If the tea leaves are to be believed, we are closer than ever before to legalization of marijuana in California. That should bring a smackdown of Mexican gangsters who have brought their violent organized crime to America and who vitally facilitate the "Mexodus"—the unprecedented multi-year phenomenon of the Mexican elite dumping its lower class on the U.S. welfare system, largely through illegal immigration.
The end of pot prohibition will have the same effect as the cessation of alcohol prohibition in 1933—the loss of mega-profits. When Mexican cartels no longer measure their profits with a truck scale, they will lose a lot of interest.
Friends of the smokable weed are even now collecting signatures for a legalization ballot initiative to be placed before the voters in 2010. (In an earlier initiative, Californians approved medical marijuana in 1996.) In addition, Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has introduced a bill (AB 390) last February, held a hearing, and is planning to push the legislation in January.
One of Ammiano's top selling points for legalization: the money.
Here in overspent California, state government is desperate to vacuum up any available cash. One stunning example: the extra 10 percent now withheld from paychecks as a no-interest loan to Sacramento.) So the tax-crazed gnomes in government perk up when some big suit says "New revenue source."
And there is indeed serious money to be made from taxing pot, although it won't be a magic bullet:
"Could marijuana be the answer to the economic misery facing California?...Pot is, after all, California's biggest cash crop, responsible for $14 billion a year in sales, dwarfing the state's second largest agricultural commodity—milk and cream—which brings in $7.3 billion a year, according to the most recent USDA statistics. The state's tax collectors estimate the bill would bring in about $1.3 billion a year in much needed revenue, offsetting some of the billions of dollars in service cuts and spending reductions outlined in the recently approved state budget. "[Can Marijuana Help Rescue California's Economy? By Alison Stateman, Time magazine, March 13, 2009]
Californians are ready and willing. A Field Poll last spring found 56 percent of state voters support legalizing and taxing marijuana. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger acknowledges it's time for a debate. (No surprise: the 1970 documentary Pumping Iron shows him cheerfully smoking a joint, and he later admitted that he inhaled.) The legalization question has been put before gubernatorial hopefuls.
However, drug policy remains one of the most stubbornly irrational areas in all of American government. Marijuana is illegal, while the more dangerous substances alcohol and tobacco are not. But alcohol has been implicated in around 40 percent of traffic fatalities in recent years. Immoderate drinking is connected with cirrhosis of the liver, birth defects, stroke and cancer. And tobacco is a highly addictive drug, killing 440,000 yearly, making it the leading cause of preventable death.
In contrast, marijuana, which has never killed anyone, has been deemed an evil weed and the devil's harvest. Decades of overwrought anti-pot propaganda make a 180-degree policy reversal even more difficult. I'm convinced that many a young boomer in the 60s and 70s was pushed further in an anti-establishment direction by the obvious lies they heard in high school about so-called reefer madness. "Question authority" remains a popular bumper sticker for good reason.
There's a group of police officers speaking out against the failed drug policy: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). A brief talk by retired detective Howard Wooldridge outlines the situation: despite half a trillion dollars being spent by government, drugs are cheaper and readily available: [Watch].
It's a trade-off, of course. Legalization could in some ways substitute additional pressures on public health for the problem of drug crime and the Mexican criminal influx. But that would be better than the chaos we have now.
The invasion of this country by foreign organized crime is extreme and not discussed enough: "Mexico's drug cartels are now the main suppliers in at least 230 U.S. cities, and dominate 70 percent of America's illegal drug market," according to CBS (Exclusive: Mexican Drug Cartels in Atlanta, October 21, 2009). It's estimated that Mexican cartels derive around 60 percent of revenue from marijuana sales in the US.
We should review the chilling warnings of President Bush's Mexico team upon their exit, that the country was in danger of "rapid and sudden collapse" from the pressure of powerful drug cartels. Former drug czar Barry McCaffrey has cautioned that Mexico could become a narco state within five years. A failed state scenario next door would clearly have dangerous implications for our own national security.
Drug money has financed a massive criminal infrastructure, both organizational and physical. Look at the numbers of drug-smuggling tunnels that cross the border.
"In the words of the county sheriff, Nogales is becoming 'the drug-tunnel capital of the world.'
"Since 1990, the US Border Patrol has found 109 tunnels along the border with Mexico, all in California and Arizona. Sixty-five—or 60 percent—have been found in Nogales, with 16 of those discovered in the past nine months....
"The tunnels are often crude—dug by hand or shovel. But they can also be sophisticated operations. One 83-foot long tunnel discovered in June was equipped with lighting and a ventilation hose. Another, discovered in 2003, had rails and a trolley system and ran 300 feet to a hillside house. A third ran to a church atop a bluff about a half mile from the border." [Tunneling Under Nogales: Arizona Border Town Flush with Drug Tunnels, ABC News, August 23, 2009]
This infrastructure is also employed to smuggle illegals as a profitable diversification. By themselves, illegal aliens, typically unskilled, just don't earn the money to finance the smuggling system.
Note also, of course, that an al Qaeda operative could easily ring up a cartel and arrange to have a suitcase or larger nuke to be carried across through one of those roomy tunnels.
Some elite Mexicans like the current ambassador, Arturo Sarukhan, think US legalization would be good for Mexico too. Not that there's anything wrong with that. [U.S. Pot Legalization Should Be Discussed: Mexican Ambassador]
Market changes already underway give a hint of how things might go if marijuana was legalized n California. Mexicans are now losing out to American growers who understand what the local buyers want and therefore concentrate on quality.
"ARCATA, Calif.—Stiff competition from thousands of mom-and-pop marijuana farmers in the United States threatens the bottom line for powerful Mexican drug organizations in a way that decades of arrests and seizures have not, according to law enforcement officials and pot growers in the United States and Mexico.
"Illicit pot production in the United States has been increasing steadily for decades. But recent changes in state laws that allow the use and cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes are giving U.S. growers a competitive advantage, challenging the traditional dominance of the Mexican traffickers, who once made brands such as Acapulco Gold the standard for quality." [Cartels Face an Economic Battle, By Steve Fainaru and William Booth, Washington Post, October 7, 2009]
If weed were legal and was sold with little stickers saying "Grown legally in the USA with no environmental destruction" it would be the top seller, no question. Nobody really wants to buy a product grown by hostile invaders who are poisoning our treasured national parks like Sequoia and Yosemite in the process. People would rather be assured that their bud was grown by some organic hippie in Mendocino, not a murdering thug. (See my article Mexican Gangsters Converting America's National Parks Into Gigantic Marijuana Patches.)
In fact, the government could market the legal, taxed marijuana in just that way—"certified American eco-weed, kind to woodland creatures and trees. "
Legalization is no panacea. Alcohol can be purchased in grocery stores, yet moonshine is still produced in its historic home and beyond, albeit in marginal quantities. (One recent example: North Carolina brothers charged with operating moonshine still, Virginian-Pilot, November 10, 2009). Prescription drugs are available by definition, yet their growing illegal sales indicate a major abuse problem.
However, after alcohol prohibition was ended, the huge profits were removed and mobsters had to rejigger their crime portfolios. If marijuana is legalized, the Mexicans may increase their marketing of meth and other hard drugs.
But taking away the billions of dollars they make on pot should cut them back considerably.
And we could always legalize hard drugs too...
Plus, legalization of marijuana would restore a degree of honesty to drug policy.
We have nothing to lose but our hypocrisy—and the financial backbone of the Mexodus.
Brenda Walker (email her) lives in Northern California and publishes two websites, LimitsToGrowth.org and ImmigrationsHumanCost.org. She still cannot wrap her head around the concept of a plant being illegal.