Healthy Drug Free Colorado - Marijuana Legalization: A Bad Idea

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Organized Crime, Violence, and Drug Use Go Hand-In-Hand:

Proponents of legalization have many theories regarding the connection between drugs and violence. Some dispute the connection between drugs and violence, claiming that drug use is a victimless crime and users are putting only themselves in harm's way and therefore have the right to use drugs. Other proponents of legalization contend that if drugs were legalized, crime and violence would decrease, believing that it is the illegal nature of drug production, trafficking, and use that fuels crime and violence, rather than the violent and irrational behavior that drugs themselves prompt.

Today, marijuana trafficking is linked to a variety of crimes, from assault and murder to money laundering and smuggling. Legalization of marijuana would increase demand for the drug and almost certainly exacerbate drug-related crime, as well as cause a myriad of unintended but predictable consequences. 

Under a legalization scenario, a "black market" for drugs would still exist.

And it would be a vast "black market". If drugs were legal for those over 18 or 21, there would be a market for everyone under that age. People under the age of 21 consume the majority of illegal drugs, and so an illegal market and organized crime to supply it would remain along with the organized crime that profits from it.

After Prohibition ended, did the organized crime in our country go down? No.

It continues today in a variety of other criminal enterprises. Legalization would not put the cartels out of business; cartels would simply look to other illegal endeavors.  If only marijuana were legalized, drug traffickers would continue to traffic in heroin and cocaine. In either case, traffic-related violence would not be ended by legalization.

Marijuana advocates point to the Netherlands as a well-functioning society with a relaxed attitude toward drugs, but they rarely mention that Amsterdam is one of Europe's most violent cities. In Amsterdam, officials are in the process of closing marijuana dispensaries, or "coffee shops," because of the crime associated with their operation. Furthermore, the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has expressed "concern about drug and alcohol use among young people and the social consequences, which range from poor school performance and truancy to serious impairment, including brain damage."

Amsterdam's experience is already being duplicated in California under the current medical marijuana statute. In Los Angeles, police report that areas surrounding cannabis clubs have experienced a:

  • 200 percent increase in robberies,
  • 52.2 percent increase in burglaries,
  • 57.1 percent increase in aggravated assault, and
  • 130.8 percent increase in burglaries from automobiles.

Current law requires a doctor's prescription to procure marijuana; full legalization would likely spark an even more acute increase in crime.

What is the relationship between crime and addiction?

Criminal acts are committed by addicts to attain their drugs of choice, not because the drug is illegal.  Legalizing marijuana would not take away its addictive power or the criminal organizations who profit from its sale.  Source:  Don't Legalize Drugs, Theodore Dalrymple

 A study by the RAND Corporation concluded that approximately 60 percent of arrestees test positive for marijuana use in the United States, England, and Australia and that marijuana metabolites are found in arrestees' urine more frequently than those of any other drug. 

When individuals are under the influence of drugs, judgement is impaired and they are more likely to enter into risky, criminal behavior.

Where to you draw the line?

If only marijuana, cocaine, and heroin were legalized, there would still be a market for PCP and methamphetamine. Where do legalizers want to draw the line? Or do they support legalizing all drugs, no matter how addictive and dangerous?

In addition, any government agency assigned to distribute drugs under a legalization scenario would, for safety purposes, most likely not distribute the most potent drug. The drugs may also be more expensive because of bureaucratic costs of operating such a distribution system. Therefore, until 100 percent pure drugs are given away to anyone, at any age, a "black market" will remain.

The greatest weakness in the logic of legalizers is that the violence associated with drugs is simply a product of drug trafficking. That is, if drugs were legal, then most drug crime would end. But most violent crime is committed not because people want to buy drugs, but because people are on drugs. Drug use changes behavior and exacerbates criminal activity, and there is ample scientific evidence that demonstrates the links between drugs, violence, and crime. Drugs often cause people to do things they wouldn't do if they were rational and free of the influence of drugs.

Six times as many homicides are committed by people under the influence of drugs as by those who are looking for money to buy drugs.

According to the 1999 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) study, more than half of arrestees for violent crimes test positive for drugs at the time of their arrest.

For experts in the field of crime, violence, and drug abuse, there is no doubt that there is a connection between drug use and violence. As Joseph A. Califano, Jr., of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University stated, "Drugs like marijuana, heroin and cocaine are not dangerous because they are illegal; they are illegal because they are dangerous."

There are numerous statistics, from a wide variety of sources, illustrating the connection between drugs and violence. The propensity for violence against law enforcement officers, coworkers, family members, or simply people encountered on the street by drug abusers is a matter of record.

A 1997 FBI study of violence against law enforcement officers found that 24 percent of the assailants were under the influence of drugs at the time they attacked the officers and that 72 percent of the assailants had a history of drug law violations.

Many scientific studies also support the connection between drug use and crime. One study investigated state prisoners who had five or more convictions. These are hardened criminals. It found that four out of every five of them used drugs regularly.

Numerous episodes of workplace violence have also been attributed to illegal drugs. A two-year independent postal commission study looked into 29 incidents resulting in 34 deaths of postal employees from 1986 to 1999. "Most perpetrators (20 of 34) either had a known history of substance abuse or were known to be under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs at the time of the homicide. The number is likely higher because investigations in most other cases were inconclusive."

Drug Users 5 Times More Likely to Attack Someone.

According to the 1998 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, teenage drug users are five times far more likely to attack someone than those who don't use drugs. About 20 percent of the 12-17 year olds reporting use of an illegal drug in the past year attacked someone with the intent to seriously hurt them, compared to 4.3 percent of the non-drug users.

As we see in most cases, the violence associated with drug use escalates and, in many instances, results in increased homicide rates. A 1994 Journal of the American Medical Association article reported that cocaine use was linked to high rates of homicide in New York City.

Drug users are not only harming themselves, but as we can see, they are harming anyone who may have the misfortune of crossing their path. Dr. Mitchell Rosenthal, head of Phoenix House, a major drug treatment center, has pointed out that, "there are a substantial number of abusers who cross the line from permissible self-destruction to become 'driven' people who are 'out of control' and put others in danger of their risk-taking, violence, abuse, or HIV infection."

Drug Use in Not a Victimless Crime.

It is impossible to claim drug use is a victimless crime or deny the relationship between drugs and violence, especially when looking at an Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) estimate for 1995, which estimates there were almost 53,000 drug-related deaths in that year alone, compared to 58,000 American lives lost in eight and a half years in the Vietnam War. The assertions dismissing the connection between drugs and violence by legalization proponents are simply not true. Drug use, legal or not, is not a victimless crime; it is a crime that destroys communities, families, and lives.

Source: Fact 7 - DEA

Legalization Will Cause Drug Trafficking Organization to Grow More.

Legalize marijuana, and the demand for marijuana goes up substantially as the deterrence effect of law enforcement disappears. Yet not many suppliers will operate legally, refusing to subject themselves to the established state regulatory scheme; not to mention taxation-while still risking federal prosecution, conviction, and prison time. So who will fill the void?

Violent, brutal, and ruthless, Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) will work to maintain their "black market" profits at the expense of American citizens' safety. Every week, there are news articles cataloguing the murders, kidnappings, robberies, and other thuggish brutality employed by Mexican drug gangs along the border. It is nonsensical to argue that these gangs will simply give up producing marijuana when it is legalized; indeed, their profits might soar, depending on the actual tax in California and the economics of the interstate trade. While such profits might not be possible if marijuana was legalized at the national level and these gangs were undercut by mass production, that is unlikely ever to happen. Nor does anyone really believe that the gangs will subject themselves to state and local regulation, including taxation. And since the California ballot does nothing to eliminate the "black market" for marijuana quite the opposite, in fact-legalizing marijuana will only incentivize Mexican DTOs to grow more marijuana to feed the demand and exploit the "black market".

Furthermore, should California legalize marijuana, other entrepreneurs will inevitably attempt to enter the marketplace and game the system. In doing so, they will compete with Mexican DTOs and other criminal organizations. Inevitably, violence will follow, and unlike now, that violence will not be confined to the border as large-scale growers seek to protect their turf that will necessarily include anywhere they grow, harvest, process, or sell marijuana. While this may sound far-fetched, Californians in Alameda County are already experiencing the reality of cartel-run marijuana farms on sometimes stolen land, protected by "guys [who] are pretty heavily armed and willing to protect their merchandise."

It is not uncommon for drugs with large illegal markets to be controlled by cartels despite attempts to roll them into the normal medical control scheme.  As competition from growers and dispensaries authorized by the state cuts further into the Mexican DTOs' business, Californians will face a real possibility of bloodshed on their own soil as the cartels' profit protection measures turn from defensive to offensive.

Thus, marijuana legalization will increase crime, drug use, and social dislocation across the state of California; the exact opposite of what pro-legalization advocates promise.