The ONDCP has shut down its old blog â€” PushingBack.com â€” and replaced it with ofSubstance.gov.
The ONDCP’s Aya Collins explains the change in So, What’s in a Name? After reading it, I still have no idea what the change means. One positive thing is they’ve removed the comments field. The existence of a comments field with no comments ever posted in the old blog was an obvious sign that the ONDCP was clueless about blogging. Since they never have intended to have an open dialog on their site (nor will they ever), it’s appropriate to switch to a simple “Contact Us” option.
They still have some basic coding problems. The main page isn’t designed properly, so the text extends below the white background (at least in the two browsers I use) and becomes unreadable.
Back to the title of this post…
Director Kerlikowske can certainly try to bury his head in the sand and pretend that if he can’t see legalization, it doesn’t exist. But that obviously hasn’t worked. He’s facing the “L” word everywhere he turns, and now it’s getting to the point where he has no choice but respond to it.
For this purpose, he selects useful tool Viridiana Rios â€” a graduate student at Harvard who hails from Mexico City â€” with a guest post at ofSubstance: Legalization will not end the violence.
As the situation in Mexico and along U.S. border towns has become desperate, calls for legalization are intensifying. The city of El Paso, Texas, passed a resolution calling for studying the merits of legalization as a means to curb violence, and the Arizona Attorney General has also discussed the option of legalization in front of the US Congress. California is considering a measure in November’s election.
Might legalization help the situation? My view is likely no. Any legalization attempt focuses on the marijuana markets which are not the core of the violence problem. It is highly valued drugs such as cocaine or heroin the ones which organized criminals are fighting for, it is these drugs that fund terrorist and criminal groups around the world.
The highly valued drugs are those that provide profits to the criminals. Just because cocaine or heroin have a higher value per pound, doesn’t make them more valued. Some estimates have indicated that Mexican cartels get 60% of their income from marijuana. I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, then it has a major impact and marijuana is a highly valued drug. The fact that Afghanistan is also turning heavily to marijuana growing indicates that it’s a very valued crop to them.
The cartels are not fighting over drugs. They’re fighting over control of the economics of drugs. As an economist, she should understand this.
Even in the unlikely scenario of an all-drugs liberalization, it is unrealistic to expect a significant diminishing of the influence of Mexican cartels. Cartels are organizations involved in multiple activities that cause harm, such as human and weapons trafficking, kidnapping, and extortion. They have bought politicians and officials in Mexico not only for the purpose of freely conducting their drug trade activities, but also to have a safe haven for their other businesses. It is hard to imagine that they would simply disappear, especially if the government still relied on sources in Mexico and Colombia to import their legal cocaine. In fact, it is likely that they would compete with open market sources to import cheaper and purer drugs and avoid paying tariffs or associated legal costs associated with the new regime. Cartels are in business because illegality pays, and pays well. They will not become legal entrepreneurs because such is not their competitive advantage. They have the know-how of illegal trafficking and will find a way to do in other markets.
There’s so much sloppy scholarship there, it’s really embarrassing. First of all, the reason that they’re able to buy politicians and officials is because they’re getting obscene amounts of money from the drug trade. Without that money, there’s no way that they could maintain their infrastructure â€” again, basic economics. And kidnapping, extortion, etc. cannot begin to match the money in drugs.
As far as competing with legal supply, name one other instance where this has occurred. Oh, sure, there will be some relatively small black market in drugs in a legal market framework, but in a legalized market, the vast majority of consumers prefer to follow the law.
The cartels could end up being like the DVD pirates, or those who sell cigarettes out of their car trunk to avoid high taxes â€” a pathetic shade of their former selves. That would be a far greater win over the cartels than we have ever experienced through prohibition.
Part of the problem is with the naivetÃ© of Ms. Rios, who thinks “the solution is in fixing the judicial systems” â€” a tall order when the cartels can buy them wholesale. But we also hear this from a lot of prohibitionists… “Legalization won’t stop the cartels, because they’re evil, and they won’t just go away peacefully.”
The real problem is that when we talk about cartels, drug reformers are talking about the common noun, and prohibitionists are talking about the proper noun.
Legalization will eliminate the cartels (common noun) in that it will eliminate the economic conditions for cartels in general to be created, develop and flourish. Legalization will not eliminate the violence of the “Smith” Cartel or the “Jones” Cartel. It will cripple them, but the core of their groups will still be bad guys and have to be hunted down (more easily without their financial infrastructure).
The problem with prohibitionists is that they keep going after the Smith Cartel (proper noun), and when they take them down, think that they’ve accomplished something. But prohibition provides the conditions for an endless supply of cartels (common noun), so eliminating one does nothing in the long haul.
Legalization is the only solution that can eliminate the conditions for the existence of cartels. And while going after the murderous criminals who are in individual “Cartels” is a good thing, ultimately it’s a pathetically fruitless enterprise unless you take away the black market that will fund their replacements.