Free Minds & Free Markets

Legal Weed Did More to Stop Drug Smuggling Than Any Wall

Easing pot prohibition is doing what the failed war on drugs never could.

Why should Congress cough up the money to build a border wall? President Trump claims it would help stop the flow of deadly drugs coming in from Mexico.

Historically, in terms of sheer weight, marijuana has been Mexico's leading illicit drug export to the U.S. But last year, "the average Border Patrol agent was seizing just 25 pounds [of marijuana] for the entire year, or less than half a pound per week—a drop of 78 percent from 2013," writes David Bier, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, in the cover story of Reason's April 2019 issue.

This trend has nothing to do with increased border security, or a crackdown on the Sinaloa Cartel and its former leader, Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, who was found guilty on 10 criminal counts in U.S. federal court last week. The falloff in pot smuggling, Bier argues, is a direct result of state-level legalization here in the U.S.

Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward sat down with Bier to discuss why easing pot prohibition is doing what the failed war on drugs never could.

Produced by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Austin Bragg and Todd Krainin.

Photo credits: Edgard Garrido/REUTERS/Newscom, Tomas Bravo/REUTERS/Newscom, Gary Moon/ZUMA Press/Newscom.

Lightless Dawn by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (

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Photo Credit: Gary Moon/ZUMA Press/Newscom

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  • BigT||

    Now, just extend that to cocaine, fentanyl, etc and the caravans would be a trickle.

    Except most immigrants - legal - are here for the cash. Illegals for the free shit and light sentences for crimes.

  • aajax||

    I suspect the opportunity to earn a living is a way bigger incentive than the relatively minor "free shit" they are eligible for. The biggest piece of the "free shit" they are eligible for is education for their kids, which is a good investment for us in the long run.

  • Liberty Lover||

    Hey Reason, are these paid ads? It can't be you seem them as legitimate comments. Yet Reason leaves them up. I know Reason wanted more ad revenue and that is fine, but if they are paid ads they need to be labeled as such. Come on Reason, do the right thing!

  • vek||

    If they actually became educated and highly paid people... But the evidence shows they do not. Not illegal Hispanics anyway. Legal immigrants do though.

    SOMEHOW, as if by magic, if you import educated people with high earning capacity in the first generation, their children ALSO do really well. Imagine that. Might have something to do with the indisputable fact that IQ is inherited somewhere to the tune of 60-80% via genetics from ones parents... So high IQ parents have high IQ children, whereas low IQ parents do not. Since most illegal immigrants are specifically from the lower class in their home countries, it's basically like importing nothing but people from trailer parks and ghettos... And we all know how janked those populations are in the US to begin with.

    Facts are tough.

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    The Republican-conservative grip on drug warring is failing. One more notch for the liberal-libertarian alliance in the culture war that has made America great.

    Democrats should schedule a national concert to celebrate a great victory for freedom.

    Cue the soundtrack of progress!

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Yes, now your friends are working on normalizing pedophilia. I'm sure you just can't wait can you Arty?

  • ConstitutionalDon||

    Make it all legal.
    Thin the herd by weeding out the weak and the stupid.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Yes, winnow out the weak. No more Artys, Tonys, OP, etc..

  • Don't look at me!||

    There was a story here just the other day that the taxes on dope in California are so high people are still buying in the black market. So let's not break our arms patting ourselves on the back just yet.

  • Outofpatience||

    I've heard a lot of the same, that the black market is still crushing the white market. It may be "legal" but you've still regulated the ever-loving crap out of it. Same as the argument that a lot of today's heroin users get hooked on legal, prescription opioids, and when they can't get more, they turn to illegal drugs. Still easier to get, still cheaper.

  • Ron||

    Cali has started to roll back the taxes on pot because of that but legal weed still has the regulations where it must be chemically checked by the state for some reason which is just another burdensome expense

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    WA isn't much better. And it would be so much easier if we just disposed of our progtards.

  • Antilles||

    Can confirm. An ounce of medical marijuana in the clinics averages about $350. But the recreational shops charge $400 and then add 15% state tax, 7.75% sales tax, and 10% city tax--totaling about $531 per ounce! That's why I continue to go to the medical mj shops: no extra taxes and they offer a 10% military discount.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Whereas you can get superior black market pot for a third the price.

  • vek||

    You know, a lot of it varies. In WA you can pay stupid money for getting the Rolls Royce of weed. But you can ALSO find weed for $80-100 an ounce in legal stores, basically their special of the week stuff. This is solid stuff, like Ford/Toyota/Honda/etc quality, not RR or Mercedes, but plenty good enough. I would suspect it is the same elsewhere.

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    I like my weed the way I like my women.

  • Ron||


  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    Godamnit, Ron, do you even know how this game is played? You gotta name two things! TWO!!!

  • ConstitutionalDon||

    A barren English Major.
    (No STEMs, no seeds)

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Well Ron, it worked for Jeffrey Hunter and Bill Shatner.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Green and smelling like skunks?

  • Mongo||

    Used by R.Kelly and in a grinder?

  • Nardz||

    Nonexistent, chipper morning eunuch

  • vek||

    Brown and Mexican?

  • Rob Misek||


    Legalize killing innocent people and eliminate murder while you're at it.

  • MSimon||

    Weed used to be mostly legal - before 1937.

    So relegalization.

    So when was murder legal.

    War - what is it good for?

    Power and control.

  • factjack||

    What does Mises Institute say about this?

  • dpbisme||

    It is amazing to me that Reason would let such a flawed article be posted.

    I think all drugs should be legal but to just list WEED to try to make your point when there are tons of Meth, Cocaine, Fentanyl, and who knows what else still crossing the border.

    Cherry Picking Facts to support your argument is BAD JOURNALISM and these tow should not be allowed to publish until they get their craps straight.

  • Hank Phillips||

    The only reason amphetamines exist is that the initiation of deadly force keeps South American plant leaves out of the market. Barbiturates were invented as poisonous and even more addictive replacements for admittedly poisonous and habit-forming plants. Hemp was banned in an effort to boost excise revenue from beer during the Great Depression caused mainly by taxation--and was replaced by Thalidomide. So what economic lesson can be learned from these attempted cures by coercion?

  • Bette||

    'Legal Weed Did More To Stop Drug Smuggling Than Any Wall'
    Yeah, and what about the acres and acres of illegal pot farms that the drug cartels have in this country? Just sayin'........

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    Plus, the wall is just the bonus plan. We can do both.

  • Heresy Hunter||

    This article is just sad. The flawed assumption is that the reason pot should be legal is that it would reduce smuggling. It's basically saying weed should be legal so that it isn't illegal (very obvious circular reasoning).

    Laws should not be abolished because of high crime rates. They should be abolished if they are illegitimately interfering in people's lives.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    I consider both legal pot and keeping illegals out to be good things.

  • Hank Phillips||

    So? There are plenty of other plant leaves where those came from. God created Man so as to have someone to prohibit, bully and deport. God's Own Prohibitionists are simply continuing His good works, and penetrating other countries to plant fanatics among their decisionmakers so as to preserve the Biblical tradition of threatening, jailing, robbing and murdering people over the "wrong" plant products. But I'm pretty sure their reasons are altruistic...

  • Heresy Hunter||

    Hmm... I don't remember anything in the Bible about using the government to ban little green leaves. But I get it; you judge them all by the crusading few.


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