DEA Claims Repealing Prohibition Fosters Organized Crime


Comedy Central

In its 2013 "National Drug Threat Assessment," released today, the Drug Enforcement Administration predicts that marijuana legalization will be a shot in the arm for organized crime:

TCOs [transnational criminal organizations] and criminal groups will increasingly exploit the opportunities for marijuana cultivation and trafficking created in states that allow "medical marijuana" grows and have legalized marijuana sales and possession. 

That's a pretty bold claim, inasmuch as marijuana produced and distributed by, say, state-licensed growers and retailers in Colorado and Washington is marijuana that is not produced and distributed by, say, murderous Mexican drug cartels. In fact, antiprohibitionists often argue that legalizing cannabis commerce weakens organized crime by cutting into its revenue. But here the DEA is saying criminals will in fact welcome legalization, because it will enable them to get more involved in cultivation and trafficking. Exactly how that will work is a bit mysterious, but here is the basic outline of the DEA's argument, as told from the cartels' perspective:

Phase 1: Legalize marijuana.

Phase 2: ?

Phase 3: Profit!

Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, does not get it, probably because of all that reefer he's been smoking. "The DEA's claim that marijuana legalization somehow creates moneymaking opportunities for the cartels and gangs that largely control today's black market for the drug is simply absurd," he says. "As prohibition comes to an end and as the market is brought aboveground, more and more consumers will make the obvious choice to purchase their marijuana from safe and legal businesses rather than from violent crime networks that don't test and label their products for potency. I suppose the DEA would have us believe that ending alcohol prohibition somehow created 'opportunities' for gangsters to make even more money selling legal booze than when it was illegal and they were the only source."

The DEA may be taking its cues from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who a couple of years ago insisted that we can't legalize the drug trade because "there is just too much money in it." Also too many criminals!