this seems to be the position of the U.S. Department of Justice, but we have yet to learn how, or if, they will push this position in states that choose a different, more rational path.
Washington’s new law will allow individuals 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana without penalty, fine, or arrest. Therefore, as of tomorrow, adults will no longer be persecuted simply for choosing to consume marijuana. It is now up to the state to create a system to tax and regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana so that this lucrative market can be properly managed, instead of being left in the hands of criminals without quality control or oversight.
The federal government should not interfere. It made that mistake when it tried to enforce federal law in states that had removed alcohol penalties, and the result was unnecessary suffering at the expense of states’ rights, vast amounts of money, and individual liberties.
The Obama Administration should not make the same mistake.
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to pass a resolution today declaring illegal marijuana cultivation on federal lands to be an “unacceptable threat to the safety of law enforcement and the public,” and calling upon the nation’s drug czar “to work in conjunction with Federal and State agencies to develop a comprehensive and coordinated strategy to permanently dismantle Mexican drug trafficking organizations operating on Federal lands.”
Speaking on the House floor yesterday, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) agreed with the goals of H. Res. 1540, but said the only way to accomplish such objectives would be to eliminate “the failed policy of prohibition with regard to marijuana and replac[e] it with regulation.”
“I have no doubt that marijuana plantations, as the resolution states, pose a threat to the environmental health of Federal lands, that drug traffickers spray unregulated chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers, but I submit that the best way to address that is to incorporate this into a meaningful and enforceable agricultural policy for the country with regard to the regulatory structure for the production of marijuana,” said Polis, whose home state of Colorado has emerged as a national leader in the regulation of medical marijuana. “… As long as [marijuana] remains illegal and as long as there is a market demand, the production will be driven underground. No matter how much we throw at enforcement, it will continue to be a threat not only to our Federal lands, but to our border security and to our safety within our country.”
Steve Fox, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project, today joined Rep. Polis in endorsing the underlying rationale of the resolution and suggesting that accomplishing the goals detailed in legislation will require an entirely new strategy by the federal government.
“Passage of this resolution will send a clear message to the drug czar and others that our current strategies for combating illegal marijuana production are not working and that a new direction is needed,” Fox said. “There are two choices here: continue the failed prohibitionist policies that encourage Mexican drug cartels to keep growing marijuana on federal lands, or embrace a new path that would acknowledge the reality that marijuana is not going away, but its production and sale can be sensibly regulated in order to reduce the harm caused by its illicit production on federal lands.”
UPDATE: The bill passed overwhelmingly yesterday, with the only "no" votes being cast by Reps. Polis, Barney Frank, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul.
Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko -- who, as we've discussed in a previous post, receives hundreds of thousands of federal dollars annually to pursue eradication efforts -- told the Redding Record-Searchlight that the vote "sends a very clear message that Congress recognizes the impact and the problems with illegal marijuana growing and dangers on public lands."
But unless Congress and the drug czar's office agree to consider regulating marijuana in order to shut down its illicit production, there's little chance all this chest-thumping will lead to any new, more effective strategies. In the perceptive words of Scott Morgan, "If you don't want Mexican gangsters growing marijuana in the woods, then it's time to allow people who aren't Mexican gangsters to grow marijuana somewhere that isn’t the woods."
Bragging About Futile Seizures, Invoking God, and Arresting Willie Nelson Does Not Weaken Drug Cartels
Back in May, the Associated Press published the first piece in a groundbreaking series concluding that, after 40 years and more than $1 trillion spent, America’s war on drugs “has failed to meet any of its goals.” Today, as part of the same series, the AP looks specifically at U.S. enforcement strategy toward drug cartels in Mexico, and concludes that even record-level arrests and seizures have failed absolutely to curb the power of the violent gangs that control vast swaths of northern Mexico and make billions by selling drugs, particularly marijuana, to the illicit U.S. market.
Boiled down, it’s a damning indictment of prohibition – and more importantly, the assumption that if we just arrest enough people, and seize enough drugs, then these bloodthirsty, increasingly powerful cartels will somehow just go away.
Citing just one example, a major DEA operation that arrested 761 members of the Sinaloa drug cartel and seized 23 tons of narcotics, the AP quotes acting Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart, as declaring: "Today we have dealt the Sinaloa drug cartel a crushing blow."
But just how crushing was it? An Associated Press investigation casts doubt on whether the crackdown caused any significant setback for the cartel. It still ranks near the top of Mexico's drug gangs, and most of those arrested were underlings who had little connection to the cartel and were swiftly replaced. The cartel leader remains free, along with his top commanders.
The findings confirm what many critics of the drug war have said for years: The government is quick to boast about large arrests or drug seizures, but many of its most-publicized efforts result in little, if any, slowdown in the drug trade.
When confronted by the AP with the fact that the current U.S. enforcement strategy is futile, DEA Deputy Director David Gaddas insisted such tactics work, reportedly arguing, “it’s disruptive for cartels to lose their drivers, their accountants, and their money launderers.”
Yes, but aren't the drugs they seize a fraction of those on the street, and the criminals arrested replaced or released?
Gaddas dropped his head into his hands for a moment, thinking.
"You know, we're doing God's work," he replied.
I never realized that was who told the DEA how to go about its business.
All kidding aside, that’s an unbelievably lame excuse. Hardly a week goes by now without a mainstream media report of the increasing carnage in Mexico, the discovery of yet another elaborate tunnel they cartels have used to smuggle marijuana into the United States, or the political and social tension that Mexican instability and violence are causing along our southern border. If you read the entire AP article, it cites one frustrating example after another.
And the DEA sits there and claims – despite mountains of evidence to the contrary – that its strategy is working.
Thankfully, a major news organization like the AP has now – finally – read the writing on the wall and spelled it out with meticulous detail: current U.S. drug policy does not work. It does not reduce crime, does not reduce use, does not reduce availability, does not weaken major drug traffickers.
So what should we do instead? How else can we strike a blow against these murderous cartel thugs?
Well, according to former Mexico presidents, leading Mexican intellectuals, a sitting U.S. federal judge, a former U.S. border governor, and many others, the single most effective thing the U.S. could do would be to remove marijuana from the criminal market, and tax and regulate it like alcohol. Deny the cartels their most lucrative product, and make border cops spend their time on more worthwhile activities than arresting Willie Nelson.
On Sunday, masked gunmen executed 13 people in a drug rehabilitation center in Tijuana, Mexico, just across the border from San Diego. Authorities now think these grisly murders may have been in retaliation for the massive marijuana bust that occurred there last week.
Whether the victims were actually involved in the seizure of 134 tons of marijuana destined for the U.S. is unknown, but in the end it makes no difference. It is clear that the tactics of marijuana prohibition are ineffective at producing anything besides shattered lives and dead bodies. Yet stories such as this are rarely heard in the debate for marijuana reform here in the U.S., despite the fact that it is our market for illicit substances that gives cartels the power to wage war on each other and the rest of society.
American law enforcement and politicians continue to support laws that cause death and mayhem across Mexico, perhaps because they don’t have to deal with the side effects of their choices in the same manner as their counterparts south of the border. When an entire police force quits on the same day rather than face further attack, there is obviously something wrong. But can you blame them?
The Rand Corporation released a study saying that Californian voters could take a bite out of the immense profits these murderers are making in their state by passing Proposition 19 on Tuesday. Regardless of any disagreement over just how big that bite would be, it is a moral imperative to cut into the cartel coffers in any way possible. Every dollar that is spent in a taxed and regulated marijuana market could contribute to California’s schools and health care, rather than ammo and blood.