For decades libertarians have been arguing that the only way to put drug gangs out of business is by legalizing drugs. There is no way that drug gangs could compete against legitimate drug producers in a free market. Drug gangs thrive only in an environment of illegality, where such traits as murder, robbery, kidnapping, and corruption play an important role.
An article in the October 7 issue of the Washington Post provided strong circumstantial evidence of this argument. The article, entitled “Cartels Face an Economic Battle,” pointed out that drug cartels are have a difficult time competing against thousands of marijuana farmers in the United States who have been popping up in response to liberalization of laws allowing the production of medical marijuana.
The article pointed out that because American marijuana producers are cutting into the profits of the drug cartels, “to stay competitive, Mexican traffickers are changing their business model to improve their product and streamline delivery.”
So, why are there still drug gangs and drug cartels? Because medical marijuana has liberalized only one segment of the drug market. Except for medicinal purposes, the production, distribution, and possession of marijuana are still illegal, as is the case for cocaine, heroin, and other drugs. That illegality continues to fuel the gangs and cartels. Legalization would put them out of business immediately, just as the repeal of Prohibition put the booze gangs out of business immediately.
Meanwhile, in a story entitled “Many Sources Feed the Taliban’s War Chest” that was published on October 18, the New York Times reported that one of the principal sources of revenue for the Taliban is the illegal drug trade, which enables them to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to finance their insurgency operations in Afghanistan.
Legalization, of course, would have the same effect on the Taliban that it has on the drug gangs and drug cartels — it would eliminate drug profits as a source of Taliban revenue.
So, given that legalization is a sure-fire way to put drug gangs and cartels out of business and end hundreds of millions of dollars of drug-war profits for the Taliban, why wouldn’t U.S. officials wholeheartedly be embracing drug legalization?
After all, it’s not as if they really think that more crackdowns are going to put the drug gangs out of business. If 40 years of drug warfare have taught us anything, it is that the more the government cracks down, the higher the prices and profits go, which then attracts more gangs and cartels into the business.
In fact, to see the futility of using the drug war to put these people out of business, all one has to do is go back for the last 40 years and read the regular announcements of U.S. officials proudly announcing the busts of drug gangs and cartels. Each well-publicized drug bust is quickly forgotten amidst the acclaim for the next one.
So, given that the drug war fuels the drug gangs and the group that is killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, given the 40 years of drug-war failure, and given that legalization would put those groups out of the drug business, why aren’t U.S. officials embracing drug legalization?
Money and jobs. There are lots of people making money off the drug war, not just the drug cartels and the Taliban. There are also plenty of government officials, including law-enforcement officers, who are making money off of bribes. And there are also lots of people, including judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, court personnel, bail bondsmen, and the like whose jobs depend on their being plenty of drug cases. Legalization would bring the bribes to an end along with all those lucrative drug-war-related jobs.
Given the choice between protecting the lives of drug-war victims here at home and overseas as well as the lives of American soldiers in Afghanistan versus the drug-war income of lawyers, judges, court personnel, and the like, U.S. officials have chosen to protect the latter by continuing the drug war and opposing legalization. What a shame.