New Study Says Legalizing Marijuana Will Hurt Drug Cartels

RAND is known for publishing speculative analysis that appears to be aimed at undermining marijuana reform, but this passage from their latest study is pretty strong:

We believe that legalizing marijuana in California would effectively eliminate Mexican DTOs’ revenues from supplying Mexican-grown marijuana to the California market. As we elaborate in this chapter, even with taxes, legally produced marijuana would likely cost no more than would illegal marijuana from Mexico and would cost less than half as much per unit of THC (Kilmer, Caulkins, Pacula, et al., 2010). Thus, the needs of the California market would be supplied by the new legal industry. While, in theory, some DTO employees might choose to work in the legal marijuana industry, they would not be able to generate unusual profits, nor be able to draw on talents that are particular to a criminal organization.

That's a powerful argument for regulating and taxing the industry, unfortunately RAND didn't exactly emphasize this finding in their press release. By focusing instead on the obvious fact that cartels would continue to generate substantial revenue from other markets and other drugs, RAND was able to generate headlines like these:

Legalizing marijuana in California would not curtail Mexican drug organizations, study says
Los Angeles Times

Study: Legalizing Pot Won't Hinder Mexican CartelsNew York Times

Study: Calif. Pot Measure May Not Hurt Drug Cartels

This is how the media describes a report stating that Prop 19 would "effectively eliminate" drug cartels' marijuana profits in California. It's yet another definitive example in the long history of media outlets missing the point by failing to actually read the marijuana research they're reporting on. This confusion couldn't have come at a worse time, although the timing is hardly coincidental.

In a few short weeks, we'll find out whether coordinated attacks like these are enough to derail Prop 19, which has generally been polling well despite no shortage of rabid opposition from the usual prohibitionist peanut gallery of police, politicians, and the press. Despite this week's high-profile attempt to refute one of our lead talking points, it will be up to the voters to decide, and the measure's impact on drug trafficking is only one dimension of the issue among many. Moreover, it's also possible that increased focus on the drug trafficking issue could end up amplifying our argument in spite of the media spin.

Only a few weeks remain, and one thing you can count on is the growing desperation of our opposition and the inevitable mindless appeals to fear and paranoia that they're certain to deploy. We are entering the late stages of the most significant marijuana legalization debate in modern history, and we'll soon learn what sort of malicious nonsense remains in their arsenal. Enemies of reform have always been known more for stubbornness than creativity, so I'm not expecting to hear anything new, but we'd be foolish not to expect their very worst.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Hopefully we are past most people believing this poo poo.

peace cactus

Gotta figure out why the

Gotta figure out why the media doesn't want pot legalized.  With MSNBC, owned by GE, they have a vested interest in trying to keep anything going that increases the sales of their war machinery.  A continued drug war increases GE's profits.

These RAND people always

These RAND people always choose whatever makes their data look like prop19 is bad, or not good in any significant way. In the last one, they said, "it probably won't make much tax revenue, but it might make lots", and "it will double consumption, but it might hardly affect consumption"; in this one they say, "it won't hurt the cartels significantly, but it might hurt the cartels significantly". They're essentially saying in each one: "We don't know what's gonna happen. There's a wide range of possibilities. But in our press releases, we'll emphasize the bad possibilities and downplay the good ones." Notice, for example, that if there were no big grows, the price would hardly decrease, and thus consumption would not increase that much (according to them). They could have chosen that possibility and come out with a press release that said, "use might not increase significantly", but instead they chose "use could double". If big grows do happen, then it would hurt the cartels because america would consume weed from california instead of from mexico (again, according to them).  They could have chosen to emphasize in their press release: "prop 19 could significantly hurt the cartels", but they chose "it would probably not have an impact on the cartels". So for one press release they decided to go with the possibility that big grows would be all over the place, therefore price would drop 80%, and use would double, but in the other they decided to go with the possibility that big grows would •not• happen, and thus would not hurt the cartels.


And they call themselves a neutral group. They're studies might be neutral, but they're press releases are designed to hurt prop 19.

Oh, and also, if big grows do

Oh, and also, if big grows do happen, it would make plenty of tax revenue for California (according to them).

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