Before I embark on a point by point review of this, there are a couple of things to be clarified. Firstly, what is meant by ‘legalization’? When I refer to legalization, I mean all drugs. Others are just referring to marijuana. The DEA seems to switch between the two options. I’m going to work from assumptions about the impact of the legalization of all drugs on levels of violence along the Southwest border. (Where Mexico borders California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas)

Secondly, any reference to data that relates to drug trafficking, seizures, revenues, price and purity, etc should really include proper caveats with regards to the validity and reliability of data. None of the indicators used below prove conclusively one way or the other that prohibition is or isn’t working.

And remember, while you’re reading this, the DEA claims that Speaking Out is “designed to cut through the current fog of misinformation with hard facts”.  It strikes me as morally wrong for a taxpayer funded government organization to deliberately mislead the public. I guess I’m just naive that way.

  • Some have proposed legalizing drug consumption in the United States as a way to reduce border violence. This ignores scientific, legal, and social arguments that highlight what legalizing drugs would cost the United States, and that marijuana legalization would be a failed law enforcement strategy for both the United States and Mexico.

This is a lie. I don’t ignore these arguments; I just weigh up the costs and benefits of legalization, and believe that the benefits outweigh the costs to the US and other countries. One of those benefits being a reduction in border violence.

  • Criminals won’t stop being criminals if we make drugs legal. Individuals who have chosen to pursue a life of crime and violence aren’t likely to change course, get legitimate jobs, and become honest, tax-paying citizens just because we legalize drugs. The individuals and organizations that smuggle drugs don’t do so because they enjoy the challenge of “making a sale.” They sell drugs because that’s what makes them the most money.

Selling drugs makes money because drugs are illegal. While everyone who sells drugs is a criminal, no one could say what these people would do if drugs were legalized. Some may get legitimate jobs, some may engage in other criminal enterprise. I believe it would be easier for some of these people to get legitimate jobs if they weren’t at a disadvantage in the jobs market because of criminal records resulting from drug law infractions. Meanwhile, the illegality of the drug trade clearly provides an incentive for some to engage in the drug trade above other forms of employment.

  • The violence in Mexico is a reflection of a larger battle as to whether Mexico will be governed under the rule of law, or the rule of the gun. We should take steps to reduce the killings by the drug cartels in Mexico and along our Southwest border, but suggesting that legalizing dope is going to make a difference in this effort makes no sense. The fight in Mexico is over money, and not just money generated by drugs, but for any illegal activity where profits can be made.

Is this true? I’ve never heard this before.  What other illegal activities are involved? I know there is gun smuggling and human trafficking, but what else? Does anyone else know more about this? This is the problem with mixing facts with opinions. I don’t know what to believe.

Clearly, if drug profits are even part of the fight, then legalizing drugs will make some kind of difference.

  • Drug-related violence in Mexico is not a fight over market access or distribution chains in the United States, but the result of major Mexican drug trafficking organizations vying for control of both the drug smuggling routes leading into and out of Mexico, and transportation corridors along the border.

I don’t understand this point, or how it relates to dispelling the myth that legalization would reduce violence on the Southwest border. Surely if drug-related violence is a result of major Mexican drug trafficking organizations vying for control of drug smuggling routes, then legalization would reduce the violence?

  • Marijuana is only a part of the illegal drug traffic moving between Mexico and the United States. Changing the status of marijuana in the United States will not stop drug traffickers’ motivations for moving drugs to U.S. markets. Remember, drug traffickers do what they do for money, not for altruistic reasons. Regardless of the legal status of marijuana, there will still be profits to be made in other drugs, guns, people, or other contraband. Just as organized crime didn’t end when alcohol prohibition in the U.S. was lifted in 1933 (see section on prohibition, page 58), drug trafficking and its associated violence isn’t going to dissipate if the United States decides to legalize marijuana.

This argument only holds if you suggest legalizing only marijuana. The challenges posed by human trafficking are arguments for immigration reformers- I’m not so familiar with these concerns.  However I would suggest that if enforcement agents were only looking for guns and people (and other sinister contraband), then that would be a more efficient use of limited resources than the current situation, where they’re looking for all these things, and tons of drugs as well.

FACT: drug dealers do not undertake their work for altruistic reasons. Capitalist scum.

  • In 2008, according to the Interagency Assessment of Cocaine Movement, approximately 90 percent of the cocaine destined for the United States transited the Mexico/Central America corridor—an estimated 16.8 metric tons of cocaine entered the United States by way of the Southwest border.

And? That suggests there’s quite a lot of profit to be fought over, and therefore quite a lot of violence that could be ended by legalization. No? Am I missing something?

  • According to DEA intelligence estimates, 80 percent of the methamphetamine consumed in the U.S. now comes from Mexico-based drug trafficking organizations. Methamphetamine seizures along the Southwest border have increased from 1,170 kilograms in CY 2001 to 2,232 kilograms in CY 2008, a 91-percent increase.

See above. Also, this is a good example of the challenge of supply-side prohibition measures- you crack down on production in one geographic area (the US), and it moves to another (Mexico).

  • The National Drug Intelligence Center estimates that Mexican and Colombian Drug Trafficking Organizations generate, remove, and launder between $18 billion and $39 billion in wholesale drug proceeds annually, a large portion of which is believed to be bulk-smuggled out of the United States over the Southwest border.

$18bn to $39bn in untaxed revenue?  Whoa, mama! That’s a lot of money.  Oh I know, this is Clinton’s argument- we can’t legalize drugs, there’s too much money involved.

  • Enforcement efforts make a positive difference in reducing drug-related violence. First, it makes it harder for traffickers to move their product. Over the last 18 months, price and purity data collected by the DEA show the price of methamphetamine and cocaine is up, while the purity of these same drugs is down. Intelligence reporting confirms that trafficking organizations are having problems moving product into the United States, and the demand is such that they are able to charge more for a weaker product. While law enforcement efforts along the Southwest border, in the Caribbean, and in Mexico have seen repeated successes, there have been no significant changes in demand reduction activities in the United States.

Huh?  Huh? I don’t know what their evidence is for making a claim that enforcement efforts make a positive difference in reducing drug-related violence. They talk about changing levels of purity, but I can’t see any indicators of violence that suggest that this reduces drug-related violence. They can probably claim that enforcement efforts affect purity and price. Nothing more.

This is not a valid argument. It is making my head hurt.  Why are they talking about significant changes in demand reduction activities?

  • A comprehensive strategy addressing drug use and trafficking from all angles can and does make a difference. DEA supports an effective, comprehensive national drug control strategy, and we are working with the Department of Justice and the Office of National Drug Control Policy as they develop this strategy.

I think this is tautology. Of course doing something has an effect. (Unless you’re doing it in a vacuum).That doesn’t mean that you’re doing the right thing, or it’s having the right reaction, or that it’s the best of all possible things that you could be doing, or that you’re even trying to achieve the right goals.  I’m starting to get irritated now.

  • We need to be aware of the nature of addiction itself and support research in this key area. We should continue to be advocates for effective and proven prevention efforts that reduce drug abuse and addiction. We must provide treatment for those that need it, and we must enforce our nation’s drug laws which fundamentally help protect our citizens and communities.

I agree with most of this.  I’d just prefer to see enforcement of some form of regulatory system that controlled access to substances some other way, similar to prescription drugs, or alcohol, or tobacco.  One that didn’t involve quite so many people dying.

Next: Myth # 2  Legalizing and taxing marijuana will help local economies by reducing crime and increasing tax revenue.