What Legalizing Marijuana Can And Cannot Do For Mexico's Cartel Problem

A recurring point of contention in the debate over marijuana legalization is what liberating the herb from its shadow-economy confines would do to Mexico's cartels. Would it destroy them, or just shift their energies to trafficking other drugs? 

Throughout 2010, Prop. 19 advocacy group Yes On 19 argued that legalizing weed would "cut off funding to violent drug cartels across our border who currently generate 60 percent of their revenue from the illegal U.S. marijuana market." 

Then in October, 2010, a month before the vote on Prop 19, the RAND Corporation released a study that suggested cartels were getting only 16 percent of their revenue from marijuana, and concluded it "is unclear whether reductions in Mexican [cartels’] revenues from exporting marijuana would lead to corresponding decreases in violence. Some mechanisms suggest that large reductions in revenues could increase violence in the short run but decrease it in the long run."

The study infuriated drug law reform advocates, not least because it relied on numbers provided by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. (The ONDCP also disagrees that legalization would drastically affect cartels.

Prop 19 failed, and the question of how it would have affected Mexico remains unanswered. Writing in the New York Times this past weekend, drug war analyst Sylvia Longmire suggested that weed is only part of the picture, and that legalizing it isn't a fix-all:

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. For example, they used to kidnap rivals, informants and incompetent subordinates to punish, exact revenge or send a message. Now that they have seen that people are willing to pay heavy ransoms, kidnapping has become their second-most-lucrative venture, with the targets ranging from businessmen to migrants.

Another new source of cartel revenue is oil theft, long a problem for the Mexican government. The national oil company, Pemex, loses hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of petroleum every year to bandits and criminal gangs who tap into pipelines and siphon it off. Now the cartels are getting involved in this business, working with associates north of the border to sell the oil to American companies at huge markups.

Cartels are also moving into the market in pirated goods in Latin America. The market used to be dominated by terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, who operated in the triborder area of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Now the field is being overtaken by Mexican cartels, which already have so much control over the sale of pirated CDs, DVDs and software that many legitimate companies no longer even bother to distribute their full-price products in parts of Mexico.

Taking another page from traditional organized crime, cartels are also moving into extortion. A cartel representative will approach the owner of a business — whether a pharmacy or a taco stand — demanding a monthly stipend for “protection.” If those payments aren’t made on time, the business is often burned to the ground, or the owner is threatened, kidnapped or killed.

A popular cartel racket involves branded products. For example, a cartel member — most often from Los Zetas and La Familia Michoacana, two of the largest and most diversified cartels — will tell a music-store owner that he has to sell CDs with the Zetas logo stamped on them, with the cartel taking a 25 percent cut of the profits. Noncompliance isn’t an option.

As Longmire evinces, Mexico's drug problem is a reflection of deeper institutional problems. A Wikileaked State Department cable, for instance, points to the rottenness of Mexico's law enforcement institutions

Mexican security institutions are often locked in a zero-sum competition in which one agency's success is viewed as another's failure, information is closely guarded, and joint operations are all but unheard of. Official corruption is widespread, leading to a compartmentalized siege mentality among "clean" law enforcement leaders and their lieutenants. Prosecution rates for organized crime-related offenses are dismal; two percent of those detained are brought to trail. Only 2 percent of those arrested in Ciudad Juarez have even been charged with a crime.

Longmire doesn't advocate throwing the baby out with the bathwater. "We need to stop viewing casual users as criminals, and we need to treat addicts as people with health and emotional problems," she writes. "Doing so would free up a significant amount of jail space, court time and law enforcement resources. What it won’t do, though, is stop the violence in Mexico." 

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  • Jim||

    So, legalizing just the demon weed won't do the trick.

    Maybe if we legalize protection and kidnapping*, so that they aren't lucrative as crimes anymore, that will reduce their profits further.

    *In Mexico only, of course. I'm not stupid.

  • Sudden||

    Needless to say, I'd rather you guys not run the story about kidnapping and ransoming in Mexico the week I plan on booking my honeymoon to Cancun. Thanks reason, way to fearmonger me into considering prolefeed's home instead.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Don't forget it's hurricane season as well. Not to piss on your parade. Congratulations BTW.

  • Sudden||

    Honeymoon will be late december, so we'll be after the hurricane season.

  • Rob||

    Look at Playa Del Carmen - just south of Cancun (you fly into Cancun), a little less touristy. Supposed to be very nice. Wife and I are going to down there in Dec.
    And for the record, been to Acapulco twice in the past 6 months. Haven't seen anything that would keep me going back again. Situation is bad there, but don't feel like tourists are targeted. (But I think Playa would be a better honeymoon spot than Aca) Congrats!

  • LarryA||

    I don't think the story is what you have to worry about. And it's not just that some Zetas might think you have rich relatives. There's also the possibility of catching a random bullet. Or witnessing something you shouldn't. Or running into a cop having a bad day. Or shopping in a business that's behind on its protection payments.

    Personally, I wouldn't go to Mexico for any reason right now.

    YMMV.

  • Warty||

    Alt-text win.

  • ||

    Mexican security institutions are often locked in a zero-sum competition in which one agency's success is viewed as another's failure, information is closely guarded, and joint operations are all but unheard of. Official corruption is widespread, leading to a compartmentalized siege mentality among "clean" law enforcement leaders and their lieutenants. Prosecution rates for organized crime-related offenses are dismal; two percent of those detained are brought to trail. Only 2 percent of those arrested in Ciudad Juarez have even been charged with a crime.

    And this is why i am a Hobbesian libertarian. The state must have a monopoly on violence....the difference between me and say the left is after that monopoly is established it is in the interest of the state to wield that monopoly as little as possible...the left on the other hand think it should be used for everything from outlawing light bulbs to Obamacare.

  • Historical Trends||

    "after that monopoly is established it is in the interest of the state to wield that monopoly as little as possible..."

    Lots of luck with that.

  • ||

    They better behave or they'll have to deal with Rambo again.

  • ||

    The Founding Fathers did a fair job in setting up systems to curtail it....and it lasted a pretty long time.

    It is not beyond our reach.

  • ||

    Dune knew the mistake of the Founders: even the best system cannot stay true to its form indefinitely.

  • ||

    Until the Whiskey Rebellion and the Alien and Sedition Acts?

    But yes, it took a long time for things to get totally ridiculous. And the sad thing is that the US is still one of the freest countries on earth even after the decline from the Founding.

  • Matt||

    So are you pro gun control, then?

    What about those of us who don't trust the state to stick to its mission and choose to own guns as a hedge against a government that abuses its power (as investors own gold as a hedge against inflation that is often caused by central banks and government).

  • Duke of Anarchy||

    "The state must have a monopoly on violence...it is in the interest of the state to wield that monopoly as little as possible..."

    This doesn't make any sense. It is in the interest of any monopolist to exploit his monopoly as much as possible, which is what governments (like lesser monopolists) generally do.

    The limit on the possible is the point where the monopoly becomes damaging enough, to provoke such widespread and determined defiance that the monopolist’s capacity to enforce his privileges is overwhelmed.

  • ||

    So whether marijuana is legal or not, it will have no effect on the cartels' violence. Therefore the issue of legalization will now be debated without regard to cartel violence, as the two issues are unrelated.

  • Rob||

    I still diagree. The legalization of pot would have affect on revenues. The argument is how much. I think any reduction in revenues means they are less able to fund their wars with ear other and the government.
    (for the record, I don't use drugs, so I am not advocating for myself)

  • Tyler||

    Simply proof that we should have legalized pot decades ago before these cartels ballooned into what they are now.

  • ||

    Simply proof that hindsight is 20-20.

  • Bar Student||

    Except they didn't need hindsight having already been through this with alcohol prohibition.

  • ||

    Quoth the Iron Law:

    Foreseeable consequences are not unintended.

  • ||

    Proof that history repeats itself

  • squarooticus||

    A cartel representative will approach the owner of a business — whether a pharmacy or a taco stand — demanding a monthly stipend for “protection.” If those payments aren’t made on time, the business is often burned to the ground, or the owner is threatened, kidnapped or killed.


    Funny, when the government does this, it's called "taxation". Why should we have a problem with private groups doing this if we're ok with the government doing it?

  • Jim||

    Because 51% of the people voted for it, duh! That makes it completely moral and OK!

  • squarooticus||

    /me slaps forehead. D'oh! I forgot.

  • ||

    You uneducated troglodyte.

  • ||

    That picture made me chuckle.

    That is all.

  • ||

    Would it destroy them, or just shift their energies to trafficking other drugs?

    Huh? Don't they already traffic other drugs? How does legalizing weed increase demand for other drugs? Without increased demand, how does "shifting energy" produce more profits from those other drugs?

    If that's the case, then, how is it not a victory against the cartels?

    But hey, lets not let restoring liberty and hobbling the cartels prevent us from attaining The Perfect Victory over substance abuse once and for all.

    When that day arrives, the survivors will indeed rejoice.

    (the "directing more energy" rhetoric is just as stupid when applied to kidnapping. Plus, I don't see how kidnapping even approaches following market laws. The more people you kidnap, the less they're worth. Maybe there's a breakeven point, I can't claim to understand the economics of slavery.)

  • ||

    Oh, and if America has proven anything, it's that you can't get rid of organized crime.

    Give-them-and-then-remove the booze market, they move to drugs. Take drugs away, and they move to Union Services. Take that away, and they just get voted into office.

  • Jim||

    Presumably, if we legalize it, then many more people who may be sitting on the sidelines wanting to get into professional kidnapping right now, but who are just too afraid of the consequences, will decide to take the plunge.

    As more and more people are kidnapped, there will be fewer and fewer persons worth the kidnapping still available. The decline in the value of the average detainee, combined with the competition between kidnappers to entice families with limited means to choose to pay them ransoms, as opposed to the ransoms of other kidnappers who may be holding different family members, will conspire to lower prices all around.

    In addition, the advent of so many more kidnappings forcing families to make economic decisions of this nature will ultimately benefit the detainees as well as the ransom payers. If the payers have to make rational decisions about which ransoms to pay, not only should this lower the average ransom, but it will provide incentives for the kidnappers to treat their victims better and better, as an enticement to the family to pay them, instead of their competitors. If you have two sons and a daughter all kidnapped, but can only ransom one of them, kidnappers would be competing for that business, and the testimony (via phone) of the victim as to the fairness of his treatment may go a long way to making that decision. I envision a Mexico where everyone is kidnapped at least once, but treated to spas and room service by the criminals, while waiting for ransoms to be paid.

  • ||

    Presumably, if we legalize it, then many more people who may be sitting on the sidelines wanting to get into professional kidnapping right now, but who are just too afraid of the consequences, will decide to take the plunge.

    So, it's the drugz equivalent of gaymarriage->sex-with-dogs. Got it.

  • Jim||

    Just in case anyone is mistaking it, all my posts in this thread are sarcasm as dry as I can make it.

    Though I do think applying market fundamentals to the business of kidnapping might make for an interesting thought-experiment.

  • mr simple||

    all my posts in this thread are sarcasm as dry as I can make it.

    He just glances at the vermouth.

  • ||

    He just glances at the vermouth.

    Through a low-power telescope.

  • db||

    I'm pretty sure the kidnappers would unionize and set up agreements to set a maximum number of family members that can be kidnapped at one time, based on a sliding scale of family wealth/income. They will not allow their industry to be commoditized.

  • ||

    Well thankgod for that...wait, no.

  • Mensan||

    I think it would be just the opposite. The kidnappers would become more brutal. If different kidnappers are holding two of your family members, which one are you going to want to pay the ransom for and save first? The one who is locked in a room with a comfortable bed and a tv, and is receiving three meals a day, or the one who is being starved, beaten, and raped daily?

  • Parent||

    But Teh Gatezway!1!1!!!!eleventy!!!

  • jester||

    Mexico has been a chingado place for a long time. It's just going through a Peru circa 1980s or a Colombia circa 1990s period. I am surprised that vigilante paramilitarism hasn't taken shape there yet, but maybe that's because it's fairly easy for a Mexican to cross the border.

  • ||

    If it were legalized here, it would likely be legalized in Mexico (where I think small amounts have already been decriminalized). My guess is that not all the violence would go away, but it sure would take some of the wind out of their sails.

    Some organizations would go legit. How much violence is assoicated with Corona, Pacifico, Tecate, Sol, and Dos Equis?

  • ||

    I think the real problem would be when the cartels take over the sorts of companies you gave as examples.

    But, as posted above, the only difference is legitimacy of governance. One-crooked-ass-organization-in-charge is pretty much the same as the other, as long as The People are cool with it. The problem in Mexico now is that they have two competing crooked-ass-organizations.

  • ||

    Even if legalization cuts 50% off from the cartels, they would die. What company can survive losing 50% of its revenue? The other crimes are higher visibility and the doubled resources upon oil theft, for instance, would further cripple those gangs. What is the margin on drug trafficking vs. everything else?

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Beat me to it. Even if it were only 15 percent, the utilitarian argument would still be strong. The less attractive organized crime became, the fewer people would engage in it.

  • Name Nomad||

    I'd hate to see how the organized crime goons and hitmen unions would protest from the loss of jobs...

  • Skr||

    Exactly!!! What business can take a 50% hit to profits and still survive let alone maintain the same level of activity?

  • Sudden||

    Beyond that, much of the kidnapping/ransoming is likely a loss-leader to give their organization a badassitude in order to prevent established authorities from fucking with their drug profits. Take away the drug profits, and they ain't shit.

  • ||

    Assuming they simply stop bothering with the drug trade after legalization, their expenses would also go down by a similar amount. As long as they're diversified it won't hurt them that much.

    Of course, the flip side of this does kind of put the lie to the ONDCP's ads claiming that marijuana users are causing the violence in Mexico.

  • DRM||

    Assuming they simply stop bothering with the drug trade after legalization

    Why would the drug trade even go through Mexico after a US legalization? Mexico isn't a natural place to produce any largely-popular drug except cannibis, which grows fine in the US. Nor is it a logical route to import anything through. The cartels wouldn't have a choice to keep "bothering" with the drug trade.

    And if a Mexican cartel cuts its payroll enough to cut expenses in half, it means a bunch of cartel soldiers are suddenly unemployed. Which not only reduces the amount of violence related to the cartels, but leaves the cartels with fewer guns to run protection rackets and the like. You probably cut cartel violence by at least the 50% you zapped the revenue.

  • ||

    Legalizing weed takes all the profit from weed out of the hands of criminals. Less money = less killing. DUH

  • ||

    Yeah, that article really struck me as, "Legalizing marijuana wouldn't destroy every revenue stream for the drug cartels of latin america. Thus, it would have no effect."

    Which, you know, doesn't actually follow.

  • BR||

    I'd be more interested to know what the effect would be on organized crime in the US.

  • jasno||

    Less dead puppies, and a few less morons riding around in armored personnel carriers?

  • ||

    "Oh Snap"?

  • db||

    It's really only a matter of time before the U.S. decides Mexico is a significant threat and invades to clean it up. If the Mexicans don't do it themselves (and that looks increasingly unlikely), the U.S. will weigh the possibility of Mexico becoming a haven for al Qaeda or some similar group, and we'll have another damn war on our hands.

    I don't say this because I think it should happen, I say it because it's almost inevitable. I'm surprised we haven't already, given the proximity of Mexico vs. places like Libya, etc. It may start with drones, but it will eventually be boots on the ground. That will be miserable.

  • Sudden||

    No way, too many Mexicans here. You don't invade a country who has a significant national allegiance living within your own borders.

  • db||

    You have a point there, but would the Cuban community serve as a counterexample? I understand that there has been support there for some time for an intervention in Cuba by the U.S.

    If things got bad enough in Mexico, would the Mexican constituency support such an action there?

  • ||

    that's because most cuban americans HATE the cuban govt. with every fiber of their soul. most mexican americans just came here for a better life. they don't have the ideological opposition that cuban americans have. mexico has no castro

  • Quetzalcoatl||

    mexico has no castro

    Mexico City's phonebook would disagree.

  • ||

    You know how many Germans were living in the US during WW1 and WW2?

    I have a strong suspicion that most Mexican-origin people in the US have little allegiance to the Mexican govt, and would have even less if things go the way that db posits them going.

  • IceTrey||

    There were more Schultz's in the US army during WW2 than in the German one.

  • tarran||

    One thing that cracks me up: Adolph Hitler had a nephew in the U.S. Navy in WW II.

  • ||

    "legalizing it isn't a fix-all"

    It is DEFINITELY a fix-all for anyone who is in jail for it or has loved ones in jail for it.

  • rather||

    Ultimately, what effect the end of the drug war has on Mexico is secondary to our need to end it here. We can't babysit the world.

  • ||

    Well there is the rest of the world and then there is our neighbor which shares more then a few miles of boarder with us and more then a little trade with.

  • ||

    Maybe it would help quell the violence, if, I don't know, our ATF agents stopped shipping them guns?

  • ||

    You gotta sell a few guns to break an omelet. Wait, that's not how it goes, hang on.

    You gotta cap a few asses to make broken eggs.

    ARGH, come back to me...

  • rather||

    Guns don't kill people, SUVs kill people

  • AlmightyJB||

    Obviously, you're not going to do away with organized crime just by ending pot prohibition any more than we did away with organized crime when we ended alchohol prohibition. We did then and would now, however, see a decrease in street violence. How much inner city gang related violence here in the States is over drug turf/deals gone bad/drug money owed/etc.? True that they too will move onto other ventures, however, they'll do so with significantly less cash and power. It will also be much more difficult for gangs here in the States to branch out into new areas because they don't have a working relationship with law enforcement for the most part. Mexico won't be able to solve their problems until they can get a handle on corruption. Italy has made significant advances in that regard and perhaps Mexicans like Italians will eventually become so fed up that they will stand up to the problem as well.

  • Linus||

    Ending marijuana prohibition would reduce the demand for the typical street gangster. The way it works now is we lock them up, and the demand for sellers in the drug market creates another. Now we have two, one on the street, and another waiting to be let out on the street (while sitting in criminal college).

    If we legalized, all of the bad guys created could try to move on to another illegal trade, but we could chop away at their numbers. The black market would not create more.

    .

  • ||

    I'm surprised nobody's brought on the moral argument yet. When debating such subjects with statists, practical and pragmatic arguments are often necessary, but I am, first and foremost, a deontological libertarian/constitutionalist/republican. I'm also highly militant, which many libertarians probably dislike.

    On topic, let's just annex Mexico. What they gonna do 'bout it? ??

  • AlmightyJB||

    All that beach front property would be awesome.

  • ||

    And we could use all that extra land for all those huge, super-sized, city-like prisons we're going to have to build for the next breed of crime coming to America -- thought crime. IT'S THE FUTURE, AFTER ALL! AND ALL FOR THE BLACK PEOPLE AND THE CHILDREN!

  • ||

    I wonder which party the former Mexican states would lean toward.

  • ||

    AIP- Aztlan Independence Party...

  • LarryA||

    On topic, let's just annex Mexico. What they gonna do 'bout it?

    But what are we going to do with it?

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Some experts on organized crime in Latin America, like Edgardo Buscaglia, say that cartels earn just half their income from drugs.

    And Microsoft earns just half its income from Windows.* Take that away, though, and they are in deep shit.

    * Probably more like 1/3rd, but it's the same concept. Pot & Windows both represent easy money that fuels the rest of the organization and makes a lot of riskier activity possible.

  • ||

    That's because MS has already spent nearly all the money it ever will on Windows and now needs to recoup that investment. That's not the case for the drug cartels -- they can respond to a drop in revenue by simply not spending money in that area. It's not like they have related debts to pay off.

  • ||

    I would love to see the marginal costs and revenue comparisons between kidnapping, extortion and selling marijuana by the ton.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    You missed the point. Windows is a monster profit driver with high margins that allows Microsoft to dabble in many other areas without the fear of what will happen if the new venture fails to be profitable. High margin low risk drugs like pot play the same role for drug cartels.

  • ||

    Marijuana is more than just money to cartels. They probably do make 60% of their revenues from pot, but participating in the marijuana market gives them access to millions of pot smokers that they can offer their illegal drugs. Americans consume many thousands of tons of marijuana a year, compared to only hundreds of tons of cocaine, meth and heroin. Most drug transactions are marijuana transactions. Cartels have huge distribution networks that reach every corner of our country and these vast networks make perfect conduits through which they can move their other far more addictive drugs out to people who like to party who are already breaking the law with marijuana, so they won't report their pot dealers for offering them other drugs. The massive market for marijuana is a gold mine for Mexican cartels. It brings them custoners for their other drugs, and is a perfect recruiting ground where they can find proven smugglers, mukes, mid-level dealers, etc., to deal their other drugs. It's far more important to them than people realize.

  • ||

    OT: Have any of you guys ever pulled your gun on anybody (assuming you guys carry guns)?

  • ||

    yes

  • LarryA||

    I would have, had they not pointed to my "I'm the NRA and I Vote" bumper sticker and changed their minds.

  • David E. Gallaher/Ruthless||

    If it's the War on Drugs causing the harm; not the drugs, then everything needs to be completely legalized. Making an exception for marijuana has always not only been too timid, but a troll.
    The scarier the drug, the sooner it should be legalized.

  • ||

    even if that were obviously true, it only matters hypothetically. because it won't happen anytime in the foreseeable future, whereas mj legalization is very doable and soon... here

    incrementalism... it's what's for dinner

  • Fatty Bolger||

    What dunphy said.

  • Zeb||

    I agree completely. Unfortunately, what dunphy said is also true.

  • Matt||

    There's a bit of a chicken-egg issue here. Are drug dealers inherently bad and drawn to dealing drugs because they're bad, or are they basically otherwise good people corrupted by the illegality of drugs and the exposure they get to the underworld by dealing them.

    I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. But it seems pretty reasonable that a lot of otherwise decent people who happen to like smoking and selling pot may have been forced into situations where they had no other alternative but to resort to violence, or just simply became "hardened" over time, because they had no recourse to the courts to resolve disputes since drugs were so illegal (think about the line in Goodfellas about the mob being a police force for people who couldn't go to the police).

    However, I think the "this takes away business from drug dealers" shouldn't be the sole argument for legalizing pot. Clearly murder for hire should never be legal either, and there's legitimate philosophical reasons from a standpoint of the non-aggression principle to consider nonviolent pot use and trade something that the state should keep illegal because of its nonviolent nature.

  • ||

    The people who would have reason to seek redress in the courts, but can't, are usually the losers in the org crime world. The winners can get by just fine in their alternative system of "justice". And that line from GF is pretty self-serving -- just as often the mob takes advantage of people who can't go to the police.

    Just like any other market, the question you pose is a tough one. You could just as easily ask whether software engineers are inherently good at designing software or do they become so because they want to get a job. Only in the case of org crime it is brutality and callousness rather than talent for writing programs.

  • ||

    as somebody who has bought drugs from drug dealers (working undercover) on over 100 occasions, and spent literally hundreds of hours with them...

    the low level guys are often just users trying to support a habit

    there are definitely a fair share of complete scumbag immoral fucksticks, though

    low level MJ dealers are almost always stoners themselves.

    i dealt with a few coke, heroin etc. dealers who would never touch it themselves and were purely businessmen.

    meth dealers are paranoid as fuck, and dangerous as fuck

    generally speaking

  • Dan||

    "as somebody who has bought drugs from drug dealers (working undercover) on over 100 occasions, and spent literally hundreds of hours with them..."

    same here just with out the parenthetical occupational disclosure

  • ||

    Fuck Dunphy, you probably were able to get more weed in the last year than me.

  • ||

    I can agree with everything you said here. I haven't worked undercover, but I have handled many thousands of pounds worth of drug cases as a lawyer, from little cases on up to huge ones. I prosecuted some, worked as a public defender for many years and have handled a lot as a private attorney and have certainly handled many cases where Mexican drug trafficking organizations were also involved, and have dealt with plenty of paranoid meth heads, fancy coke dealers, every kind of addict. The guys in our prisons are mainly the low level people you're talking about. The big guys almost never get caught, and if they do it means little because there are plenty of other big guys to take up the slack. The vast majority in our prisons are dime a dozen addict dealers. If I were king we'd be locking thieves up a lot longer than these dopers who sell to other dopers, because anyone who would have bought from them will just buy from someone else but no one is going to commit the thieves thefts for them when they're behind bars.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    However, I think the "this takes away business from drug dealers" shouldn't be the sole argument for legalizing pot.

    No, but it's a very good one for people who can't get past "drugs are bad, mmmmmkay?"

  • Matt||

    Well a lot of folks with the "drugs are bad" attitude are moralists who like to impose their values on other people with the bully pulpit of the government. They're usually willing to pay any price and go to any length to enforce their values, even if it hurts them and makes the world a worse place. We're dealing mostly with strict Kantian deontologists, not people who have any practical connection to the real world.

  • Matt||

    Ahem, EDIT on last sentence:

    Clearly murder for hire should never be legal either, and there's legitimate philosophical reasons from a standpoint of the non-aggression principle to consider nonviolent pot use and trade something that the state should keep LEGAL because of its nonviolent nature.

  • IceTrey||

    All drug related crime in Mexico is in the billions of dollars. I seriously doubt kidnapping and such brings in an equal amount.

  • LarryA||

    Would it destroy them, or just shift their energies to trafficking other drugs?

    Of course the cartels would "shift their energies to trafficking other drugs." But how much good would it do them if most of their customers shifted to legalized pot?

    Supply and demand, people. Supply and demand.

  • Linus||

    "Would it destroy them, or just shift their energies to trafficking other drugs?"

    Why it is presumed that they would be able to just somehow, magically, create demand for these other drugs? If they can do this, then why don't they just do it now. Why wait till after MJ is leglized before they start making all the extra profits?

  • ||

    This is such an idiotic arguement, it's amazing that anyone would take it seriously.

    This is analogous to saying that Microsoft would be unaffected by the loss of their Windows and Office revenue because they'd still be making money off the sale of X-Boxes.

    How is it that journalists feel no need to to employ empirical analysis when the subject is drug policy?

  • ||

    Exactly, just because Microsoft would still be in business after such a move doesn't mean it wouldn't hurt them.

  • ||

    This is the same sophistry that is used against school choice. Just because a solution doesn't completely solve the problem does not mean it won't help. Sure, legalizing drugs won't end the cartels anymore than ending prohibition ended the mafia. But it wouldn't do them any good.

  • ||

    And people don't seem to acknowledge that ending Prohibition did hurt the mafia and other organized crime groups. Prohibition turned little street gangs into massive powerful organizations. Some of those organizations did go away after Prohibitoin and the heyday was over for the mafia. They're still around and probably always will be, but they are nowhere near as powerful as they were during Prohibition.

  • TheOtherSomeGuy||

    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.

    Now hold on, there is probably a point of critical mass which the piece isn't acknowledging. Think about it:

    It is possible for the cartels to try to overthrow the Mexican government with X amount of cash. It may not be possible with .5X amount of cash. It may not be possible with .75X amount of cash, we simply don't know. Either way, there is some critical mass, some minimum level of spending, required for their activities, and any decrease in their funds is a step towards lowering the levels of violence.

  • Fluffy||

    The really pretty simple and obvious thing that this analysis completely ignores is WHY the cartels have been ABLE to diversify into all these other activities.

    The drug war provides them with capital and a base of enforcer talent that they can leverage for other purposes. It ALSO has completely and utterly corrupted the Mexican state. Once you have bribed the local police to look the other way with regard to your drug operation, they pretty much will leave you alone when you brutalize local merchants or petty oil thieves, as well.

    So the question isn't really "If you legalize pot, will the cartels disappear?" It's "Would we be in this situation if drugs had never been illegal in the first place?" with a side of "If we legalize drugs, prostitution and gambling, and simultaneously carve the hearts out of the entire existing (corrupt) police structure, will we have more or less organized crime in 15 years?"

  • Fluffy||

    And yes, I know the first question is a hindsight question.

    You know what? I don't care.

    Drug war advocates want to say, "OK, maybe we fucked up, but it is what it is and now we have to keep the drug war going because we've got this organized crime problem!" But to that I have to say, "Well, since you've admitted that you're a fuckup, why should I listen to anything you say now? Since you're a fuckup by your own admission, you're excluded from the discussion of how to move forward. Go live in Fuck-Up Retirement Village and shut up."

  • ||

    So if we legalize and your predictions are wrong, does that mean you have to shut the fuck up forever?

  • Fluffy||

    If the topic at hand is how to fix the problems caused by my fuck-up in demanding these three policies, sure.

    But only if my prediction is wrong.

  • Daniel Williams||

    The only correct solution is to end the prohibition against all drugs, not just cannabis. The cartels will suffer significantly, if not wither away. But it is not just the cartels. We must also contend with the huge drug warrior infrastructure, which may be harder to dismantle than the cartels.

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