Astounding Connection between US Marihuana Prohibition and Mexican Drug Cartel Violence

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.

One Response

  1. I dunno Ralph, I’m just not buying it.

    Since when has the ONDCP provided any undistorted data?
    I think that linking cannabis to the violence is more of their smear/fear tactic, revamping the association with violent criminality that was the byword of late 1930’s propaganda.

    Certainly the Mexican Cartel is huge, but it’s position as THE conduit for South American production of heroin and cocaine is much more financially lucrative. The simple weight to volume (density) equation, where cocaine and heroin stand from 20 to 200 times as valuable as cannabis by weight, make those shipments the ones worth killing for. (This is not to mention the sheer impossibility of smell proofing a decent pound of weed.) Mexico is also known for its support of clean lab production of methamphetamine, which, while less expensive than coke or heroin, is in high demand across North America.

    As I understand it, the cartel has been making major inroads in illegal marijuana production on parklands INSIDE the US, but this precludes cross border activity. The sophistication of the cannabis market, fueled by California, Canada,and the growth of indoor production everywhere, has, if anything, has made Mexican pot less valuable than ever. Who on earth would smoke it, when their own closet can yield something fragrant inside of three months?

    While I too decry prohibition, I think that this is another false flag intended to make cannabis, and thereby legalization, sound ever more frightening and abhorrent to the good Amerikkkans out there.
    Vote Cannabis this November!

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