Astounding Connection between US Marihuana Prohibition and Mexican Drug Cartel Violence

Drug Policy — POSTED BY Dr. Ralph Metzner on April 14, 2010 at 2:55 pm

While I, like many others, have long deplored the senseless US drug prohibition, and have been appalled by the escalating violence of the drug cartel wars south of the border, a recent Alternet article by Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marihuana Laws), opened my eyes to a connection I had not seen. While the increased violence of the cartels is an obvious reaction to the increased militarized, US-supported enforcement tactics, I had always assumed that the bulk of the immensely profitable drug trade with Mexico (and Colombia) involved cocaine (as the bulk of the Asian trade involves opium/heroin).

After all, I thought, California, along with half-a-dozen other states has legalized medical marihuana and is even now fielding an initiative to legalize recreational use. Meanwhile, cash-strapped state lawmakers are hungrily eyeing the multi-billion dollar pot economy in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, as a way to help staunch the continuing multi-billion dollar deficits in the state budget. Marihuana, I thought, is of minor importance in the cross-border traffic and Mexican gang violence. The essay by Paul Armentano has thoroughly disabused me of this illusion – and lends emphasis to the need for legalization and licensing of marihuana. Here’s what he writes:

Wire-service reports estimate that Mexico’s drug lords employ over 100,000 soldiers — approximately as many as the Mexican army — and that the cartels’ wealth, intimidation, and influence extend to the highest echelons of law enforcement and government. Where do the cartels get their unprecedented wealth and power? By trafficking in illicit drugs — primarily marijuana — over the border into the United States.

The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy … says that more than 60 percent of the profits reaped by Mexican drug lords are derived from the exportation and sale of cannabis to the American market. … (By comparison, only about 28 percent of their profits are derived from the distribution of cocaine, and less than 1 percent comes from trafficking methamphetamine.) … Government officials estimate that approximately half the marijuana consumed in the United States originates from outside its borders, and they have identified Mexico as far and away America’s largest pot provider.

If the Obama administration wishes to once and for all reduce this unprecedented wave of Mexican drug-gang violence, then it needs to remove the drug lord’s primary source of income — and that’s marijuana trafficking. Despite 70+ years of criminal prohibition in the United States (and countless billions of dollars spent attempting to interdict marijuana at our southern border), America remains the primary destination for Mexican pot. Why? Because like it or not, Americans consume cannabis; in fact, Americans lead the world in their consumption of pot. According to a 2007 economic assessment, U.S. citizens spend $113 billion dollars annually to consume an estimated 31.1 million pounds of pot. According to the federal government, over 100 million Americans have used marijuana; over one in ten Americans do so regularly. In short, marijuana prohibition is not, and will not, reduce demand. So then it’s time to regulate the supply.  It is time to remove the production and distribution of marijuana out of the hands of violent criminal enterprises and into the hands of licensed businesses, and the only way to do that is through legalization.

For a penetrating and documented analysis of the  bigger global picture of this situation, read the book by Peter Dale Scott  Drugs, Oil and War- The United States in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Indochina (2003).

In my Roots of War and Domination (2008), I wrote the following in a simplified (perhaps simplistic) formulation of the situation:

The game of global capitalism is a game of money and power. There are multiple, overlapping conspiracies and agendas – all revolving around a fateful web of forces that define the elites’ agendas. Some refer to this as the G-O-D triangle, where G = guns and armaments, O = oil and other carbon fuels, and D = drugs and narcotics. Money flows and accumulates around all three points of the triangle (p. 37).

Legalizing marihuana consumption and regulating and taxing its sale and distribution, wouldn’t dissolve this triangle of murderous power, but it would take some of the juice out of it, restore freedom to the 100,000 pot prisoners in this country and facilitate the beneficial applications of this ancient medicinal herb.

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  • Bob says:

    Thanks Ralph. This article should be read by people in the Obama administration as well as the president himself. Maybe they would have a rethink of the senseless tragedy we call the War on Drugs. I doubt it though as the people who should be preventing the drugs from coming in are probably part of the money train that keeping it illegal perpetuates.
    Hopefully California will legalize and others states (depending on the success) will follow.

    I afraid like Rome we have seen our better days and eminent collapse of the American Empire is coming soon (10 years)with or without legalization

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