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Cato Unbound Looks at the Mexican Drug War

Cato Unbound has a series of essays debating what to do about the situation in Mexico. I haven't had time to dig through it, but previous drug policy discussions at Cato Unbound have been very interesting, so I recommend checking it out. Pete Guither has some reactions here.
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We need to end the prohibition

Prohibiting marijuana, or any drug for that matter, is as ineffective and destructive as prohibiting candy would be. Too many people ignore the prohibition and buy from whoever's willing to sell to them. It's been this way for the entire seventy years of the prohibition and it'll be this way forever.

The prohibition doesn't even come close at achieving its primary goal of preventing marijuana from being used, instead its supporters are forced to tell us that the prohibition's important because it "sends a message". Well the government doesn't need a $40 billion-a-year prohibition to send a message - if they want to send a message they can hold a press conference, or put up billboards, or add whatever they've got to say to the D.A.R.E. program. They do NOT need to be wasting taxpayers' money on a prohibition that doesn't prevent people from using the very thing it's prohibiting!

But the massive waste of taxpayer's money and the 2,000 prohibition-related arrests every day are nothing compared with the real cost of the prohibition. The $8 - $10 billion a year funneled to the cartels from all those dime bags and half-ounce sales has made them extremely powerful and ruthless. The ONDCP itself said that two-thirds of the cartel's incomes come solely from marijuana sales in the U.S. This, as the ONDCP said, is their "bread and butter", this is what they fight and kill to protect.

Last year the cartels murdered more than 6,000 people in order to protect their cash flows, this year they're on track to kill more than 7,000. With half a million men, multi-billion dollar incomes, and massive corruption of the Mexican government and police forces, the cartels are virtually unbeatable. And even if we did beat them, even if we did execute every one of their men and incarcerate every corrupt beat cop, police chief and city mayor, the murders would still continue pretty much unchanged from what we see today. In no time their shoes would be filled by other poor people able to see that if they could just grow a little weed and get it across the border they could feed their families and afford the things that'd make their lives worth living.

Until the demand for cartel weed is eliminated in the U.S. these murders will continue, and innocent children, mothers, fathers, police commanders and politicians will continue to be murdered every single day. We MUST demand the right to commercially produce and sell marijuana to adults, undercutting cartel prices, stripping them of their customers and eliminating their marijuana incomes. No business can survive the loss of two-thirds of its income! This is our ONLY option to end these brutal and needless murders. We must demand it. We MUST make it happen!

Couldn't Agree More

Explains, too clearly for some, why the slow 'medical marijuana march' to de-facto decriminalization including 'tax & regulation' is not going to work... just make things worse!

The 'Tax & Regulate' guys hate this kind of news. Not accusing anyone of disliking - CATO - but they tend to be too libertarian for most liberals. Just musing here?

Thomas Paine IVXX

B.S. Gotta love for posting it though... thx... they should read it!

borden's picture

which articles are you referring to?


Thanks for the thanks for the link. Which of the articles in these Cato collections, though, are you referring to when you say that they make the case that the medmj/decrim/tax-regulate approaches won't get us to the end goal? There are a lot of different articles in there -- some of them are even by prohibitionists. (The prohibitionists don't work for Cato, of course.) I can't respond to your comment -- whether to agree or disagree or otherwise -- without knowing more specifically what you're referring to.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Hi David, Just found this...your response... your question.

I'm sure we spoke about this in another post... but if you need more info...i've read more articles from that CATO batch.?

Curious David if you know how Senator Webb & his committee/commission was doing? Let's bounce the idea of a special prosecutor off him... at least as a warning shot across the justice dept. bow. Webb is a grunt & knows... "You get less mud in your boots when you go in on a spring tide!"

This essay entitled "A U.S. War with Mexican Consequences" by Jorge Castaneda mentions the Webb commission & implies the need for major changes in our federal drugs laws before a reasond & rational solution can be achieved:

Quote: "If current trends toward medical decriminalization continue, if the Webb Commission in the Senate concludes that some changes in U.S. drug laws are necessary and desirable, and if the Obama administration pursues a de facto harm reduction approach without explicitly stating it, there may be a way for Mexico to extricate itself from its current, tragic predicament. Otherwise, though, there does not seem to be any accessible, affordable, and acceptable exit strategy from the current war."

Food for Thought,
Thomas Paine IVXX

B.S. Thanks again for posting the articles...

borden's picture

Thomas, Glad you caught


Glad you caught this. Castaneda's quote supports my position. He argues that the medical and decriminalization approach is taking us out of the wilderness and will soon render prohibition not viable.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Nice Try David... but you are overlooking a major point...

Nice Try David... but you are overlooking a major point... Castaneda's essay(s) clearly identifies the importance of Senator Webbs commission & THE NEED FOR MAJOR CHANGES TO U.S. [FEDERAL] DRUG LAWS & ATTITUDES... not more individual State laws... which Castenada implies is exasperating the situation... possibly to the point of no return?

Casteneda's essay(s) state that without major changes to U.S. / FEDERAL DRUG LAWS the situation is likely to get worse... much worse... becasue there's still no legal mechanism for providing marijuana for recreational users... which is likely to increase w/ mmj acceptance, and hopefully, the corresponding reduction in penalties, etc.

Casteneda is essentially making the same socio-economic arguement that's been made, and largely ignored, for decades. Demand w/o a legal supply = black markets + high risk + high prices = hungry profit monsters!

To imply that state-by-state MMJ laws are going to dramatically improve the rights of the overwhelming majority who smoke recreationally defies any facts that I've seen... and I question whether the spike in mj arrests these last few years aren't proportional to the increase in mmj laws and usage?

Choose Legality,
Thomas Paine IVXX

B.S. Without 'the rule of law' there will be no peace or justice for the plant or the vast majority of peaceful, responsible, potheads that enjoy [it]... the SAFER alternative to alcohol! If there's a mmj law/state out there that allows rec. usage & cultivation I want to know... so i can move there... and be 'perfectly certain' my rights have been restored?

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