NYC Police Commissioner Says Marijuana Trade Is Too Violent to Be Legalized

William Bratton cites a problem created by prohibition as a reason to keep it.



In a radio interview yesterday, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said violence associated with marijuana trafficking in his city should give pause to advocates of legalization. "In New York City," Bratton told AM 970 host John Catsimatidis, "most of the violence we see around drug trafficking is involving marijuana, and I have to scratch my head as we are seeing many states wanting to legalize marijuana."

That has to count as one of the most clueless statements on drug policy by a prominent public figure since Hillary Clinton declared that drugs are too profitable to be legalized. Like Clinton, Bratton is presenting an argument for legalization as an argument against it. Just as Clinton does not seem to understand that prohibition enriches criminals by making drugs artificially expensive and dropping the business into their laps, Bratton does not seem to understand that marijuana-related violence in New York City is a predictable product of the black market.

When alcohol prohibition was repealed, a trade that was once the domain of thugs like Al Capone was taken over by legitimate businesses. You don't hear much about shootouts between Diageo and Anheuser-Busch InBev, or between the newly legal marijuana businesses in Denver and Seattle, because there aren't any. Unlike black-market drug dealers, these businesses have access to a legal system that provides nonviolent ways to resolve disputes. So what Bratton views as a head-scratcher—that people would want to legalize a business tied to black-market violence—is actually a no-brainer.

[via The Washington Times]

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  1. Bratton does not seem to understand that marijuana-related violence in New York City is a predictable product of the black market.

    Oh, he understands.

  2. Look. The violence caused by prohibition is not intended, therefore prohibition cannot be the cause. See? Good intentions are magic.

  3. Fewer crimes to police=fewer police needed. Not good from the comissioner’s point of view. Gotta protect them fine boys in blue.

    1. ^^THIS.

    2. Fewer crimes to police=fewer police needed.

      Yeah, I don’t think Commissar Bratton is or has any reason to be worried about cutbacks.

  4. Typical

  5. That clown is too fucking stupid to tie his own shoes.


    1. Don’t think for one second that he believes what he’s saying. He’s not stupid but he thinks we are.

      1. The sad thing is many of us are that stupid. He and his ilk have propagandized against drugs (and guns) so long and so successfully that the stupidest shit coming out of his mouth just gets most heads nodding along.

      2. I don’t think it’s a matter of stupidity. It’s a moral issue. Drugs are bad, so prohibition is good. Any violence resulting from drug prohibition is caused by the drugs, not prohibition, because drugs are bad. To question the premise that drugs are bad is to question his good intentions as a police chief. To say that the violence is caused by the laws that he enforces is a personal insult against his good intentions. So no, I don’t think it is stupidity. It is the hell we live in thanks to that road paved with good intentions.

        1. Good sarc.

        2. MJ is Illegal because it’s bad. MJ is bad because it’s Illegal. The prohibitionists Mantra.

  6. It’s a ‘counter cyclical’ – you create a narrative that “We must do X to solve the problem” that only makes it worse, and then you cry, “We must have more X!” They do it with everything: criminalization, drug treatment, government regulation, fighting ‘terrorism’, fighting poverty.

  7. What’s the line about how you can’t make someone understand when their livelihood is based on not understanding?

    1. You can put a saddle on a horse, but damned if he ain’t still thirsty, no matter how much you beat his corpse. I’m paraphrasing.

      1. This old police horse needs to be put out to pasture.

    2. Exactamundo!

  8. So Bratton either doesn’t know that prohibition policies empower the violent sort of criminals, or he knows but is a corrupt liar hellbent on persisting the needless ruining of lives. At best he is unqualified for his position, at worst he belongs wherever the woodchipper spits him out.

  9. Another common countercyclical is: “Government officials are stupid and must be fed feet first to the woodchipper!” The result is that only stupid people go into government, and then they cry it even louder. The solution is simply think for a moment and realize who elected these guys.

    1. In Bratton’s case, nobody. It is an appointed position.

      His appointer, Deblasio, won with the support of 17% of the voting-age population.

  10. We should borrow a page, and file RICO charges against the government of New York.

    It’s a racket.

    I hear he Martin Act is super vague and all encompassing, so it should be awesome, or some such.

  11. The popo make way too much money from drugs to be anti-Prohibition. And we all know it goes way beyond job security. There’s forfeiture and evidence re-selling as well. How long do you think a pound of the primo sticky icky lasts in the evidence locker in your average PD?

  12. I was listening to that program yesterday morning, and I think you misinterpreted him. It was part of a longer statement about how elsewhere in the country the violence in the drug trade was associated with heroin, not cannabis, while in NYC that pattern was reversed. He was scratching his head as to why it was mostly the trade in cannabis, not heroin, that was violent in NYC, when in other parts of the country cannabis was considered so innocuous that they were legalizing it. And in truth, that is a mystery. Heroin is just as illegal here as there, yet it’s not as violent here.

  13. The Only thing that makes a common plant valuable enough to create violent cartels and corrupt government is the Prohibition of it. Of course those who make their living off of Prohibition aren’t about to admit that. Slowly but surely this corruption of our society will come to an end, just a matter of time.

  14. It’s just plain mind boggling that so many seemingly intelligent people believe that the product dictates the actions and business tactics of its vendors.

  15. Thanks for this important tidbit, Jacob Sullum. Your impeccable and diligent work for Reason on this subject is a true blessing in these darkest of anti-“marihuana” days. NYC Police Commissioner William Bratton is emphasizing the dangers of a huge, totally illegal interstate trade of products derived from female cannabis flowers. I know for sure that Colorado cannabis products are making their way to the whole of New York state, and most likely many other states. That causes obvious problems for cops everywhere, according to officials in Nebraska and Oklahoma. With so much public apathy and complacency, Bratton, NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo, NJ Gov. Chris Christie, US Democratic Party Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, US Senate Maj. Leader Mitch McConnell, and many other Marihuana Haters will probably never be defeated like the alcohol Prohibitionists were. This nightmare prohibition of cannabis plants may never end.

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