Opinion: California’s vote to legalize marijuana is a step in the right direction

October 15, 2010

Edward Schumacher-Matos, The Washington Post, 10/15/2010

In the upcoming California referendum on legalizing marijuana for recreational use, Mexican President Felipe Calderón and U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske have something in common. Both are missing the forest for the weed.

According to recent polls, Californians are on the verge of approving the legalization of marijuana and overthrowing nearly a century of failed American drug prohibition. Hail to the Golden State.

In the four decades since President Richard Nixon declared a “War on Drugs,” the toll of prohibition includes at least $1 trillion in taxes spent, according to the Wall Street Journal. Worse are the millions of lives damaged by prison time and street violence. In 2007, for example, about 500,000 people were in jail on drug charges.

Yet, while drug preferences go in and out of style, total use by Americans of all stripes remains virtually unchanged.

We parents understandably worry that legalization might encourage drug use by our children, but that’s a management issue, as with alcohol. The drugs are readily available anyway. Instead of hurting children, what legalization really does is undercut the gangs, keep our young people out of jail and reduce the violence.

Edward Schumacher-Matos is syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group.

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U.S. Will Enforce Marijuana Laws, State Vote Aside

October 15, 2010

The New York Times, 10/15/2010

The Department of Justice says it intends to prosecute marijuana laws in California aggressively even if state voters approve an initiative on the Nov. 2 ballot to legalize the drug.

The announcement by Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general, was the latest reminder of how much of the establishment has lined up against the popular initiative: dozens of editorial boards, candidates for office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other public officials.

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Mexican waves, Californian cool: Three things to stop the gangs: better police in Mexico, stricter gun laws in America and legal pot in California

October 14, 2010

The Economist, 10/14/2010

There have been gunfights outside the American school and a big private university. The mayors of two suburbs have been murdered. And a grenade has been thrown at Saturday evening strollers in a square, injuring 12. All this has happened since August not in Kabul or Baghdad but in Monterrey in northern Mexico (see article). The latest battleground in a multilateral war between drug-trafficking gangs and the authorities, Monterrey is not a dusty outpost. It is one of the biggest industrial cities of North America, a couple of hours’ drive from Texas and home to some of Mexico’s leading companies.

The maelstrom of drug-related violence that is engulfing Mexico has produced exaggerated, sometimes xenophobic, alarm in parts of the United States. The response in Mexico City has, until recently, been defensive denial.

Both reactions are wrong. The violence, in which at least 28,000 people have been killed since 2006, reflects a double failure of public policy: decades of neglect of the basic institutions of the rule of law in Mexico, and a failed approach to drug consumption (plus lax gun laws) in the United States. These mistakes have helped to create the world’s most powerful organised-crime syndicates. Reforms in both countries could help tame them.

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Rand: Prop 19 hurts Mexican traffickers only if the state exports pot

October 12, 2010

Sacramento Bee Blog, 10/12/2010

A new Rand Corporation study disputes claims by proponents of California’s Proposition 19 initiative that widely legalizing marijuana in the state will cripple Mexican drug cartels.

The Rand report, released this morning, said the ballot measure will have little impact on drug trafficking from Mexico – unless Proposition 19 results in California pot growers smuggling huge quantities of home-grown Golden State weed across the United States.

The report said legalizing marijuana beyond currently legal medical use in California would, at best, put a two to four percent dent in the revenues of Mexican drug cartels.

But Rand researchers offered one notable exception: They said if Californians moved heavily into the illegal pot exporting business to other U.S. states, they could slice more than two-thirds out of revenues from Mexican marijuana networks.

“The only way Prop 19 could importantly cut (Mexican) drug export revenues is if California-produced marijuana is smuggled to other states at prices that out-compete current Mexican supplies,” read the report from Rand’s International Programs and Drug Policy Research Center.

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Read the Wilson Center report by Rand paper co-author Peter Reuter on U.S. drug policy and its impact on Mexico…


Legalizing Marijuana in California Will Not Dramatically Reduce Mexican Drug Trafficking Revenues

October 12, 2010

Rand Corporation, 10/12/2010

Legalizing marijuana in California will not dramatically reduce the drug revenues collected by Mexican drug trafficking organizations from sales to the United States, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

The only scenario where legalization in California could substantially reduce the revenue of the drug trafficking organizations is if high-potency, California-produced marijuana is smuggled to other U.S. states at prices that are lower than those of current Mexican supplies, according to the study from the RAND Drug Policy Research Center. RAND is a nonprofit research organization.

The study calculates that Mexican drug trafficking organizations generate only $1 billion to $2 billion annually from exporting marijuana to the United States and selling it to wholesalers, far below existing estimates by the government and other groups.

The RAND study also finds that the often-cited claim that marijuana accounts for 60 percent of gross drug export revenues of Mexican drug trafficking organizations is not credible. RAND’s exploratory analysis on this point suggests that 15 percent to 26 percent is a more credible range. Given that California accounts for about 14 percent of the nation’s marijuana use, this suggests that if marijuana legalization in California only influences the California market, it would have a small effect on drug trafficking organizations — cutting total drug export revenues by perhaps 2 to 4 percent.

However, the impact of legalization on Mexican drug trafficking organizations’ bottom line could be magnified if marijuana cultivated in California is smuggled into other states, according to the study. After legalization, if low-cost, high-quality marijuana produced in California dominates the U.S. marijuana market, then the Mexican drug trafficking organizations’ revenue from exporting marijuana could decline by more than 65 percent and probably closer to 85 percent. In this scenario, results from the RAND study suggest the drug trafficking organizations would lose roughly 20 percent of their total drug export revenues.

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Voters leaning toward legalizing marijuana

September 27, 2010

Sacramento Bee, 9/26/2010

California voters are leaning toward making the Golden State the first state in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

In a new Field Poll of likely voters for the Nov. 2 election, the Proposition 19 marijuana initiative leads by a 49 percent to 42 percent margin.

The measure holds heavy majorities among voters who are younger than 40 and those who live in the populous San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles.

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