Imagine you had a really smart bomb - a genius bomb - that could blow up the leaders of every drug cartel in Mexico.
By the time the smoke cleared, a new pusher would be sitting in every cartel’s big chair and the distribution networks would continue satisfying the demand of every junkie and recreational-drug user in America.
Mexico’s drug cartels would continue to be, in the words of the Justice Department’s National Drug Threat Assessment for 2009, “the greatest drug-trafficking threat to the United States.”Now, imagine a different weapon.
Consider the impact of eliminating the most profitable product the cartels sell.
All we have to do is legalize marijuana.
“Marijuana is the (Mexican cartels’) cash crop, the cash cow,” says Brittany Brown of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Washington office, which does not advocate legalizing pot.
Marijuana is cheap to grow and requires no processing. More than a million pounds of it was seized in Arizona in each of the past two years, according to figures provided by Ramona Sanchez of the DEA’s Phoenix office. But those seizures were just a cost of doing business for multibillion-dollar drug lords. Marijuana continued to be widely available - and not just to adults.
Teens tell researchers that buying pot is easier than getting cigarettes or booze, says Bill Piper, director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, which does advocate legalizing marijuana.
Cannabis vs. alcohol
Some argue that if you legalize marijuana there would still be a black market. They say that because the product is so cheap to produce, the black market could underprice legal pot and sell to kids. But consider what we know about alcohol.
• First, Prohibition didn’t work.
• Second, even though alcohol sales are regulated, back-alley or school-yard sales of moonshine is not a billion-dollar problem.
• Third, alcohol, like its addictive killer-cousin tobacco, is taxed, which helps cover its costs to society.
Not so with marijuana.
After decades of anti-pot campaigns, from Reefer Madness to zero tolerance, so many Americans choose to smoke marijuana that the Mexican cartels have become an international threat to law and order.
Instead of paying taxes on their vice, pot smokers are enriching thugs and murderers.
“People who smoke pot in the United States don’t think they are connected to the cartels,” Brown says. “Actually, they are very connected.”
American drug users help sharpen the knives that cartel henchmen use to behead their enemies and terrorize Mexican border towns.
Even marijuana grown in the United States, increasingly in national parks and on other public lands, is often connected to Mexican cartels, Brown says.
According to the Justice Department’s 2009 assessment, cartels have “established varied transportation routes, advanced communications capabilities and strong affiliations with gangs in the United States” and “maintain drug-distribution networks or supply drugs to distributors in at least 230 U.S. cities.” Including Phoenix and Tucson.
The DEA says cartels are “poly-drug organizations” that routinely smuggle cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and precursor chemicals through our state.
“(But) marijuana generates the most profit,” Sanchez says.
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