Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The case for a domestic marijuana industry

Like it or not, marijuana is a massive industry. One hundred million Americans admit to government survey-takers that they've used it, with nearly 15 million acknowledging use in the past month. That's a huge market -- exceeding the number of Americans who will buy a new car or truck this year, or who bought one last year.
The only way to stop drug gangs is to end their monopoly on production.
By Aaron Houston

Violence in Mexico is getting worse by the day. There are reports of beheadings, killings in the several thousands, and an environment of fear that makes it impossible for Mexican officials to do their work. The country's very stability may be threatened.

It's time to put an end to U.S. policies that subsidize these murderous drug gangs. The first step, as a growing chorus of voices is arguing, is to end the quixotic policy of prohibition, a proven failure. But the United States can do even better; by empowering a domestic marijuana industry, the United States would squeeze Mexican cartels' profits, cutting off the financial lifeline that sustains organized narcocrime.

According to U.S. and Mexican officials, some 60 percent of the profits that fuel Mexican narcotrafficking come from just one drug: marijuana. Although such estimates are inherently imprecise, there is no doubt that marijuana is the cash cow that makes these gangs the powerful, dangerous force they are -- both in Mexico and in the 230 U.S. cities where cartels are thought to operate. The chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Mexico and Central America Section recently told the New York Times that marijuana is the "king crop" for Mexican cartels, because it "consistently sustains its marketability and profitability."

Last November, the U.S. Joint Forces Command warned in its "Joint Operating Environment" report that Mexico "bear[s] consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse" due to drug cartel violence. Some critics saw the report as unduly dire, but at a minimum, as outgoing CIA Director Michael Hayden warned, drug cartels "threaten ... the well-being of the Mexican people and the Mexican state." A further increase in instability would constitute a national security and humanitarian crisis on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. For now, there is no end in sight to the worsening violence and no adequate plan to address it.

This appalling situation is not just happenstance. It is the direct result of prohibitionist U.S. policies.

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