End Mexico’s Bloody Drug War: Legalize Marijuana


Photo: FrontPageMag.com
The Drug War has resulted in about 16,000 deaths in Mexico over the past three years.

​When substance abuse treatment professionals start calling for the legalization of marijuana, we can be sure that we are mainstreaming our message of cannabis liberation.

That’s why Toke of the Town is running this guest editorial by Steven Lo, who is affiliated with AllTreatment.com, an online resource which offers help in finding drug rehab centers.

Let me quickly add that Toke of the Town does not endorse or support any form of “marijuana rehab,” whatever that’s supposed to entail, and that we believe the entire concept of “marijuana addiction” is so deeply flawed as to be useless.

Sure, AllTreatment’s website lists “Marijuana Addiction” over on the left, and I have big issues with that. And they list the vile Partnership for a Drug-Free America(!) as a “Charitable Organization,” which is certainly a generous assessment of that benighted, right wing reactionary group of Drug War cheerleaders.

But having said that, it’s very worthwhile to hear the perspective of a treatment professional like Lo, who sees the real-life results of addiction to serious drugs on a daily basis — and who realizes the difference between, say, meth, heroin or cocaine on one hand, and marijuana on the other.

The coalition to legalize and regulate marijuana is stronger than it ever has been. Those within the movement would be wise to accept unusual allies at a time like this, when we are so near the inevitable tipping point. ~ Steve Elliott

Drug War As It Pertains To Legalizing Marijuana

Photo: Steven Lo
Steven Lo, AllTreatment.com: “The prohibition of marijuana in the U.S. is spurring the mass killings in Mexico”

​By Steven Lo, Managing Editor, AllTreatment.com


The drug war has engulfed Mexico, a country becoming more and more dangerous by the second, with violence of unparalleled kinds fueled by the eight drug cartels warring with one another.  Their end goal: to gain sole control of the drug market.  And it’s apparent they’ll do whatever it takes to achieve this goal, whether that means skinning, decapitating, or even dissolving corpses in acid baths.

But why all the murders and executions (16,000 in the past three years)?  Why a drug war in the first place?  Well, the United States holds tremendously responsibility in the matter.

Yes, we may have outlawed the sale and possession of lethal drugs but this has done little to curtail our being the largest consumer of illicit drugs in the world by a landslide and a half.  Although we make up under 5 percent of the world’s total population, we consume an estimated 60 percent of all illegal drugs produced in the world. 

And that’s how we fund the cartels running Mexico right now, as they supply a large portion of the illicit drugs we use here in the U.S.  And in turn, that’s why they keep orchestrating mass murder, to remove those who stand in the way of our getting high from their imports. 

Marijuana is the principal drug allowing the cartels in Mexico to flourish.  In fact, Mexico is our primary foreign source of cannabis in the world.  And its popularity here is unmatched by the other illicit drugs–at least 93 million Americans (40 percent) age 12 and older have admitted to experimenting with cannabis at least once in their lives.  Talk about easy access.

But what does its prevalence in the U.S. have to do with the drug war south of the border?  Everything, I will contend.

A Statistical Briefing

Before I argue that the prohibition of marijuana in the U.S. is spurring the mass killings in Mexico, let me first show just how violent Mexico has become in recent years:

·       16,000 drug-related killings in the past three years

·       6,300 lives claimed due to the civil drug war in the past year alone

·       2,500 people executed last year in Ciudad Juarez, now considered to be the most murderous city in the world

·       300 drug-war victims’ bodies dissolved in acid baths by Santiago Meza Lopez, known as “The Stew Maker” before his arrest

·       78 percent of the GDP sectors of Mexico’s economy infiltrated by organized crime

·       40 percent of the population lives in poverty, which makes trafficking and smuggling an attractive career path for many Mexicans

·       An average of 70 people kidnapped each year

·       Grammy-nominated singer Sergio Gomez kidnapped in 2007.  His genitals burned with a blowtorch for singing drug ballads

·       They say it’s “plata o plomo” (silver or bullets) in Mexico.  Essentially, those who can’t be bought with money are eliminated with bullets.

The Enduring Prohibition

The UN estimated in 2005 that the Mexican cartels are in control of a $142 billion business in marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other illegal drugs.  Their primary source of profit: marijuana, produced chiefly in the western Sierra Madre Mountains region, which accounts for anywhere from 60 to 80 percent of their total generated revenue.  That’s anywhere from $85 to $113 billion, just from marijuana exports.

And enter the culpable United States of America.

As is obvious, marijuana is illegal in the U.S. and has been since 1937, when the Marihuana Tax Act was legislated, prohibiting the possession and transfer of cannabis throughout the nation.

Since then, the government has charged millions and millions of Americans for marijuana-related criminal acts.  In 2008 alone, over 750,000 marijuana possession arrests were made.  The year before that: 775,000.  According to Jon Gettman, a public policy and economic development analyst, our government is spending $10.7 billion yearly on criminalizing marijuana (that includes arrests, prosecutions and punishment). 

This criminalization and prohibition of cannabis has endured for decades now, but finally the permitting of the drug stands a fighting chance as the issue of its legality will be settled on the California state ballot this upcoming November.  If the law passes, California will become the first state to legalize cannabis. 

This can’t be desirable for the cartels.   

Can you imagine the implications for the cartels if a domino effect regarding marijuana’s legality were to propagate throughout the U.S.?  The reality is that they thrive off prohibition; their $85 to $113 billion is a direct consequent of the U.S. government’s decision to keep marijuana illegal, because if it were legalized, we would no longer need the Mexican cartels to supply us; they would be losing their primary source of revenue.

And remember, this is the same revenue that’s allowing them to control and dictate Mexico–they’re purchasing weapons, establishing intricate smuggling routes, recruiting, and bribing government officials and those in law enforcement with this drug money.  Money is power and without the former, it’s very feasible that they’d lose control and become desperate. 

The Solution

First, let’s predict what will happen if the U.S. keeps marijuana illegal, based on what’s been happening in the last few years: people will continue smoking weed regardless, the government will keep wasting billions of dollars (approximately $10.7 billion) a year, the cartels will keep making tremendous profit from marijuana exports, AND the violence in Mexico will remain fairly consistent in terms of volume.

None of these claims is outlandish in any sense of the word; it’s entirely feasible that this is what the future beholds for the two neighboring countries if no changes are made.  The central problem is not the violence itself, but the fact that we allow, through prohibition, the cartels to become supremely powerful, which allows them to perpetrate these mass killings on a daily basis.  Like I said, without money to fund them, their scope of power will dwindle. 

Here’s what I argue: it will take our government’s legalizing cannabis for the drug-related violence in Mexico to be significantly quelled.  We would be able to control the drug’s production, taxing and regulation just as we do with alcohol now.

It’s apparent marijuana use will not stop; the government’s attempt to prevent users has been laughable.  The real question is: is the futile attempt to stop Americans from using a minor drug worth the blood of tens of thousands of people?

Clearly, the answer is no.

Editor’s Note: Steven Lo is the Managing Editor for AllTreatment.com, a directory for drug rehab centers and substance abuse information resource.