Saturday, December 26, 2009

Wall Street Journal suggests raising white flag on marijuana prohibition to de-fund Mexican cartels

It's quite astonishing to see this subhed in today's Wall Street Journal story titled "Saving Mexico": "To weaken the cartels, some argue the U.S. should legalize marijuana, let cocaine pass through the Caribbean and take the profit motive out of the drug trade." According to the WSJ:
Growing numbers of Mexican and U.S. officials say—at least privately—that the biggest step in hurting the business operations of Mexican cartels would be simply to legalize their main product: marijuana. Long the world's most popular illegal drug, marijuana accounts for more than half the revenues of Mexican cartels.
Several other related, recent stories caught my eye today.

An AP story published widely on Christmas Day noted the odd truth that El Paso remains a relatively calm, crime-free city compared to Juarez across the river where the worst of the Mexican cartel wars are raging.

Meanwhile, an ominous item from The Business Insider notes that drug profits and increased value of expatriate remittances thanks to the falling peso are all that's propping up the Mexican economy, which is 12th largest in the world, now that the nation's oil reserves are running out.

This New York Times piece from last week details the story of a corrupt US Customs agent from El Paso.

Former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper says the death of drug kingpin Arturo Beltran Leyva doesn't reflect a victory for law enforcement but instead creates a job opening for thugs underneath him. PBS has the story of retaliation killings against a Mexican military hero's family by Beltran's gang, who may have had assistance from local police in making their getaway. Ciudad Juarez, reports PBS, has a murder rate three times as high as Baghdad, Iraq.

This item from a former Mexican foreign minister discusses how few good options present themselves to Mexican President Felipe Calderon in prosecuting the drug war Though he didn't make the analogy explicit, the story reminded me of accounts of Lyndon Johnson as he struggled to make sense of US policy during the Vietnam War.


Robert Langham said...

Yes. Instead of making billionaires out of criminals, destroying the US Bill of Rghts, Corrupting and radicalizing the police and courts and packing the prisons while dissolving every civil government to the south of us, just legalize the damn stuff.

Anonymous said...

The only thing we haven't tried. Might as well.

Anonymous said...

All reports I've seen indicate use would double, which would negatively affect productivity of workers, healthcare costs with even more long term impact, and national security with lagging standards for military, this proposal seems ill-advised. Then the electorate will blame Obama. No thanks.

Anonymous said...

Some folks are putting our lives in danger due to their political ideology. First the Fort Hood incident - we were paralized to act even though he was flashing all the warning lights.

Now this airplane bomber. Again, we didn't want to offend anybody so we let this almost happen - he was too stupid to pull it off, otherwise...

U.S. authorities said that in November, Abdulmutallab's father, Nigerian banker Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, went to the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, to discuss his concerns about his son's religious beliefs.

A U.S. official who received a briefing said Abdulmutallab was put in the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database maintained by the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center.

We are afraid to keep bombers off our airplanes because of political correctness. This ideology is so strong that we would put our own family members at risk. Insanity!

Jim Turner said...

Anon 10:06 I'm not sure where you are getting these reports from, but I am sure the same type of guessing was going on before the end of prohibition. After the repeal alcohol use when down.

Today alcohol related problems cause more lost productivity and health care problems than all illegal drugs combined. Most people recognize that going back to the failed experiment of prohibition would not cure the scourge of Demon Rum.

In the countries that have tried some form of legalization or decriminalization usage patterns seem to have taken an initial jump and then dropped back to earlier levels.

Health care costs are likely to decrease because the marijuana will not have herbicides, pesticides, or other weeds in the mix. Lost productivity would probably go down because most time off of work currently is related to the legal system, not the effects of marijuana.

Even if health care costs from more marijuana use doubled, they would be dwarfed by those of legally smoked tobacco. The amount of money saved on prison beds, law enforcement and the justice system would more than cover the increase in health care costs. Probably would be enough left over for realistic treatment programs that are in such short supply now.

Soronel Haetir said...

In regard to the differences between Juarez and El Paso, I could easily see a broken windows theory at play. The cartels understand that Juarez is already a law-free zone and act accordingly. El Paso simply has a different set of criminal rules to operate under. The US has enough effective enforcement officers that it is much more profitable to keep the activity low-key on the US side. Forcing the US to bring in those officers to deal with a rash of murders would most likely lead to increased interception of the drug traffic.

Capturedby said...

To our anonymous friends - Please remember - We are suppose to be FREE. If you don't like "pot" don't use it. As in so many issues, choose for yourself - citing Insurance costs is foolish - check out the cost of prisons, law-enforcement, families (mommy/daddy in jail). Stop the noise - Obama has his own problems and this is not one of them. Legalize it NOW, then make your OWN chose - don't impose your obvious misinformed opinion on me.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Soronel, I think we're way beyond "broken windows" in Juarez. When the thugs are assassinating police chiefs and openly threatening soldiers, it's not just the perception of instability but actual, near anarchic lack of on-the-ground government authority going on there. Broken windows are the least of their worries when the cops are outgunned, outsmarted and outmuscled.

I've heard several theories about why El Paso has remained safe, including the one you suggest, which is certainly a big part of it. It's a fascinating question to me. Governor Perry says its because of his border security grants to sheriffs, but nobody except the grant recipients tend to believe that. From a demographic perspective, the large number of illegal immigrants contributes to low crime rates because they tend to commit crimes at much lower rates than US citizens. Yet another suggestion is that the cartel leaders all live on the US side and you don't s#$t where you sleep. Texas' homeland security chief last year told the Lege that "command and control" of cartels now is mostly based on the US side.

It's probably not any one thing but a combination of a long list of factors. And IMO it's probably not a trend that may be counted on for the long term - those border towns were pretty safe, too, until about five years ago.

Anonymous said...

Yeah 10:14, Grits wants them all to cross the border.

Anonymous said...

Bomb suspect's teacher, family dismayed, shocked.

We are all shocked when we see the truth. We spend too much energy fooling ourselves.

Anonymous said...

A good example of this self deception:

The violence at Fort Hood, President Obama told mourners on Tuesday, was "incomprehensible." The "twisted logic that led to the tragedy," he reiterated, may be "too hard to comprehend."

Is it "too hard to comprehend" or do we work overtime to fool ourselves?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

All this stuff about Fort Hood, the bomber, etc., is off topic. Please stop. Go find a blog writing on those subjects and comment there.

Anonymous said...

I know this is a "slippery slope" argument which are always a little suspect but isn't legalizing something known to be harmful (and, like alcohol, also known to be a gateway drug) only going to tell kids and some adults that we were "only kidding" - it really isn't harmful and besides which it costs too much to criminalize so instead we will pay billions to "regulate" it like we do alcohol and other drugs and the government can make money off of it (taxes) instead of those nasty criminals?

I recently had some students do a presentation on why we should legalize marijuana and it followed the same arguments as the WSJ and much of what I see here. Are we really willing to decriminalize it and not regulate it? If we regulate it, are we ready for the government to become the drug kingpins instead or are we already there by assisting south of the border governments?

I really don't have answers and recognize that what we are currently doing doesn't seem effective but like rewarding children who misbehave with a pat on the head and a laugh at their silly antics, decriminalizing /legalizing drugs doesn't seem to send the right message either. (And I don't believe you can start with marijuana and end with marijuana - thus the slippery slope argument that also makes me uncomfortable.)

By the way, how is it destroying the US Bill of Rights? What did I miss?

More questions than answers on my part but simplistically it seems to start in homes where you teach children right from wrong and hope your neighbor does the same knowing that not all of them do and not every child listens.

Alex S. said...

Please don't make me have to start taking divorce cases again! Legalization will hurt us criminal defense lawyers!

Anonymous said...

Anon. at 6:01 PM

"I really don't have answers and recognize that what we are currently doing doesn't seem effective but like rewarding children who misbehave with a pat on the head and a laugh at their silly antics, decriminalizing /legalizing drugs doesn't seem to send the right message either."

How did you get from "What we are currently doing doesn't seem effective" to, I assume, that changing the law is "Like rewarding children who misbehave with a pat on the head and a laugh at their silly antics"? "Rewarding children who misbehave"?


Anonymous said...

Marijuana use is endemic to our society. Monitoring the Future surveys of youth drug use by the University of Michigan consistently reveal that 80-85% of high school students say that marijuana easily or very easily accessible to them. Anyone in the 15-20% who find it less accessible have only to ask the 80-85% who know where to obtain it.

Marijuana within American culture is already at the highest level of any other nation. It is much higher than nations where it has been decriminalized and legally accessible to adults. In short, prohibition fosters use through underground glamorization and excitement. Legal access to adults tends deglamorize use. Tobacco use is the lowest it has been roughly 100 years because legal use was deglamorized with health related education and health policy.

Anonymous said...

Sorry my "pat children on the head" comment was too simplistic. Try Chamberlain's "peace in our time" comment in his attempt to appease Hitler and not have to waste untold lives and dollars on fighting a mad man. Do we give up and say we want to be the thugs that control the dollars or fight the thugs who run the drugs?

Anonymous said...

Do the mexican cartels only run marijuana or do they run other "hard core" drugs? If we legalize marijuana does that make them (the cartels) go away or do we then face legalizing the other drugs in hopes of making them go away? Does legalizing marijuana free up extra money to go after other drug cartels and escalate the problem or solve the problem?

Anonymous said...

"Try Chamberlain's "peace in our time" comment in his attempt to appease Hitler and not have to waste untold lives and dollars on fighting a mad man. Do we give up and say we want to be the thugs that control the dollars or fight the thugs who run the drugs?"

So how many Trillions more do we need to sink down this dry hole. Before we realize the current plan is not working and the cure is worst than the disease. I understand you just drill the wells, and proficize on the way the world should be.

I'm sorry, I have no more money to sink into your promises or your bank account.


Anonymous said...

"Do we give up and say we want to be the thugs that control the dollars or fight the thugs who run the drugs?"

First of all... drugs, in general, aren't the subject being discussed. Marijuana prohibition is the subject.

Or, in answer to your question, should we continue being the thugs that that spy on citizens, break down doors, seize private property, deprive others of liberty, and kill and destroy futures and families over a leafy green substance?

The prohibition of that green leafy substance is the cause of more grief, destruction, and thugism than the substance itself or the use of it could ever create.


Anonymous said...

Actually, the original blog seemed to be addressing both issues (legalizing marijuana in order to de-fund Mexican cartels). Sorry if I stepped on your personal toes.

I want to know where you draw the line? What, if anything, should be criminalized? I believe any kind of power can lead to thuggish behavior. Does that mean we should allow anything / everything / nothing? If it is decriminalized do we try to regulate it under FDA or should we do away with FDA entirely?

Anonymous said...

You didn't step on my "Personal toes". Thank you for your concern.

I'm pretty sure nothing goes on in this country on the basis of individual liberty and trust. Everything has to have a written rule about it somewhere. Everything that's sold has some sort of regulation to it.

So yes, of course, there will be regulation. In the public market place there would be labeling, purity, and quality requirements. The FDA is as good a regulatory agency as any.

I don't think people SHOULD use marijuana any more than I think they SHOULD eat ice cream. I just think it's outrageous that people can be treated so badly because they do choose to use it. To me, that's obviously an egregious wrong.

Drawing the line? Obviously killing, assaulting, and stealing are wrong. They are an obvious wrong inflicted on another. We have to have rules about how we handle especially possibly devastatingly deadly things. We have to have some rules about how we handle natural gas, electricity, explosives, and potentially deadly traffic situations.

But this marijuana thing... it's not stealing. It's not murder and it's not assault. It's not kidnapping or rape.

It's one person saying you can't consume that product because I don't want you to and that's that.

That's arrogance and immaturity to believe one should have such power over another adult.

It's foolish. It's a waste of money and it hurts people... sometimes to death.

Every aspect of the present day prohibition of marijuana is a travesty that causes greater harm than the prohibited substance. It's not even about the plant being poisonous. You can buy deadly poisonous plants in the garden section of any store in Texas.

It's something else. What's it about? Puritanism? Hyper-moralism? Classism? Arrogance? Authoritarianism? Bullying? Slavery? I'm the boss of you?

Sheer racism ("The degenerate races", you know) is at the roots, the beginnings, of marijuana prohibition and it's still a part of the flourishing results.

Apparently a lot of people seem to enjoy marijuana and they seem pretty determined to make that choice for themselves for some reason.

Why do we enjoy curbing and punishing them so much? Why do we think we have to?

We risk life and limb and a lot of money to punish them for using or smuggling the green leafy substance, marijuana.

Why, exactly, is that?


Jim Turner said...

I remember a favorite Gahan Wilson cartoon. Several men with machine guns are shooting at roaches scurrying along the walls while an obviously upset lady is tugging at the main shooters arm and appears to be pleading with him to stop destroying her home.

The caption was something like "You hired us to kill these bugs so shut up and let us do our job."

Our drug war makes me think of this cartoon.

Anonymous said...

Let's develop some sensible guidelines about how much marijuana a person can legally possess for whatever purpose: medical, personal, inspirational, etc. The tax money wasted on arresting, prosecuting, imprisoning, and the forced "treatment" of marijuana users costs the U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars every year, billions that are therefore NOT available for schools, health care, repairing our roads and bridges, and a hundred other vitally important areas. Surely no one believes that imprisoning Americans for using a plant is a better use of our limited resources than educating our children, maintaining our infrastructure, and keeping our families safe from foreign terrorists?

Let's put the drug dealing criminals out of business and free up our tax dollars to meet America's real needs. Let's tax and regulate marijuana, and let's let ordinary Americans grow a little marijuana in their own back yards; maybe $100 a year for a permit to grow a dozen plants. It's a win-win.