There’s been much talk in the news lately regarding the need for greater border security. This, in large part, stems from the Mexican cartels, who’s violent businesses are wrecking communities nationwide. While the erection of a wall on our southern border would help to temporarily decrease the number of drugs smuggled across our border, it is by no means the most efficient or effective method to combat the cartels. The simple solution has been apparent for some time now, but due to our way of thinking about this issue, our society has largely failed to see the bigger picture.
Our current administration’s plan for combating drug related violence is set up to fail because it doesn’t attack the problem at its root. For example, if your goal is to stop a virus from spreading throughout a school, your plan should not be to quarantine the children; your plan should be to eliminate the virus, i.e., attacking the problem at its root. Of course, the issue at hand isn’t quite so simple, but through our understanding of incentives, a root cause can be identified.
Currently, cartels have an incentive to continue to smuggle their products into the country because of the massive profits they reap -- profits, which are the driving force behind the drugs and violence coming into our country. Regardless of the policies we adopt to stop the flow of drugs into the U.S. (e.g., a wall, stricter border security, etc.), as long as the profits are there to be made, drug cartels will continue to produce and find ingenious ways to sell their products; unless, we find a way to decrease their profits directly. The legalization of recreational cannabis will reduce the profits of the drug cartels and lead to a decline in violent crime nationwide.
According to reports by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agency, cannabis is by far the most sold drug by the Mexican cartels, their “bread and butter” so to speak. Demand for cannabis, in the U.S., is showing no signs of slowing down. Therefore, by legalizing recreational cannabis nationwide, we would effectively, render a huge part of the cartel’s business obsolete.
Without the proceeds from cannabis, the Mexican cartels are going to be forced to downsize and/or change their business strategies, diminishing their presence in U.S. substantially. Since drug cartels fight over the profits from selling drugs, with less profit to fight over, drug cartels should cut back on their violence as well. Many would-be gang members will decide against joining the ranks since they will reap less of a benefit for joining as the gang’s profits falter. With the risk of illegal cannabis sales being virtually eliminated, law enforcement will be able to reallocate their efforts to other offenses, again, leading to a decline in violence nationwide.
The biggest obstacle for the current proposed policy (the proposed wall), has largely been the enormous amount of money needed to fund it. Legalizing cannabis faces no such obstacle. In fact, the legalization of recreational cannabis has no monetary cost. According to a study by New Frontier Data, a data analytics firm, legal cannabis would bring in at least $132 billion in tax revenue and create over a million jobs within the next decade if legalized on the federal level. While a barrier on our border would cost the U.S. billions, cannabis would bring in government revenue through taxes, which would then allow the government to use that money for other projects to better the welfare of the people. Aside from government revenue, the sale of cannabis would create jobs, and stimulate the economy.
Opponents of the policy claim that cannabis is unsafe and will lead to an increase in the use of hard drugs. This has been the stigma around cannabis for some time; however, with cannabis legalized, proper regulation and education on the substance will lead to more responsible and aware consumers that will pose a much lower risk to society than the use of either alcohol or tobacco. In fact, cannabis has proven to be an effective substitute for some hard drugs, like opioids. In 2017, the National Academies of Science and Medicine, after reviewing over 10,000 studies, definitively concluded that cannabis is a safe and effective treatment of chronic pain. The study suggested that cannabis can actually cause a decline in hard drug use.
The legalization of recreational cannabis would not only prove to be an effective measure to help end the war on drugs, but it would also improve the overall welfare of our society. The impact of this policy is one that would benefit users and non-users alike, all the while saving the country billions of dollars.
This columnist is an Intermediate Microeconomics student of Log Cabin columnist Joe McGarrity. Each guest column is vetted by McGarrity before publication in the newspaper. For more information or to contact the writer, email email@example.com.