Monday, January 24, 2011

The U.S. Can End the Mexican Drug War

The Mexican Drug War is fueled by America's insatiable demand for drugs. Americans are willing to pay so much to get their marijuana that it creates an enormous economic incentive to produce the drug—in much the same way there is a huge industry for coffee. Agriculture plays a minor role in the U.S. economy, but the situation is different in Mexico. Mexicans often don't have the opportunities available to Americans, and a legal marijuana industry would allow many Mexicans to put a lot of food on the table, send their kids to college, and retire in security. There is no magical formula for rapid economic development in Mexico, but selling drugs to Americans is as close as you can get.

Of course, this is not what is happening. The Mexican government is instead waging a war on an agricultural industry. The unsettling truth is that many of these Mexican cartel leaders would be businessmen with collars and ties if the drugs were legal. They engage in violence with rival cartels because of petty competition, which would take the form of economic competition if their property rights were protected. The Mexican people wouldn't have the heart to kill each other over a stupid plant if it weren't for U.S. pressure.

There's no folly in admitting defeat to a fabricated problem. But even this isn't necessary. The U.S. and Mexico can claim victory in the struggle to grant individuals rights and sovereignty over their own lives. The right to use a substance—especially one as harmless as marijuana—seems as basic a freedom as any. I also see nothing immoral about selling drugs. It makes no sense to me to attach liability to a seller of anything, as long as the seller makes this clear in the terms of the deal. I think farmers should be treated equally, whether they're growing corn, coffee, or cannabis.

I, for one, do not want my government to pressure Mexico into criminalizing marijuana. We are not going to solve our irresponsibility problems by attacking the supply side of the drug trade. I cringe at the saber-rattling speeches, the burning of farmers' crops, the jail sentences, the urban gun battles, the assassinations of police officers, and the executions of civilians. The U.S. can end the Mexican Drug War with a few phone calls.


  1. What about drugs that are more harmful and addictive than marijuana?

  2. Well we've been officially fighting the "War on Drugs" since at least 1971, so the results should be pretty final by now. All kinds of harmful and addictive drugs are easy to obtain on the black market—and since everything must be done in secret, it's almost impossible for people to figure out what they're actually getting.

  3. for one, we're getting much more than just marijuana from mexico; the 'drug war' is more complicated than this post implies. & what if the government did legalize the drugs? things wouldn't simply change for the better - physical violence has become an inseparable part of the mexican drug trade culture. i highly doubt the cartels would respond with a shrug & say "oh, ok, guess we'll just talk it out from now on."

  4. The cartels might continue fighting but they would at least be conscious of a legal alternative. I doubt many Mexicans would remain loyal to a cartel leader who chose to perpetuate an endless a cycle of revenge. I think the former supporters would slowly realize it's no longer in their interest. As for oversimplifying this, I'll know I'm a successful writer when I can capture the intricacies of the Mexican Drug War in 400 words!

  5. The problem with the war on drugs isn't that the problem is fabricated, it's that the problem is not really what they say it is. The fact is that it is TREMENDOUSLY unpopular to support drug users in any way, directly or indirectly, and stopping a war on drugs would be perceived as supporting drug use. It's the same reason no politicians of consequences speak out in favor of needle exchange programs, even when they've been shown to be effective in the communities in which they are implemented. We do get drugs from Mexico that are "worse" than marijuana, but the government has always tolerated things we know are bad for us if the price is right. Not really sure why drugs should be treated all that differently from cigarettes.