Drug War

Sheriffs from El Dorado county in California dismantle a marijuana growing operation run by a Mexican cartel. Below, they show a bust of Jesus Malverde, the “Patron Saint of Drug Dealers” from Mexico. Photos by Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee.

Cartels moving north of the border

The powers that be in the “war on drugs” thought they had the solution to end the use of marijuana in the United States. They would just severely clamp down at the U.S./Mexico border, and then pay the Mexican government hundreds of millions of dollars to attack the drug cartels. This two-pronged attack would dry up marijuana at the source and the “war” would be won.

I guess it sounded good to our political leaders, who know far less about marijuana than they think they do. Anyone who’s ever smoked a joint could have known it wouldn’t work. Marijuana grows just as well (if not better) north of the border as it does in Mexico.

Marijuana has been a huge cash crop in Texas, Oklahoma, California and many other states for many years now. But it was Americans doing this illegal growing. But since the border crackdown, we are now seeing a new phenomenon. The Mexican drug cartels are moving their growing operations north of the border.

Law enforcement organizations are now finding more marijuana being grown than ever before, and many of these are not “mom and pop” growers. They are large and sophisticated “grows” with many thousands of plants. Just this month alone, officials in Navarro county have found three crops, totaling more than 16,000 plants. Oklahoma officials have found over 30,000 plants this summer in the Kiamichi Mountains.

These were sophisticated operations outfitted with drip irrigation systems, and the kicker — they were being tended by undocumented Mexican workers brought in specifically for that purpose by the Mexican cartels. The “war on drugs” hasn’t stopped the cartels. It’s just moved their operations into our own back yard.

And what will be the response of our political leaders? If past actions are any guide, they will just throw good money after bad. They will buy airplanes and helicopters and all sorts of technological equipment, and hire more officers armed with assault rifles. They will move us even closer to a police state — all to stop an innocuous drug that is less harmful to its users than most legal drugs.

Now I don’t want the Mexican cartels operating in Texas and other states, but this approach has already been proved a failure. Marijuana is an accepted recreational drug in this country, and pouring millions more into law enforcement efforts will not stop it. And it will not stop the cartels. What it will do is keep the drug so profitable to the cartels, that the killings so prevalent in Mexico will move into our own cities and towns — and that is something no American should want to happen.

There is a sensible way to stop the cartels though. Simply legalize the growth and sale of marijuana in the United States. This would have several effects — all of them good for America. First it would put the growing back into the hands of American farmers, giving them a new and profitable cash crop. This would increase their incomes and boost the economy at large (and increase the income tax they pay — probably significantly).

It would also destroy the importing and growing by the cartels, and would take millions of dollars in profits out of their pockets. They simply would not be able to compete with the American farmers growing the crop legally.

In addition to the increased income taxes paid by growers, a substantial tax could be levied on the retail sale of marijuana. This would give both federal and state governments billions of dollars in new income (and stave off tax increases in other areas, which would benefit everyone).

The legalization would also stop the stupid and hurtful criminalization of hard-working tax-paying Americans for the recreational use of marijuana. And it would redirect police efforts toward those more vicious elements in our society.

With the drug cartels moving in to our country and the economic recession hurting our citizens, it makes more sense now than ever to legalize marijuana. And not just for medical use. It should be legalized for recreational use under the same kind of laws governing the use of alcohol.

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