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.