Law enforcement agents discovered an underground tunnel connecting two warehouses on opposite sides of the US/Mexican border, one in Tijuana and the other in San Diego. Both warehouses contained marijuana, a substance that remains illegal after Californian voters rejected legalizing it this same week. Obviously, the primary purpose of this tunnel was to smuggle marijuana across the border. Sadly, the only truly newsworthy thing about this tunnel is the timing of the discovery, as authorities have found 75 other similar cross-border underground drug roads.
Drug smuggling happens. No matter how loudly or how forcefully the government dictates that marijuana is illegal, some people want it. A large number of those people who want marijuana are willing to defy the government to get it. Therefore, there is money to be made, and somebody is going to step up and supply that need. This is a simple economic principle of supply and demand at work.
If one supplier goes down, another will soon fill the slack. The smuggling never ends because there’s always another smuggler. As long as there are customers willing to pay high prices, there will always be someone willing to bring the goods to sell.
Here in DC, the war on drugs has traditionally been a moral issue. Drugs (even marijuana) are very bad, you see, and therefore are illegal, or perhaps they are bad because they are illegal… well, either way, they are bad. Therefore, anyone who uses or sells drugs must be a bad person. At the very least, this person is breaking the law! We therefore must conclude that it is our moral duty to stop the drug dealers (and users, when it’s convenient) by catching them and prosecuting them. The problem with this theory is that it paints the drug busters as caped crusaders fighting a never-ending battle against crime. As with any good comic book, the battle never ends because we never run out of villains. Still, we keep fighting, because they are villains and therefore we must fight them.
It’s time to change the game. If we legalize marijuana, then those who deal in marijuana are no longer criminals. Legitimate storefronts pop up, prices go down, and the crime no longer exists. Maybe the people who dealt in marijuana when it was illegal are still bad people, but at least we are no longer spending billions of dollars and mounds of effort fighting them. In addition to saving money, we will have gained a new source of tax revenue. Legitimate marijuana will automatically start earning sales tax, and lawmakers could very easily slap an additional sin tax on top. Even with the taxes, marijuana will probably be cheaper (and certainly easier to get) than during its illegal period, so (most of) the consumers of marijuana will be happy. Marijuana war isn’t about morals any more.
In these hard economic times, lawmakers need to cut spending, raise revenues, and somehow avoid overtaxing American citizens. It won’t be long before California’s flirtation with legalization goes national, and California may wind up living in a legalized nation.
Flaherty, M. P. (2010, November 5). Crime Scene – Feds find drug tunnel to Mexico. Blog Directory (washingtonpost.com). Retrieved November 5, 2010.
What’s Wrong With the Drug War?. (n.d.). Drug Policy Alliance: Alternatives to Marijuana Prohibition and the Drug War. Retrieved November 5, 2010.