STORIES

Prohibitionists Apparently Love Border Violence

By Michael Peña on February 23, 2018

According to new research published in The Economic Journal, the legalization of medical marijuana plays a significant role in reducing violent crime in the border states. Most cannabis consumed in the U.S. is imported from Mexico, where seven cartels operate a daunting drug-smuggling network. The study, "Is Legal Pot Crippling Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations? The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws on US Crime," suggests that reasonable medical marijuana laws (MMLs) are crucial in stifling cartel activity throughout the country.

Drug trafficking organizations have historically been a major contributor to violent crime in U.S. border states. “Their namesake activity–the smuggling of illicit drugs–is known to be paired with extreme levels of violence, which DTOs use to contest the revenues in the drug market,” according to the study. “MMLs allow people to grow and cultivate marijuana plants legally within the U.S.,” professor Evelina Gavrilova, one of the study’s authors, told The Independent

This means that cannabis consumers in legal states no longer have to resort to using illegal channels in order to find a toke, creating a huge dent in the six-billion-dollar profit Mexican cartels make yearly from transporting drugs over the border. Without the same financial incentive, some Mexican cannabis farmers have transitioned into growing corn and other crops to make ends meet. 

Twenty-nine states, including California, have infrastructure for legal cannabis (medical or recreational); New Mexico and Arizona, states that touch the Mexican border, both have MMLs. It has been found that violent crime in regions close to the border have declined since the introduction of medical cannabis, a reduction to the tune of 12.5 percent. In addition, robberies have decreased by an average of 19 percent, murders by 10 percent and assaults by nine percent. Drug-related murders have fallen by a staggering 41 percent. The reduction in crime is strongest for counties less than 350 kilometers away from the border, the study finds, while also suggesting that the establishment of MMLs in inland states still lead to crime reduction in adjacent border states.

MMLs might play a major role in stifling crime at the border, but it will take active policing and further government reform before we “solve” the border issue. Cartels and farmers may transition to growing poppy in order to meet American demands for opioids, and it’s likely that organized crime will acquire a fair share of legal grow-operations here in the U.S. Crippling these crime-mobs may take more than the wall (and draconian immigration policy) that our beloved Cheeto overlord suggests.

Michael Peña is a Los Angeles-based writer, musician and Kanye West enthusiast. He can be found on Instagram @ilooklikestevezahn. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Tomas Castelazo.

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