Legalizing Marijuana: Taking the Fight to the Cartels

By Eli Glickman

The U.S. needs to legalize recreational marijuana at the Federal level. Marijuana is a non-harmful drug, and its legalization will be beneficial towards American foreign policy interests. The primary Mexican drug cartels, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Federation, makes much of their business through illegal marijuana exports to the U.S.

In 2012, before Colorado and Washington state legalized marijuana, A Washington Post study estimated that drug cartel’s revenue overall would fall 30% just from these two states legalizing. The same study predicted the Sinaloa cartel would have been hit even harder, losing 50% of its revenue.

Weakening drug cartels is critical to U.S. drug enforcement policy, and it is morally correct. The Sinaloa Cartel’s stranglehold on the Mexican government is fueled entirely by its ability to buy off public officials. Hurting their revenue is the only way to begin to dismantle their web of corruption. Between 2007 and 2014, the drug war in Mexico claimed 126,000 civilian lives. Without money, the cartels can’t operate as efficiently.

While the Mexican government’s situation has improved in recent years, the accusations directed at Mexico’s former president from 2012 to 2018, Enrique Peña Nieto, have indicated that corruption permeates even the highest echelons of the Mexican government. This has been underscored recently, with the arrest of the son of Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán. Upon Guzmán’s arrest, battles between Mexican authorities and the cartels erupted in Culiacan. He was released hours later.

Because of their seemingly endless stream of money, the Sinaloa Cartel has a dangerous grip on the Mexican judicial process. It’s high time for the U.S. to step up its game. In the 1970s and 80s, the U.S. and Mexico shared a program, Operation Condor, in which the two countries jointly destroyed Mexican marijuana fields and attacked narcotics operations. It is time to restart this program.

The U.S. has taken a hands-off approach in Mexico for too long. We need to attack the drugs at the source. The DEA and U.S. military need to work out an agreement with the Mexican government to finish off the cartels once and for all. Drug lords are not very difficult to find with the modern intelligence capabilities we have. What makes it hard is relying on corrupt Mexican authorities being able to arrest them.

We also need to shift our domestic behavior. DEA needs an increased presence at all border crossings; drug sniffing dogs and better car checks are steps that need to be taken to prevent the flow of drugs over the border. The U.S. also should allocate more funding for satellite imaging of illegal border crossings with drugs.

Drugs are quickly becoming the biggest killer in the United States. Over the last year, almost 70,000 people died from drug overdoses, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The U.S. has spent far too long giving the backseat to the DEA in foreign funding. While $1.1 billion flow into corrupt Latin-American countries in the form of foreign aid, we have done little to materially disrupt the flow of narcotics within the region.

The U.S. needs to change that. We have the potential to undo all the harm that the cartels have done to the U.S. and to Latin-America for future generations. We have the tools we need to weaken and put an end to organized narco-crime.

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