Pubdate: Mon, 23 Mar 2009
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2009 Independent Media Institute
Author: Bruce Mirken
Note: Bruce Mirken is communications director for the Marijuana 
Policy Project.


The horrifying drug-war violence south of our border with Mexico
continues to worsen: beheadings, killings that now number several
thousand at least, honest officials in fear for their lives. It's time
to put an end to U.S. policies that subsidize these murderous drug

According to U.S. and Mexican officials, some 60 percent of the
profits that fuel these thugs come from just one drug, marijuana.
While much is smuggled over the border, an increasing amount is
produced in the U.S. by foreign gangs operating on American soil --
often in remote corners of national parks and wilderness areas.

Every year, we read more headlines about clandestine marijuana farms
being uncovered on these precious, environmentally sensitive public
lands. These rogue farms not only pose a threat to hikers and the
environment, they cost taxpayers more than a billion dollars each year
in eradication and clean-up efforts.

This appalling situation, which now carries a real risk of
destabilizing Mexico, is not just happenstance. It is the direct
result of U.S. policies.

Like it or not, marijuana is a massive industry. Some 100 million
Americans admit to government survey-takers that they've used it, with
nearly 15 million acknowledging use in the past month.

That's a huge market -- more Americans than will buy a new car or
truck this year, or that bought one last year. Estimates based on U.S.
government figures have pegged marijuana as the number one cash crop
in America, with a value exceeding corn and wheat combined.

Our current policies are based on the fantasy that we can somehow make
this massive industry go away. That's about as likely as the Tooth
Fairy paying off the national debt.

We haven't stopped marijuana use -- indeed, federal statistics show a
roughly 4,000 percent rise since the first national ban took effect in
1937 -- but we have handed a virtual monopoly on production and
distribution to criminals, including those brutal Mexican gangs.

There is a better way. After all, there's a reason these gangs aren't
smuggling wine grapes.

We've seen this movie before. During the 13 dark years of alcohol
Prohibition, ruthless gangsters like Al Capone and "Bugs" Moran had a
monopoly on the lucrative booze market. So lucrative, in fact, that
these scoundrels would routinely gun each other down rather than let a
competitor share their territory. Sound familiar?

Today, the bloodbath is taking place in cities like Tijuana and
Juarez, Mexico, but it's beginning to spill across our border.
Prohibition simply doesn't work - not in the 1930s and not now.

The chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Mexico and
Central America Section recently told the New York Times that
marijuana is the "king crop" for Mexican cartels. He added that the
plant "consistently sustains its marketability and

The situation is so intolerable that three former presidents of
Mexico, Colombia and Brazil have recently joined the chorus calling
for a shift in U.S. marijuana policy.

There is no reason to believe that our nation's current marijuana
policies are reducing the use and availability of marijuana. Indeed,
in the Netherlands -- where, since the mid 1970s, adults have been
permitted to possess and purchase small amounts of marijuana from
regulated businesses -- the rate of marijuana use is less than half of
ours, according to a recent World Health Organization study. More
importantly, the percentage of teens trying marijuana by age 15 in the
Netherlands is roughly one-third the U.S. rate.

By taking marijuana out of the criminal underground and regulating and
taxing it as we do beer, wine and liquor, we can cut the lifeline that
makes these Mexican drug gangs so large and powerful. And at the same
time we'll have a level of control over marijuana production and
distribution that is impossible under prohibition.
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