Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Marijuana a 'marketing miracle' with a dark legacy

The Houston Chronicle published an interesting story today on the North American market for marijuana ("Mexico's cartels rely on their cash crop," July 26), describing  weed's resilience as a black-market money maker in almost awed and admiring tones. It opened:
But for its problematic pedigree, Mexico's marijuana might be hailed as a marketing miracle.

The much-maligned weed has suffered decades of punishment — burned, poisoned, ripped from the earth by its roots. Customers have been jailed, suppliers battered by literally cutthroat competition. Better products from Colombia, California and countless suburban back-rooms have somewhat eroded its popularity. Governments refuse to make it honest.

Yet, this pot has persevered. Production grows, quality improves and exports northward hum along. Despite decades of U.S. officials' efforts against it, Mexican marijuana remains widely available, frequently used and commonly disregarded as a danger.

"They are never going to stop it," said Dan Webb, a recently retired anti-narcotics lieutenant with the Texas Department of Public Safety, who now teaches drug enforcement at Sam Houston State University.

"It is just like Prohibition," Webb said, comparing Mexico's cannabis trade to the boom in liquor smuggling after the U.S. government outlawed alcohol sales decades ago. "As long as there is a demand, somebody is going to come up with a supply."

Then again, there's that dark legacy. Marijuana sales to American consumers largely finance the gangster warfare that's killed upwards of 40,000 Mexicans in less than five years.

Though its slice of the gangs' income may be shrinking — the thugs long have profited from cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, as well as kidnapping, extortion and piracy — marijuana remains a solid bet. Call it the money market fund of the Mexican mob.

"Marijuana remains the constant commodity of choice for the drug cartels because of end user demand and the ease of production," said Tony Garcia, South Texas director of an intergovernmental police alliance that keeps tabs on the illicit drug trade. ...

Cheap to grow and relatively easy to bring to market, Mexico's marijuana provides sustenance for entire mountain communities and wide profit margins for the gangsters. One widely challenged U.S. government study five years ago estimated that cannabis exports provided some 60 percent of the gangs' revenues. Other estimates range from 15 to 40 percent.
Prohibition of alcohol too, of course, had a "dark legacy" to overcome, and if marijuana were ever legalized I suspect it would overcome its own disreputable past as quickly as did beer, wine and spirits. And though change will be slow in coming, even in Texas opposition to pot legalization is slowly dissipating. Earlier this year when the Texas Tribune asked voters about potential revenue sources, legalizing and taxing pot, while opposed by 59% of the public, was more still popular than more traditional revenue sources like raising the sales, business or gas taxes. According to the Chron, "surveys suggest at least 11 percent of Americans over age 12 regularly puff from a joint, pipe or bong." That's a whole lot of folks.

This is a Less Government issue I'd love to see the Tea Partiers and Right-on-Crime folks seriously take on.

RELATED: From Time magazine.


Sandy said...

Stop the silly violence. Legalize it. It's a flower; wasn't dangerous till dumb man-made laws set the stage for so much senseless bloodshed.

Anonymous said...

This does have harmful effects on the body for some. Scientfic evidence of even one exposure to lead to life long mental health issues. Yes, there is already a preponderance to mental health issues but why play Russian roulette. The result is the need for society help to provide for care of these people. The burden of the flower will be greater than we are seeing at this time.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

5:16, with 11% of the public smoking now, how does keeping it illegal address what you're saying? Anyone who wants it gets it now. There may be potential mental health issues for young people, but isn't that all the more reason to legalize and limit distribution to adults, as with alcohol?

Anonymous said...

The recent ballot initiative in California, Proposition 19, to legalize marijuana was opposed and defeated by the usual suspects: The California Narcotics Officers' Association, the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, the California Police Chiefs Association, the California Correctional Supervisors Organization, the California Peace Officers Association, the California District Attorney Association, and local police associations. They are joined by all federal drug czars past and present, past and present DEA administrators, both California US senators and most of the congressional delegation, most newspaper editorial boards, the California Chamber of Commerce, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and, lastly, the California Beer and Beverage Distributors. http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=6136

This speaks volumes as to why weed is illegal. Follow the money, its trail never lies...

Anonymous said...

According to Fireman Bill smoking marijuana could kill you.
What if; for instance your in your garage getting ready to smoke a joint, and there on the floor of your garage is a 5 gallon gas can with a leak that has spread about a gallon of gas. you start to light your joint with a lighter. Not one of those drug store lighters that go out when you let go but something like a zippo. then you drop the still burning lighter in the puddle of gas and it ignites the other 4 gallons of gas still in the can??? see.

Anonymous said...

War on drugs? Give me a break!Just another way for government agencies to steal more money!If we weren't the biggest comsumers of drugs,cartels would have no need to supply us. I am 60 years old, I have been smoking since I was 14 yrs.old. Never been sick a day of my life. I am a legal writer, studied at Princeton University. Scientists report the effects of marijuana as our government dictates. Legalize marijuana and we'll wipe out the national debt in no time! Why should drug cartels be the ones who make 300 billion dollars a year? Wake up America, this issue is used to cover up all the stealing going in drug related government agencies!

Kevin Stouwie said...

The anonymous post at 7:08 really nails it.

It is much more profitable for many, many interest groups to keep marijuana illegal. They perpetuate the propoganda that weed is the devil. Since these zealots will not go quietly into the good night, I'd like to at least see a lessening of the penalties, if for no other reason than economics and practicality.

For example, for possession of small quantities, say under an ounce, we make the penalty akin to a traffic ticket. Larger quantities, a misdemeanor.

We could generate municipal revenue instead of constantly spending county and state revenue on the criminilization costs, i.e arresting, prosecuting, incarcerating, etc.

The fiscal realities we face, as a state and as a nation, not to mention the social costs, do not allow any logical, sane way to continue the demonization of weed.

Liquor is used responsibly by most people, and irresponsibly by a small percentage of consumers. It's the same scenario with weed.

Sandy said...

Anonymous 5:16: Every element on the planet seems to cause problems for somebody somewhere. Should we all be denied access, even when the element is beneficial to many, just so the few who suffer adverse effects from it can't get their undisciplined little hands on it?

There are diseases that cause debilitating effects when the patient is exposed to sunlight. Should we outlaw sunlight to accommodate these people?

In recent years, I've read that sperm can cause autoimmune responses in some women. Let's do away with sperm, too, OK?

Speaking of sperm, it causes many, many, many unwanted pregnancies and if that isn't a life-long harmful effect, I don't know what is. Let's jail all people who have sex. Let's put 'em away for life.

Most people I know who suffer harmful effects from whatever the element simply don't continue use or exposure to that harmful substance. That's called personal responsibility. Let's make 'em pay for that, too.

ckikerintulia said...

5:16, just a taste of peanut butter or anything containing peanuts can make some folks seriously ill, or even kill them. Let's outlaw the production of peanuts. Maybe Georgia peanut farmers can turn to growing cannabis. Some folks are also seriously allergic to gluten. Don't know what you could grow on all those thousands of acres of wheat farms on the Great Plains.

Anonymous said...

When did the US’s number one export turn into public enemy number 1? I understand the name change from hemp to something more racial like marijuana helps the hate propaganda. However from a health conscious perspective If cigarettes are legal why should weed, a more healthy alternative, be illegal. Ignorance is the causes in this foolish belief in the propaganda that weed is more harmful that the chemicals in cigarettes or the effects of manmade distillery’s.
And about the money trail, its only natural that these selfish minded small thinking members of these LEO groups would support keeping it illegal so they can keep their little hall monitor jobs. No thought given to the thousands of people being murdered to import weed to the US. No thought given to the billions of dollars being drained to support incarcerating weed smokers. Just want federal dollars to buy toys in a effort to mask their case of pusillanimous at the tax payers expense and buy donuts.
Criminalizing Marijuana is a win/win for both Gangsters and leos and we the people lose on an international level. IMO, I do not think the Tea Partiers have what it takes to do the right thing, the American thing, to address this issue. That was a different bread of Americans who dealt with the foolishness of probation and fought WW2. If only someone had the political clout and finances to launch a propaganda defense against the ignorance that keeps weed criminalized like the one Carl Rowe launched against the safety of American citizens with Tort Reform.
Why do our elected officials work against us and why do we the people continue to allow them to? It’s the down fall of free America home of the criminalized land of the incarcerated.

Anonymous said...

Please keep Hemp and Marjuana Illegal. I have a large portion of my 401K in Canadian hemp stock, It would be bad for me if Amerika started growing it.


Google: Canadian Hemp Trade Alliance

And yes always follow the money.

Phillip Baker said...

I'm old enough to have been hearing the "pot is evil and rots your brain" nonsense" for many decades(it's crap), while millions of folks continue using it responsibly decade after decade. I have read that it is the 2nd largest cash crop of the US- all untaxed. Stupid! And can't even grow non-THC hemp for its many uses- canvas, fabric,etc. The rest of the world grows and sells hemp products.

I would never advocate minors using marijuana, since those folks have enough of a challenge just growing up and developing normal brain function, social skills, etc. But we all really know the truth- it is not harmful when used in moderation and responsibly. There are already laws in place to deal with irresponsible use (DUI,etc).

Want to destroy not only the violent Mexican cartels, but Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the mob and lots of other odious groups? Legalize and regulate all the prohibited drugs. Instant crash of prices, collapse of cartels, etc. Tons of new revenue to all levels of govt. And set aside from that revenue money for intervention for those few unable to use in a responsible way.

But, you're all right. We'd have to shrink or eliminate the DEA, ATF, eliminate a lot of prisons, give up all that confiscated money,deprive a lot of lowers work, etc. Follow the money, as the man said. It never lies.

Phillip Baker said...

Oh, BTW- the CA ballot measure failed by only 6 points, and they are going to try again.

Sandy said...

Good points, Phillip Baker, about how legalization of it all would undoubtedly lead to the disbanding of cartels, Taliban, etc. That's a no-brainer I wish more people had the brains to get.

Yes, we'd have little or no need for most jobs in the DEA, ATF, prisons, etc., just as you stated. And, yes, there would be a lot more money in circulation in the good old US of A. But what would we do with it?

Maybe we could retrain all those laid-off law enforcement agents, prison keepers, etc., and give them jobs that actually work for the greater good. We could make our streets and bridges safe once again; we could rebuild storm-ravaged areas such as New Orleans; we could put enough teachers in classrooms so that our children are actually educated instead of just being cheaply babysat. We could keep our state and national parks open for business and maybe even enhance them so they're even more enjoyable than they are now. We could build more effective housing and treatment facilities for the homeless, the chronically ill or handicapped, the elderly. We could improve the food supply by growing crops of a variety of nutritious foods instead of starving ourselves for the sake of industrial monoculture. We could . . .

Ah, the list goes on and on.

Thanks for your posts.

Kevin Stouwie said...

I'm afraid we'd still need prisons if marijuana were legal. Might be able to eliminate 5%, or even 10% of them, but we'd still need prisons.

That said, you make a lot of good points. :)

Sandy said...

You are so right, Kevin.

I don't doubt the need for prisons even if marijuana were legal. Unfortunately, as long as we have criminals in our midst, we'll need prisons. People who smoke pot, though, are just not criminals and so we'll need much, much smaller and far fewer prisons than we have now. And far fewer prison workers to rehabilitate them.

Let's put those able bodies to work where they'll serve the greater good, not continue to assist in the destruction of people who choose to spend their private, personal time enjoying peaceful pleasures.