Beau Kilmer, Jonathan P. Caulkins, Brittany M. Bond, Peter H. Reuter
13 October 2010
The United States’ demand for illicit drugs creates markets for Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and helps foster violence in Mexico. Some government and media sources have reported that Mexican and Colombian DTOs combined earn $18–$39 billion annually in wholesale drug proceeds and 60 percent of all Mexican DTO drug export revenue comes from marijuana. These numbers have been cited to argue that legalizing marijuana in California would reduce Mexican DTOs’ revenues, thereby reducing violence.
“Democracy is the worst form of government,” as Churchill once put it, “except all those other forms that have been tried.” Whatever else it should include, it’s hard to imagine democracy without regular, free and fair elections that express the majority’s preferences.
Nations throughout Latin America and the world are debating whether to legalize drugs or not. For anyone who has seen the violent effects of illegal drugs -- decapitated bodies, drive-by shootings, car bombs -- a thorough and honest exploration of alternatives is long overdue.
What was Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos smoking? Colombia has long been an obedient lieutenant in the U.S.-led war on drugs, yet there was Santos musing out loud — at a presidential summit, of all places — about the possibility of exporting bales of marijuana to California dopers. "I would like to know," he said on Oct. 26, "if the eighth-largest economy in the world and a state that's famous for high technology, movies and fine wine, will permit marijuana imports?"
Although the partial decriminalization of cannabis at the beginning of this year didn't transform the capital into the new Amsterdam, as some headlines suggested, the accessibility of soft drugs, National Drug Coordinator Vobořil says, has secured the Czech Republic one of the highest rankings in Europe regarding cannabis use. The possession of more than the allowed 15 grams of cannabis is subject to a fine of up to CZK 15,000, or imprisonment of up to one year.
One of Britain's most senior police officers has said youngsters caught carrying personal amounts of drugs such as cannabis should "not be criminalised", in order to allow more resources to be dedicated to tackling high-level dealers. Tim Hollis, chief constable of Humberside police, said the criminal justice system could offer only a "limited" solution to the UK's drug problem, a tacit admission that prohibition has failed.
A new law makes possessing up to an ounce of marijuana in California no more serious than getting a speeding ticket - a development both sides battling over a marijuana legalization ballot measure hope to exploit with the vote just a month away.
By a narrow margin, Arizona voters have given their OK to legalized medical marijuana for people with chronic or debilitating diseases. The decision makes Arizona the 15th state to approve a medical marijuana law. California was the first in 1996, and 13 other states and Washington, D.C., have followed suit.
A number of other countries have implemented changes in law that significantly reduce the extent of criminalization of marijuana use. Only in Australia and the Netherlands have there been any changes on the criminalization of the supply side and in neither of those countries is it legal to both produce and sell the drug. The relaxations so far, with the exception of the Netherlands, have not been very great i.e. have not much changed the legal risks faced by a user of marijuana. Thus it is perhaps not surprising that the changes in prevalence of use have not been substantial. This paper provides a brief review of the changes that have been tried outside the US. The emphasis is on the nature of the changes and how they have been implemented rather than on outcomes.
In a dramatic shift of sentiment, nearly half of California's likely voters now want to legalize marijuana use in the state, according to a new Field Poll. Forty-nine percent of those likely voters now support Prop. 19, with 42 percent opposed. In a July poll, 48 percent of those surveyed planned to vote against the ballot initiative, with 44 percent backing legalization.
Drug use and abuse are social and pubic health issues. But these drug laws started as purity laws in a progressive effort to stop pharmaceutical companies from addicting their unknowing customers to substances like heroin and cocaine added to common products like cough medicine and soft drinks. We have lost sight of these original goals.
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 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.
Proposition 19 has a chance of winning mainly because Californians have become rather relaxed about weed. Back in 1972 a proposition to legalise the drug was defeated almost two-to-one. These days, fully half of Californians tell pollsters they favour legalisation, and almost as many admit to having smoked marijuana themselves, which probably means that a big majority have actually done so.
If California votes in favour of legalisation, Mexico would be wise to follow suit (the bottom would anyway fall out of its marijuana business). The drug gangs would still be left with more lucrative cocaine and methamphetamines. But it would become easier to defeat them. The idea of going back to a tacit bargain that tolerates organised crime, favoured by some in Mexico, is inimical to the rule of law, and thus to democracy and a free society. The sooner Mexico turns its new-found sense of urgency into a more effective national policing and law-enforcement strategy the better.
Colorado marijuana activists, undaunted by California’s failure to legalize the drug, said last week they are launching two separate campaigns to legalize marijuana for adults in 2012. The groups announced their intentions even as voters in more than two dozen Colorado municipalities decided last week to ban medical marijuana centers. But advocates who want to legalize the drug see hope in Colorado, one of 14 states where medical marijuana is legal, and where Denver voters approved an ordinance making marijuana possession the “lowest law-enforcement priority.”
The traditional Dutch tolerance of the sale of small amounts of marijuana through licensed "coffee shops" is under severe strain. On 14 October a new coalition government was sworn in. Part of the coalition agreement stipulates that coffee shops "will become private clubs". In other words, no tourists.
The new conservative Dutch government wants to force the country's marijuana cafes to become "members only" clubs, a move that would effectively block foreigners from buying the drug. If the idea ever becomes reality — it would be legally complicated and politically divisive — it would be the latest of the country's liberal policies to be scrapped or curtailed as the Dutch rethink the limits of their famed tolerance. While marijuana is technically illegal in the Netherlands, it has been sold openly in designated cafes for decades, and police make no arrests for possession of small amounts.
A new marijuana policy could make it legal for individuals to posses up to 15 grams (0.5 ounces) of the drug in the German capital. The regulation would make Berlin among the most cannabis-friendly in Europe. German federal law prohibits the possession of marijuana beyond a "small amount" but leaves it up to the states to determine exactly what that amount should be. Most states, including Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin, define a "small amount" as 6 grams.