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The Drug War Created the Cartels. Only Ending it Can Destroy Them.

In a New York Times editorial, Sylvia Longmire attempts to generate interest in her upcoming book on drug cartels by arguing that marijuana legalization wouldn't actually do much to damage their profits:

FOR a growing number of American policy makers, politicians and activists, the best answer to the spiraling violence in Mexico is to legalize the marijuana that, they argue, fuels the country’s vicious cartels and smugglers. After all, according to official estimates, marijuana constitutes 60 percent of cartels’ drug profits. Legalization would move that trade into the open market, driving down the price and undermining the cartels’ power and influence.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Marijuana legalization has many merits, but it would do little to hinder the long-term economics of the cartels — and the violent toll they take on Mexican society.

What follows is familiar territory covered before by the drug czar and his friends:

For one thing, if marijuana makes up 60 percent of the cartels’ profits, that still leaves another 40 percent, which includes the sale of methamphetamine, cocaine, and brown-powder and black-tar heroin. If marijuana were legalized, the cartels would still make huge profits from the sale of these other drugs.

This is what you call doing "little to hinder the long-term economics" of these organizations? Imagine a CEO telling his shareholders not to worry because profits were only projected to shrink by around 60%.

Plus, there’s no reason the cartels couldn’t enter the legal market for the sale of marijuana, as organized crime groups did in the United States after the repeal of Prohibition.

No reason other than the fact that Americans are better at every aspect of the marijuana business other than smuggling it over the border. Cartel tactics are worthless in a legal market. What are they gonna do, sell us schwag at gunpoint?

Still, legalization would deliver a significant short-term hit to the cartels — if drug trafficking were the only activity they were engaged in. But cartels derive a growing slice of their income from other illegal activities. Some experts on organized crime in Latin America, like Edgardo Buscaglia, say that cartels earn just half their income from drugs.

Indeed, in recent years cartels have used an extensive portfolio of rackets and scams to diversify their income.

It's really quite a mess, I agree completely. But it all came about because we allowed these scumbags to make so much money selling drugs that they can now afford an R&D department that works around the clock to invent horrible new crimes. This isn't an argument against legalization, it's another disastrous consequence of prohibition that's going to keep getting worse every single day the drug war continues.

We can go back and forth forever about how much of the cartels' money comes from what, but one thing we all know for sure is where these vicious criminals found the power to become what they are today. It was through drug prohibition that this legacy of bloodshed and brutality was born, and the long process of unraveling it all cannot even begin until prohibition itself is brought to an end forever.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Americans want American Grown

I think most of us want American Grown MJ and the people that deal in the cheap Mexican grown stuff will quickly turn to cheap American growth stuff if it were legal. So, I think this lady is just way off base with the whole issue.

Why isn't that like a slogan or something? Something to effect of American cannabis consumers want good quality and variety of legal American grown cannabis. Just to remove the whole notion that anyone really wants to support the drug war from buying the Mexican cartel crap.

Replying to comment on American grown MJ vs. Mexican grown MJ

I think the writer of the original articles statements about the Mexican Drug Cartels selling marijuana in the US if marijuana was made legal in the US is way off. That 60% of the cartels income would hurt the cartels incomes for a while, The Mexican grown marijuana is very low quality and compared to US grown marijuana it is basicly trash. The sale of heroin,cocaine, and methamphetamine would still be controled by the cartels, but they already control a large amount of these drugs already, and I do not see how legalized marijuana in the US would help them sell more of the other drugs, in fact if they entered the US legal marijuana market , the Mexican cartels would have to greatly improve the quality of the weed they sold to compete with US growers. I think a loss of 60% of their income even for a year or so, would greatly diminish the cartels abiltity to produce heroin,methamphetamine, they would be losing 60% of their money which goes to make these drugs or produce them from opium or so on..US growers already produce weed that is much more potent than mexican low grade weed, and even the lower quality US sinsemilla makes mexican weed seem like garbage. This woman must not know the difference between seedy low grade brick weed, and good to high grade outdoor and indoor US grown sinsemilla!!

Regardless of how much

Regardless of how much marijuana legalization would affect cartels, cutting 60% of anything bad can't in any way be worse than before. 100% is worse than 40% any day of the week.

I like your screen name

The more cannabis is studied the better off patients and recreational users will be. How anyone can think it's a good idea to force people to use alcohol, or highly addictive priced up pain medicine, instead of cannabis  is way beyond me, but I have noticed the people who think that way aren't much for dialogue when you challenge them. Pressing governments to study cannabis seems like a good strategy, as refusing to study something a lot of people want studied makes you look like you don't have any respect for information/medicine, and like a dictator, and like the phony Wizard of Oz on the ropes at the end of a very long strange movie. Alcohol is still emperor, but mommy, look, the silly emperor doesn't have any clothes! And neither do the justice is a game dishonorable courts that let the spirit of equal protection under the law be ground into the mud. Justice is blind, all right, with a mean streak right down the middle directed at users of the "wrong" drugs.

And yes, the argument that a 60% reduction in profits wouldn't make a difference is too stupid for words.

A mere 60%

It’s truly amazing that intellectuals can try to completely deny the obvious. I have had arguments with intelligent people who will honestly claim that legalizing illicit drugs will have minimal effect on drug cartels. When chocolate cake is outlawed there will not be anyone selling it under the table because chocolate doesn’t make people violent the way marijuana does. Former Drug Czar, John Walters, claimed drug gangs are violent because cannabis makes people violent. The violence doesn’t ever, ever come from the prohibition of the substance, and the large profits one can reap, that seems to be the double-think wall a drug warrior can never breach. Refer Madness has nothing to do whatsoever with money, they claim. But the editorial is strange indeed. As Scott pointed out, reducing 60% of profits for drug cartels is colossal and could be easily effected. From the PDFA to private jails to editorial writers from the NY times and elsewhere, the money in their pockets came from good people fighting a scourge, not cynical people taking advantage of a crooked and rigged playing field.

violence doesn’t come from prohibition...

"The violence doesn’t ever, ever come from the prohibition of the substance"

Are you freaking for real???

How many Al Capone(s) do you know of today bootlegging bathtub gin over state lines?

And YES!!! People would KILL for that chocolate if it were illegal!!!

Not only *because it was illegal - but, even according to your simplistic logic "chocolate doesn’t make people violent the way marijuana does" well, hate to break this to you:

"Chocolate and A Brain Chemical That Mimics Marijuana -"

"Chocolate contains substance anandamide that mimics the effects of marijuana : Fits in THC cannabinoid receptors of the brain anandamide a substance that acts in our brain like the active ingredient in marijuana is a chemical that is produced in our brains in addition to being found in CHOCOLATE.

Please post your full name and home address Diamanda Arqubus - we're calling John Walters and the police - REMAIN CALM AND DO NOT BECOME VIOLENT.


Drug Market Differs Radically from Normal Criminal Activity

No one ever built a huge criminal empire comparable to today’s drug cartels simply by employing crimes like kidnapping or robbery as their sole sources of income.  

Compared to drug dealing, actual victim-based crimes are far more difficult to commit successfully, and they’re usually much easier to solve.  For instance, the FBI has an excellent record for solving kidnapping cases.

Only drug sales produce the kinds of mutual cooperation and huge, continuous profits we see the cartels enjoying today.  Illegal gambling revenues and prostitution are a distant second, because these activates usually share the same attributes as drug dealing: mutually consenting adults are normally involved in all transactions.

What’s happening in Mexico and elsewhere is that cartel drug profits are underwriting conventional types of criminal activity.  Were it not for drugs revenue, conventional criminal activity by cartels would have to support itself, and that would make things far too difficult to sustain a large operation.  No reason exists in the first place to have a huge, well organized cartel involved in such conventional crimes, as any single individual is fully capable of committing a robbery or kidnapping without resorting to conspiracy and profit sharing. 

By contrast, illicit drug merchandizing resembles a conventional business that requires access to a product, the money or effort to grow the product, or buy the product wholesale, and the underground resources for processing and successful distribution.  Besides a payroll, there’s the expense of digging tunnels, building submarines, operating aircraft, paying for moles inside police departments, bribing politicians, and so forth.  All these things require organization, and ultimately generate a greater level of overall crime.

In standard business terminology, marijuana is the cartels’ cash cow.  Kill the cash cow by legalizing marijuana, and a hugely disproportionate amount damage will be done to the cartels and their operations.


Cannabis does not make people

Cannabis does not make people violent. If you think this or anybody for that matter then I would go ahead and just continue to "drink the koolaid." MONEY and the society that believes in its worth makes people violent. Just as power corrupts our society has taught people that money is power so...power equals MONEY which by comparison equals evil.

The people in the cartels are already violent people trying to find a way to make MONEY from an easy market. Being in Mexico marijuana can be grown more openly. The cartels are not nice people as the news has hopefully portrayed to you. (I live in Texas and have talked about them a lot and hear about them all the time on the news)

Will lifting the prohibition of marijuana actually have an effect on the cartels? I would like to hope that it would because people should see the issue and, as Americans, ban together to only buy American products just like any other product. If you can't afford American marijuana maybe you should think twice about using it because it is not a necessity to life.


"I love mankind, it's people I can't stand." Linus Van Pelt

in responce to sylvia

Hey sylvia, tell ur boss to only pay u 40% of ur pay every month and he can take the 60% majority and give to ur other co-workers, could U liv on 40% of ur INCOME?????.....neither can the cartels, quit talkin out ur azz!     



A stick or a machine gun


I do not know why people keep on confusing two totally different issues: the existence of criminal activities and the incentivisation of criminal activities. In some cases, I suppose, the confusion is borne out of ignorance or misinformation. In many other cases, I’m afraid, the “confusion” is deliberate and is nothing but the battle cry of those trying to muddle the discussion and analysis of Prohibition and the so-called War on Drugs.

No serious and responsible person would argue ever, never, that the liberalisation and regulation of drugs would bring about the end of drug cartels, organised crime or any other criminal activity. To think otherwise is not only naïve, it’s asinine. The point is that thanks to Prohibition and its irrational policies, criminal organisations have taken the control of an extraordinarily huge and profitable business: the market of illegal drugs — a market with an average turnover of US$320,000 million per year, that’s right PER YEAR. Take a look at the data and you’d be surprised how high the illegal drugs market ranks compared to the GDP of a large number of countries as well as major industrial and business activities. Regarding GDP, for instance, the illegal drug market is higher than the GDP of 84% of the countries in the world!

Unless one has been blinded by ignorance or worse still, by ideology, is impossible not to see the consequences of giving criminals free access to such wealth. Let me put it this way: say you know that a murderer is intent on harming as many people as possible but you can’t stop him. What would you prefer: a murderer armed with just a stick or one armed with a machine gun?  I know which one I’d prefer. Do you?

Gart Valenc

Paul,Frank bill

Just spent the day lobbying Republican reps. on the idea that if we do not change direction now, we will have to tripple down on Merida(designed to fail and did fail) and undertake the,beyond our ability, job of  rebuilding many Mexican instirutions.I do not believe the U.S. can nation build Mexico out of narco state status.I urge those who have an interest in this issue to contact any Pols.who do not see the gravity of this issue,and may want to defeat this bill for the noble, but outdated idea that we can't expose the teens. 

Cannabis Violence

Actually cannabis does cause violence-it turns law enforcement into psychotic killers!


So you think that the cartel killing machine will actually stop being violent just because they can sell legal marijuana. Don't think so. Once the animal has tasted blood, the only cure is to put the animal down!

No one is claiming the cartels will stop being violent

That's a total straw man. But they would be heavily reduced in size and power. Like any other business, if profits are permanently slashed, you have to downsize, And why would we let the cartels sell legal marijuana, you're forgetting about the regulate part of "legalize, regulate and tax". Besides, the profit margin in legal marijuana, set by free market competition, would be too small for them to be interested. The best and probably only way to put this beast down is to starve it of profits.

Well, the lady is not

Well, the lady is not wrong.


Yes, legalizing only pot would be a terrific first step in the political scheme, but in reality it would make little difference for non pot-smoking citizens because the prohibition would still stand along with its black market.

How could their not be change

How could their not be change for "non pot smoking" people, and what black market are you speaking of, if marijuana was legal, then no black market would need to exist. I don't know what that has to do with non-smokers anyway.?! What black market would the non smokers be dealing with if weed was legal? Not one in marijuana , because a black market is not needed when something is legalized. Except maybe to people who sold it without paying a tax or something which would have to be part of legalized weed in the US in my opinion.Money is why it is illegal now.

Legalize it!

I know a lot of struggling tobacco farms that would rather grow marijuana if it were legalized. I think it's a win win on more fronts than just one or two. The biggest single gainer would be the government due to the taxes they could levy on marijuana and the reduction in cost to fight it.

Plan "B"!

I would like to address a couple of issues brought up here.

1) Marijuana is dangerous because it is illegal. Marijuana is not illegal because it is dangerous!

2) 70+ years of the war on cannabis has not stopped people using it. It has however created a multitude of money making industries both legal and illegal.

3) Our government and the cartels stand to loose the most by removing 60% of the profits from marijuana legalization. Talk about down-sizing, 60% of their job will be eliminated like Sylvia Longmier (politicians, lawyers, police, judges, jail personnel, border patrol, the pharmaceutical companies, fuel industries, cotton, plastics, etc....).

4) Remove the criminal element from the equation and that removes much of the crime.

5) The war on cannabis has failed, so on with "Plan B"!

6) People are DYING!!

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