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Editorial: Cannabis concessions

High time to reassess the war on drugs

The New Hampshire

Published: Monday, November 26, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02

Imagine the mayor of an American town is driving her young daughter to school in the morning when an SUV comes to a screeching halt in front of her car. She is dragged out of her vehicle by armed men, and she begs them to leaver her daughter alone before entering the SUV. No one sees her for days.  

This is what happened to Maria Santos Gorrostieta, mayor of the western state of Michoacán in Mexico, earlier this month. A few days after her abduction, her body was found on the side of a road in the southern part of Michoacán. Gorrostieta was likely tortured before being murdered, yet another victim of the Mexican drug war. She died a heroine, surviving two prior assassination attempts, all the while championing the rights of her people and speaking out against drug-related violence. Unfortunately, Gorrostieta’s death has become part of the norm in Mexico, as the war on drugs rages on, a war funded by the United States of America. 

Ever since the propaganda film “Reefer Madness” was released in 1936, a large portion of the American public has viewed marijuana as a drug on the same level as narcotics, stimulants, hallucinogens and other chemical drugs. The federal government has viewed it the same way for more than 40 years, criminalizing marijuana under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. While states have made exceptions for medical use, possessing, using, selling or cultivating marijuana is still illegal for most Americans. 

Of course, making the drug illegal in the United States has only raised the demand for marijuana, and the cannabis crop often associated with peaceful hippies is helping to fuel one of the bloodiest conflicts in the world right now. 

More than 47,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since the country began its war on drugs in 2006, according to the Mexican government. Outside reports have the death toll as high as 60,000. Corruption has infiltrated the country’s institutions, most notably the police force, which is so corrupt that it is essentially useless as a defense against drug cartels in most parts of Mexico. 

And the group of people who are fueling this drug trade? Americans, who use marijuana more than any other country in the world; a World Health Organization survey published in 2008 found that 42 percent of Americans use cannabis. The demand in America helps fuel the multi-billion dollar drug trade that is centered in Mexico. Making marijuana illegal to grow and distribute in the United States has never been able to halt the actual use of the drug. It has only served to make selling the drug one of the most profitable criminal enterprises in the world for the violent Mexican drug cartels. And the violence does not stop in Mexico, as it has often spilled across America’s southern borders. A U.S. border patrol agent was shot and killed in an Arizona border town in early October, likely as a result of drug violence. 

Washington and Colorado recently took a step in the right direction by passing ballot initiatives to legalize recreational use of marijuana, although it is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government. A Rasmussen Reports survey from May found that 56 percent of likely voters support legalizing and regulating marijuana the same way alcohol and tobacco are regulated. Outgoing Mexican president Felipe Calderon recently said that the Mexican drug war will never end unless the United States either curbs its drug consumption or uses “market mechanisms” to stem the flow of drug money to Mexico. Calderon means that Americans must stop paying for illegal drugs from across the border and create safe, legal markets from which to purchase marijuana. 

It has become abundantly clear that legalizing marijuana nationwide is the clearest choice of action for the United States. This is not about young adults being able to toke up with some friends and play Mario Kart without fear of the cops knocking on their door. The stability of our most immediate southern neighbor and ally is at stake. Marijuana legalization would cut profits to cartels, curb the violence in Mexico and end many of the problems that U.S. officials currently face. 

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