If a primary goal of Donald Trump’s presidency is to curtail Mexican drug cartels from smuggling illicit substances across the border, he should seriously consider cannabis legalization. In addition, hiring more border agents while creating better channels of legal immigration is the way to go, according to a new study.
Newly released data suggests that cannabis legalization could actually have a much greater impact than any pricey physical barrier that can be erected. According to CATO, a public policy research organization, Border Patrol agents are confiscating 78 percent less cannabis in 2018 than they were in 2013, just before Washington and Colorado’s recreational markets came online. Cannabis is in high demand and since it is being transported far less from Mexico into the U.S., the average value of drugs seized by agents has fallen by approximately 70 percent.
Cannabis is generally smuggled between ports of entry since it is difficult to hide and often emits a strong odor. With significantly less cannabis being snuck into the U.S. from Mexico, ports of entry are becoming the main passage for the flow of illegal drugs. However, smugglers have shifted their focus to harder drugs.
“State-level marijuana legalization has undercut demand for illegal Mexican marijuana, which in turn has decreased the amount of drug smuggling into the United States across the southwest border,” David Bier writes.
“Based on Border Patrol seizures, smuggling has fallen 78 percent over just a five-year period. Because marijuana was the primary drug smuggled between ports of entry, where Border Patrol surveils, the value of the agency’s seizures overall — on a per-agent basis — has declined 70 percent,” he adds.
It goes without saying that 2018 represented a banner year for cannabis legalization. In total, 10 states have legalized recreational cannabis while 33 states have legalized medical marijuana. More states are expected to either expand their medical marijuana programs and/or legalize cannabis for adult use.
For years, many cannabis advocates and criminal justice experts have speculated that legalization would lead to a reduction in smuggling. Now that enough states have legalized cannabis, there is finally information to test this hypothesis. The reduction in cannabis smuggling could be attributed to several factors. For one, shoppers may prefer to buy in a safe and controlled environment as opposed to turning to the potentially dangerous black market. With legal and regulated shops, the need to purchase from illegal sources vanishes. Additionally, U.S. legalization seems to be impacting the economy of cannabis in Mexico.
The creation of a domestic marijuana industry led to a 12.5% reduction in violent crime in states bordering Mexico.
All of this is great news for the cannabis industry. Some critics of drug policy reform measures predicted the sky would fall if cannabis were legalized, which seems almost laughable now. While more research into drug policy should be conducted, it seems that the End of Days has not been ushered in with common sense policy adjustments.
Dispensary operators and cannabis producers can rest assured that their future is bright. A healthy majority of Americans support cannabis legalization and an overwhelming number back criminal justice reform.
Bier’s research also calls into question Trump’s current proposal to construct a wall and increase border patrol to stop drug smuggling. Trump’s insistence on his Border Wall has led to government shutdown that won’t be resolved until the President can have his wall built.
“Given these trends, a border wall or more Border Patrol agents to stop drugs between ports of entry makes little sense,” Bier wrote. “State marijuana legalization starting in 2014 did more to reduce marijuana smuggling than the doubling of Border Patrol agents or the construction of hundreds of miles of border fencing did from 2003 to 2009.”
Rep. Matthew Gaetz (R-FL) made a similar argument at a congressional hearing last week, when he told the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security her job would be a lot easier if the federal government ended marijuana prohibition. Gaetz cited an inspector general’s report from earlier this year, which showed that from 2005 to 2017, seizures of illicit marijuana at the border had dropped by 330,000 pounds.
The cannabis industry has been about networking, innovation, and charting new social and business territory. Simply put, it has always been about eliminating walls, not building them.