Legal Colorado Marijuana Market Hurting Drug Cartels

According to a story published today by Fox News Latinothe legal marijuana market in Colorado is partially responsible for decreased Mexican drug cartel activity within the U.S. and along the border.

Legal marijuana in Colorado seems to have helped with resolving the problem of drugs in Mexico, says the report, citing the pro-marijuana Weed Blog, which says that over the past two years trafficking of the drug by Mexican cartels has dropped by "up to 70 percent."Mexico_Flag_Map.svg

An official report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in October 2015 confirmed the reduction, showing that in 2014 there had been a year-on-year 23 percent drop in border smuggling.

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Debunking the Myths About the Marijuana Lobby

Nov 20, 2013 Morgan Fox

Cartels, Huffington Post, lobby, prohibitionists

MPP’s Executive Director, Rob Kampia, wrote an article for the Huffington Post this week discrediting three common myths about the marijuana lobby most often spread by prohibitionists.

It's important for all of us to keep our eye on the prize by agreeing that marijuana should be legal for people 21 and older; we'll put cartels and gangs out of business, and we'll have reasonable restrictions on advertising.

None of this is new. Anyone who believes that alcohol should be legal should also agree that marijuana should be legal.

This is simple for most of us to understand. The only people who are trying to confuse it are those who are making profits from marijuana prohibition -- international drug cartels and, unfortunately, so-called anti-drug nonprofit organizations in the U.S.

Click here to read the whole article!

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Organization of American States Report Urges U.S. to Reform Drug Policies

Last Friday, the Organization of American States (OAS) gathered in Bogotá, Colombia for the release of its $2 million report, ”The Drug Problem in the Americas,” which characterized marijuana as a relatively benign drug.

The 400-page study concluded that if the United States was sincere in its desire to reduce drug violence in the western hemisphere, then it would have to seriously rethink its stance on marijuana and look into more rational drug policies:

“It would be worthwhile to assess existing signals and trends that lean toward the decriminalization or legalization of the production, sale, and use of marijuana. Sooner or later decisions in this area will need to be taken.”

[caption id="attachment_6458" align="alignleft" width="144"]insulza1 Jose Miguel Insulza[/caption]

The discussion is long overdue, according to OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza, and most Latin American leaders – “whose countries suffer the bloody brunt of the largely failed U.S.-led drug war” – agree.

This is not the first time the Obama Administration has been asked by its neighboring governments to consider adopting more lenient marijuana policies in order to help combat the violent drug cartels that plague Latin America. The question was raised at last year’s Summit of the Americas.

The response from American officials was typical: making marijuana legal is not an option they will consider.

Rafael Lemaitre, spokesman for the White House’s drug czar, said in response to the report that “any suggestion that nations legalize drugs like heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine runs counter to an evidenced-based, public health approach to drug policy and are not viable alternatives.”

It is hardly “evidence-based” to lump marijuana in with the other drugs mentioned in that statement. Studies have conclusively shown that marijuana is objectively safer than all of them, including legal alcohol. Nor is it in the interest of public health to continue allowing the marijuana industry to be controlled by violent criminal organizations.

Latin America can attest to the fact that this drug war has a real body count. The United States needs to take responsibility for its failed policies and be willing to listen to its neighbors.

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Prohibition in Chicago: Different Day, Same Story

Like a lot of people, my morning routine involves clicking around a few major news sites to see what people are talking about that day. Disgusting cruise ships and exploding Russian meteorites aside, one of the stories that caught my eye today was a story about Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the head of the notorious Sinaloa cartel in Mexico. Yesterday, the Chicago Crime Commission named Guzman “Public Enemy Number One,” a title CNN notes was created for bootlegger and gangster Al Capone.


Not since Capone "has any criminal deserved this title more than Joaquin Guzman," commission President J.R. Davis said in a news release. "Guzman is the major supplier of narcotics to Chicago. His agents are working in the Chicago area importing vast quantities of drugs for sale throughout the Chicago region and collecting and sending to Mexico tens of millions of dollars in drug money."

The distinction isn’t surprising. Guzman’s syndicate is the single largest supplier of marijuana and other drugs that come into the U.S. It’s a lucrative gig — according to Forbes, Guzman’s net worth exceeds $1 billion — which explains why Guzman so ruthlessly protects his turf. Estimates of the death toll in Mexico’s drug war are now over 60,000.

What is surprising is that neither CNN’s story nor most of America’s elected officials have connected the dots between Capone and Guzman and how prohibition was the source of their power and wealth. Whether it’s the 1920's or 2013, ceding control of a lucrative market to criminals enriches thugs like Capone and Guzman. Conversely, just as ending alcohol prohibition put bootleggers out of business, ending marijuana prohibition would deal a significant blow to drug trafficking cartels like Guzman’s.

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Obama Administration Increases Drug War Spending

Earlier today, the Obama administration released its annual National Drug Control Strategy, detailing the methods and budgets planned to combat drug use for fiscal year 2013. The report stresses that more resources need to be spent on addiction treatment and prevention, and that an enforcement-centric “war on drugs” is unworkable. The report shows, however, that budget allocations for traditional law enforcement methods could increase by hundreds of millions of dollars, including domestic military operations. Government data from previous years have shown no connection between drug-arrest rates and drug-use rates.

While significant portions of the budget are dedicated to harm reduction and abuse prevention programs, many of the “drug war” methods that have proven ineffective over the last 40 years — particularly those used to enforce marijuana prohibition — will likely see funding increases this year. Domestic law enforcement is slated to receive $9.4 billion, a $61.4 million increase from last year. The Department of Defense Domestic Counterdrug support program will get nearly $150 million this year. Over $4.5 billion will be spent on federal incarceration of drug users and distributors. In addition, the Obama administration has requested the revival of the Youth Drug Prevention Media Program with a $20 million budget. Studies have shown that this program had the opposite of the intended effect on teens, and Congress allocated no money for the program last year.

"This budget is appalling. The drug czar is trying to resurrect those stupid TV ads, like the one where a teenager gets his fist stuck in his mouth," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "The budget intentionally undercounts the federal government's expenditures on incarcerating drug offenders, who comprise more than half of the federal prison population. And the budget dangerously proposes a massive escalation in using the military to fight drugs domestically. Congress should just ignore this budget and start from scratch. Specifically, Congress should not provide the Obama administration with any money to go after nonviolent marijuana users, growers, or distributors."

The drug czar’s strategy would keep control of the marijuana trade in the hands of drug cartels and illegal operators, endangering communities, and creating massive death tolls throughout Latin America. In the past year, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, current and former Latin American leaders whose countries are being ravaged by drug cartels, and tens of millions of Americans have called for a more rational approach to marijuana policy. The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that making marijuana legal is not an option.

Check back for further analysis in the coming days.

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Prohibition Hurts Children Far More Than Marijuana

One of the most often-heard arguments against marijuana reform can basically be summed up as follows:

“But what about the children?”

Prohibitionists are quick to trot this one out whenever their other arguments have failed because it’s an easy way to elicit a strong emotional response. They claim that marijuana reform will lead to increased rates of use, developmental damage, and easier access to marijuana. Even talking about the issue will lead to higher rates of use, according to their arguments. Never mind that teen use rates tend to decrease in states that pass medical marijuana laws, or that licensed distributors would have ample reason to ID customers.

No, facts don’t really apply to this argument. It is very useful, however, when it comes to terrifying parents. According to the standard drug warrior mentality, the only way to keep kids away from marijuana is to arrest adults for using it. To do otherwise would “send the wrong message to our youth.”

Apparently, all this concern does not extend to children living on the U.S.-Mexico border:

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Texas law enforcement officials say several Mexican drug cartels are luring youngsters as young as 11 to work in their smuggling operations.

Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told Reuters the drug gangs have a chilling name for the young Texans lured into their operations.

"They call them 'the expendables,'" he said.

McCraw said his investigators have evidence six Mexican drug gangs -- including the violent Zetas -- have "command and control centers" in Texas actively recruiting children for their operations, attracting them with what appears to be "easy money" for doing simple tasks.

The policy of marijuana prohibition is the primary reason cartels are able to bring in so much profit from distribution within the U.S., the reason they are in such brutal competition with each other, and the catalyst for using cheap and available child conscripts within our borders. Instituting more rational marijuana policies and bringing marijuana into a regulated, legal market would greatly diminish the power of the cartels, as well as their need to corrupt our youth. Licensed businesses, unlike cartels, must obey child labor laws and other regulations in order to stay in business.

Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske and other prohibitionists don’t want to hear that, though. It seems as if they have no problem using imaginary children to scare people away from reform. Real children, however, are “expendable.”

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The Drug War's Latest Collateral Damage: Ladies' Golf

Feb 04, 2011 Kate Zawidzki

Cartels, drug war, golf, LPGA, Mexico, ONDCP

The drug war claimed another victim this week, this time in the form of organized professional sports. On Wednesday, February 2, the LPGA Tour announced that it would postpone the Tres Marias Championship, which was to be held in Morelia, Mexico. Tour officials stated that their security firm determined that safety issues surrounding the event are “too severe” to have the event this year, and in order to hold the event in future years, things would have to “improve dramatically.”

I’ll be the first to admit that losing one golf tournament is nothing to lose sleep over and it should be put into context (we all know the true tragedy of the War on Drugs). However, the fact that a security firm decided that the current state of affairs in Morelia, Mexico renders a LPGA tournament unplayable due to safety concerns should give everyone pause. Today Morelia loses a major golf tournament, tomorrow could see other industry follow suit. Once industry leaves, the only employers are the cartels that create the violence that drives away the business and the police who do battle with them. The cycle of violence continues. Rinse and repeat.

If American officials, who invest heavily in Mexico’s war against cartels, were to simply lift the prohibition on marijuana, we could see real change for our neighbors to the south. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy estimates that Mexican drug cartels derive 60% of their profits from marijuana sales to the U.S. market. With one policy decision, we could cripple the cartels’ bank accounts and their power structure, bringing an end to the violence that has devastated vast areas of Mexico. When that day comes, it will certainly be a fine day for golf.

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Prohibition||Tax and Regulate

What Exactly Did that RAND Study Say About Cartels and Marijuana?

If you believe most headline writers, yesterday the RAND Corporation released a study that said ending marijuana prohibition in California would do little to take away profits from Mexican drug cartels. But if you take the time to actually read the study, you’ll learn that Mexican cartels make billions of dollars from exporting marijuana to the United States (not including profits from the marijuana they grow within our borders), that a statistic originally put forward by the U.S. drug czar’s office was based on little and “should not be taken seriously,” and that removing marijuana from the criminal market in California (just one state) would deprive the cartels several percentage points worth of their revenue.

In short, the report tells us what we already knew: the cartels make huge profits from illicit marijuana sales, the U.S. drug czar’s office is prone to spreading misinformation, and the passage of Prop 19 in California could be a first crucial step toward dealing a much larger blow to the cartels’ revenue.

Let’s address these points one at a time:

How much money do the cartels make from marijuana? RAND estimates the cartels make somewhere around $1.5 to $2 billion annually “from moving marijuana across the border into the United States and selling it to wholesalers.” But this estimate makes a serious omission: How much money are the cartels making from all the marijuana they grow within U.S. borders? “This [$2 billion] figure does not include revenue from [cartel] production and distribution in the United States,” the report says, “which is extremely difficult to estimate with current data.” That’s a huge lapse, especially considering that every year, the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting digs up literally millions of marijuana plants that authorities blame on illegal cartel growers. In order for RAND’s estimate to have any meaning, marijuana grown by the cartels in the U.S. needs to be taken into account.

What percentage of the cartels’ revenue comes from marijuana? It’s been widely stated by legalization opponents and advocates (including myself) that the cartels make 60 percent of their revenue from selling marijuana in the U.S. Our source for that statistic was none other than the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. But now RAND says that number isn’t true:

The ubiquitous claim that 60 percent of Mexican [drug trafficking organizations’] export revenue come from U.S. marijuana consumption should not be taken seriously. No publicly available source verifies or explains this figure and subsequent analyses revealed great uncertainty about the estimate (GAO, 2007). Our analysis— though preliminary on this point—suggests that 15–26 percent is a more credible range of the share of drug export revenues attributable to [marijuana].

I have no way of confirming which of those estimates is closer to the truth. But either way, says NORML’s Paul Armentano, “someone is lying.”

So who should we believe? On the one hand we have the federal government, which consistently lies about marijuana to further their own agenda. On the other hand, we have RAND, which also isn’t above making its own specious claims to further their own agenda — which in this case seems to be opposing California’s Prop. 19.

And more importantly: so what? If the cartels make 15 to 26 percent of their revenue from marijuana, that is still a hugely significant sum, and it shouldn’t discredit the argument that legalizing marijuana would hurt the cartels (an argument made not just by advocates in the U.S., but also former Mexican president Vicente Fox and many others). According to RAND, it could deprive them up to a quarter of their profits.

Pete Guither does a nice job summing up the headache this causes:

The government comes out and says that 60% of the cartels’ income is from marijuana. Legalizers say that legalizing will hurt the cartels (true) and mention the government’s numbers. Rand comes out and says that the government was lying through its teeth, but they don’t really know for sure what the real numbers are, but probably lower, and therefore the legalizers’ argument for legalization is supposedly weakened. And yet they admit that the legalizers’ core argument is true (that legalization will hurt the cartels – see above). Then they word their press release in such a way that they know the newspapers will report it as a blow to Prop 19.

So how much of an impact could Prop 19 have on the cartels? RAND estimates that Prop 19’s passage could decrease cartel revenue by 2 to 4 percent. For a single state initiative, those numbers aren’t small potatoes.

We believe that legalizing marijuana in California would effectively eliminate Mexican DTOs’ revenues from supplying Mexican-grown marijuana to the California market. As we elaborate in this chapter, even with taxes, legally produced marijuana would likely cost no more than would illegal marijuana from Mexico and would cost less than half as much per unit of THC (Kilmer, Caulkins, Pacula, et al., 2010). Thus, the needs of the California market would be supplied by the new legal industry. While, in theory, some DTO employees might choose to work in the legal marijuana industry, they would not be able to generate unusual profits, nor be able to draw on talents that are particular to a criminal organization.

But somehow RAND portrays this negatively. Of course, legalizing marijuana in a single state wouldn’t completely wipe out the cartels. But what MPP and others advocate is that marijuana be taxed and regulated like alcohol nationwide. Passing Prop 19 would simply be the first step toward doing that. Jon Walker from Just Say Now gets it right:

No one has been claiming just the passage Prop 19 alone would eliminate all of the Mexican drug cartels’ marijuana profits across the whole country. Prop 19 is just the first big step toward a broader adoption of a more sensible marijuana policy that denies the cartels a huge source of funding.

And of course, until Prop 19 or some similar initiative is passed in an American state, this entire debate will remain abstract and hypothetical. It’s up to California voters to make it a reality on Nov. 2.

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Republican Senator: Mexican Cartels 'Most Immediate' U.S. Security Threat

Sep 27, 2010 Kate Zawidzki

Cartels, Mexico, Republican, Richard Lugar

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said this weekend that “[t]ransnational drug trafficking organizations operating from Mexico represent the most immediate national security threat faced by the United States in the Western Hemisphere.”

Gee, if only there were some way to cut off their largest source of revenue …

Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security is reportedly using a $7 million surveillance plane to spy on marijuana grows in Colorado.

Glad to see they've got their priorities right.

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How Regulating Marijuana Could End Mexico’s Drug War

Two must-read op-eds from last week explain why ending marijuana prohibition is perhaps the only effective way to curtail the ever-increasing violence plaguing Mexico:

In The Washington Post, Hector Aguilar Camín, publisher of the Mexican magazine Nexos, and Jorge G. Castañeda, a former Mexican foreign minister who teaches at New York University, write that California’s Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana for adults, “may, at long last, offer Mexico the promise of an exit from our costly war on drugs.”

The debate here is not framed in terms of personal drug use but rather whether legalization would do anything to abate Mexico's nightmarish violence and crime. There are reasons to think that it would: The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has said that up to 60 percent of Mexican drug cartels' profits come from marijuana. While some say the real figure is lower, pot is without question a crucial part of their business. Legalization would make a significant chunk of that business vanish. As their immense profits shrank, the drug kingpins would be deprived of the almost unlimited money they now use to fund recruitment, arms purchases and bribes.

In addition, legalizing marijuana would free up both human and financial resources for Mexico to push back against the scourges that are often, if not always correctly, attributed to drug traffickers and that constitute Mexicans' real bane: kidnapping, extortion, vehicle theft, home assaults, highway robbery and gunfights between gangs that leave far too many innocent bystanders dead and wounded. Before Mexico's current war on drugs started, in late 2006, the country's crime rate was low and dropping. Freed from the demands of the war on drugs, Mexico could return its energies to again reducing violent crime.

And in a piece published on FireDogLake and The Huffington Post, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson says U.S. officials need to stop funding Mexico's drug war and instead “welcome the debate on marijuana prohibition,” — something our current drug czar has repeatedly spurned.

America’s policy for almost 70 years has been to keep marijuana—arguably no more harmful than alcohol and used by 15 million Americans every month—confined to the illicit market, meaning we’ve given criminals a virtual monopoly on something that U.S. researcher Jon Gettman estimates is a $36 billion a year industry, greater than corn and wheat combined. We have implemented laws that are not enforceable, which has thereby created a thriving black market. By denying reality and not regulating and taxing marijuana, we are fueling not only this massive illicit economy, but a war that we are clearly losing.

The latest Prop 19 poll shows the initiative ahead 47-43, so its likelihood of passing is still anyone’s guess. But if it does pass, Camín and Castañeda say Prop 19 will “enhance [Mexican President] Calderon’s moral authority in pressing President Obama” and allow the Mexican government “to more actively lobby the U.S. government for wider changes in drug policy.”

All the more reason for Californians to turn out and vote yes on 19 this November.

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