Pubdate: Sun, 3 May 2009
Source: North County Times (Escondido, CA)
Copyright: 2009 North County Times
Author: F. Aaron Smith
Note: F. Aaron Smith is the California policy director for the 
Marijuana Policy Project. Visit


The horrifying drug war-violence south of the border calls to mind 
the adage,  "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to 
repeat it." It's time to stop repeating failed policies that do 
nothing but subsidize Mexican drug gangs.

Americans have watched in horror as thousands have been brutally 
murdered by warring drug cartels. Haven't we been through this 
before? The answer, of course, is yes.

During the 13 dark years of U.S. 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? It should.

Today, the bloodbath is taking place in cities like Tijuana and 
Juarez, Mexico. And, of course, the killings are no longer linked to 
the alcohol trade, but to illegal drugs -- the most common of which 
is marijuana.

This eruption of violence should be reason enough to immediately end 
marijuana prohibition and tax and regulate it similarly to alcohol. 
Prohibition simply doesn't work -- not in the 1930s and not now.

Our failed experiment with marijuana prohibition has left the supply 
side of a multibillion-dollar industry in the hands of murderous 
criminal gangs while doing nothing to curb American's steady demand 
for marijuana. 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 

According to Andres Rosental, former deputy foreign minister of 
Mexico, more than 60 percent of the revenue going to Mexican drug 
cartels is estimated to have come from marijuana

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.

The dangerous activity of these cartels is not limited to Latin 
America. Like an international game of "Whac-A-Mole," more stringent 
interdiction efforts at the border have prompted the cartels to move 
their marijuana growing operations north of the border.

Every year, we read more headlines about clandestine marijuana 
gardens being uncovered on our public lands. These rogue gardens not 
only pose a threat to hikers and the environment, they cost taxpayers 
more than a billion in eradication and cleanup efforts. If we ever 
want to stop these "bootlegger"-style marijuana operations, we must 
repeal marijuana prohibition.

There is no reason to believe that our nation's current marijuana 
policies are reducing the use and availability of marijuana. Indeed, 
marijuana's popularity has remained essentially unchanged since 
President Nixon declared all-out war on the plant nearly 40 years 
ago, with nearly 15 million Americans admitting to U.S. government 
surveyors that they use it at least monthly.

The U.N.'s World Health Organization reported last year that 
"countries with stringent user-level illegal drug policies did not 
have lower levels of use than countries with liberal ones."

California has always led the nation in forward-thinking policy, and 
this year legislators in Sacramento have an opportunity to do just 
that on the marijuana front. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San 
Francisco, has introduced Assembly Bill 390 -- legislation that would 
remove criminal penalties for responsible, adult marijuana use and 
set up a program to tax and regulate it, comparable with the current 
system that works to control alcohol production and sales.

Passage of this legislation would not only force a national 
reconsideration of marijuana prohibition, but would immediately cut 
into the profits of the dangerous criminal gangs who thrive on the 
illegal market.

Seventy-five years ago, FDR ended alcohol prohibition and the 
bloodletting immediately ended -- replaced by a steady stream of tax 
revenue to an ailing U.S. economy.

Let's do the same with marijuana before more lives and dollars are 
lost in this prohibition-fueled war. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake