Odds and Ends

bullet image A follow-up to the Michael Dearman piece at SMU, where he argued that drug users should note that they have blood on their hands (a useless argument since that can’t lead to practical change, whereas working toward legalization can).

Dearman has published a response piece to some of the criticism, saying that he was misunderstood. In fact, he just muddles it up even more, by bizarrely agreeing with us disagreeably.

What one cannot do, which reader Thomas asserted, is state that the “blood is on the hands of the politicians who…implement the failed prohibitionist model of criminalizing what free people put into their own bodies.” One must not forget that it is the constituents that elect these officials to office in the first place.

If there is a tinge of guilt in the moral conscience of America because of our culture which promotes the use of marijuana, then America has a responsibility to put politicians in to office that will begin the process of the legalization of marijuana to curb the black market created by the illegality of the drugs themselves.

I’m pretty sure that’s what we were saying. And that by creating a distraction through blaming drug users, he was not contributing to a real solution of legalization.

A colleague of his, Adriana Martinez, from Mexico, jumped into the fray as well with No easy answer: Legalization of marijuana is not the solution to Mexican “War on Drugs” She attempts to defend Dearman’s first piece, which he pretty much negates with his second.

The overwhelming response from readers was simple – legalize marijuana. Much like during the prohibition era in the U.S., legalizing the substance will reduce illegal activity and eradicate a black market.

While I agree that this worked historically in the U.S., I do not believe that it is the solution for Mexico’s woes. As a citizen of the latter, I am neither commenting on the feasibility of marijuana legalization in the United States, nor am I making a normative claim about this policy. Instead, I argue that legalizing marijuana is not the solution to the violence south of the U.S. border.

The drug war in Mexico spiked to the extraordinary levels that we see today when the violence between the cartels escalated in recent years. Though attributable to various factors, it is probable that the shrink in the U.S. cocaine market was influential. If this is the case, then the legalization of marijuana in the United States or the increased growth thereof domestically would only result in increased violence as well. The drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) would struggle violently to gain control of the diminishing market.

The DTOs might also presumably turn to other black market activities to attempt economic hegemony there. Perhaps the sales of pirated movies and music, or maybe the illegal crossing of migrants, or sex trafficking. There is no shortage of options.

The control of these illegal, but influential sectors would only augment the cartels’ power and social dominance. Corruption is not new to the DTOs, and there would be no decrease in this, despite the legalization of marijuana.

Furthermore, what has been referred to as a “grey market” could also likely emerge. As the state taxes marijuana, the cartels can continue to dominate the market by selling marijuana more cheaply.

This is a truly bizarre (yet too common) line of arguments. Sure, we all know that the criminal traffickers will not evaporate (poof!) just like that with legalization. But if you cut off their major flood of income, you diminish their power so that you can actually go after them successfully. Pirated DVD sales? Please. Grey market marijuana? Tell me another. These are tiny pale money pots compared to the drug war profits. Without the same level of dollars, they can’t hire as many foot soldiers, bribe as many police and judges, or pacify entire towns. They become vulnerable.

And without the lure of huge money, there’s less pressure for new criminal enterprises to spring up and replace the ones you dismantle.

bullet image That’s how it starts. Our View: Agents should carry weapons for protection Las Cruces Sun-News.

It’s official that we have agents from ICE, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration embedded and working with Mexico against the drug cartels. Should they not be allowed to carry weapons for self defense?

And when does that become indistinguishable from having troops?

bullet image Good read: Why This Cop Asked the President About Legalizing Drugs by MacKenzie Allen

bullet image Another good read (from last week): Washington Post Editorial: New law on crack cocaine penalties should be made retroactive

The commission is preparing to forward to Congress amendments to the guidelines to reflect the changes in the Fair Sentencing Act. The commission should make the new guidelines retroactive.

Some 13,000 prisoners – 85 percent of whom are black – would be eligible for retroactive sentencing reductions, according to the commission’s analysis. The average prisoner would receive a sentence reduction of about three years. The releases would extend over 30 years, with potentially 3,000 to 4,500 prisoners being released during the first year after the sentence reductions are made retroactive. But release is not automatic: Prisoners would have to petition a federal court for the sentence reduction, and prosecutors would be able to lodge objections, including those based on public safety concerns.

Remember when the first reduction in sentencing occurred? It was two years ago when Attorney General Michael Mukasey warned us that the early release of these offenders would unleash “violent criminals” onto our streets and pose “significant public safety risks.”

Hmmm…. what happened to all that crack-head street violence?

bullet image But they’re keeping the prisons open! State will end all drug treatment funds

bullet image Expensive, counter-productive, and Unconstitutional: Lawmakers in Ten States Mull Drug Testing of Public Aid Recipients

At least two bills would require legislators to be drug-tested as well.

bullet image The Mind of a Police Dog – another must-read from Radley Balko.

This is an open thread.

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