The Wall Street Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady has, in the past, demonstrated an understanding of the economics of the drug war — usually, unfortunately, without taking that final step in proposing the solution (she dances around it).
Today’s OpEd is a very bizarre piece. Tell me what you think, but it appears to me that she’s trying to find a way to push the Journal’s required anti-Obama venom, while sneaking in a message about legalization.
Here’s how it starts (complete with a picture of captured Mexican gang members in front of a helicopter with a display of seized weapons):
Just when you thought the effects of U.S. drug policy couldn’t get more pernicious, guess what? That’s where we’re headed.
Mexico’s young democracy is already paying a high price for the lethal combination of prohibition and strong gringo demand for mind-altering substances. Drug violence has escalated as Mexican suppliers intent on satisfying appetites across the border have tangled with each other and law enforcement. Now the U.S. is getting ready to raise the incentives for gangsters.
Whoa — what did that Obama do?
At a press conference last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder indicated that President Obama would keep a campaign promise by ending federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries.
This means that the weed will remain illegal to transport and sell — and thus highly profitable for criminals — but there will be fewer repercussions for those who use it in states with liberal marijuana laws.
OK, that’s stretching a point a bit. Yes, it’s true that the big problem with any decrim-only effort is that it doesn’t remove the black market, and it’s also true that a certain amount of Mexican marijuana may get diverted into the medical marijuana market despite the state laws allowing caregivers to grow their own. But to say that eliminating federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries is going to enrich Mexican gangs is reaching – we’re not talking about eliminating laws here – merely allowing the states to enforce their own in this one area.
So now, wade through six or seven paragraphs about the violence in Mexico (including the now obligatory “violence means we’re winning” meme, this time by Mexican Attorney General Medina Mora), and you get the real point that O’Grady appears to want to make — hidden at the very end.
To really change things for the better, Latin American countries need the Americans to cut funding to the bad guys. Mr. Medina Mora estimates that drug consumers north of the Rio Grande put some $10 billion into the pockets of the cartels annually. This is how they either buy, intimidate or annihilate many of those who get in their way.
More interesting is Mexico’s estimates that half of all cartel revenue comes from the marijuana business. That means, by my calculation, that if you lift the prohibition on trafficking pot alone, it would cut mob income by half. It also means that if the U.S. adopts a wink-wink policy of tolerating marijuana use but keeps it officially illegal, the thugs are going to get richer.
It is considered politically risky in the U.S. to argue for lifting the ban on marijuana. But that’s no excuse for Mr. Obama’s policy, which will harm Mexico further. The country has already paid enough for American hypocrisy on drug use.
Interesting how she used “lift the prohibition on trafficking” and “lifting the ban” as tortured euphemisms for “legalize.”
Come on, Mary. Don’t hold back. Come out and say it. You know you want to!
Talk to your co-editors and get the Wall Street Journal behind legalization — not buried in the article, but in the headline and the lede. It’s the right thing to do.