Should we really legalize marijuana?

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In just over a week’s time, thousands of people across Massachusetts will be taking time out of their day to find a nearby polling station, to cast their vote in the 2012 presidential election. There will be a few things on their minds, namely, who should be the next president of the United States. But there is another pressing issue concerning many residents of Massachusetts.

Question 3 on the state ballot will determine whether marijuana ought to be legalized for medical purposes. If passed, it would be a significant step towards total legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

However, before we can even talk about the legalization of marijuana, the question must be asked; is it a good idea to legalize it?

The short answer is no. The legalization of marijuana would not bring about the changes we desire.

Currently, there is a war going on south of the U.S. border. It is between the Mexican government, and the powerful drug cartels that dominate almost all of Mexico. This war has been going on for several decades, but the United States has only been actively involved since the 1980s. Recently, the violence has escalated.

President Felipe Calderón was elected in the year 2006. He promised a hard line against the drug cartels, who, through corruption, extortion, terrorism and murder, effectively operate within the Mexican border.

The war between the Mexican government and the cartels has led to approximately 48,000 deaths, including more than 5,000 disappearances, and thousands and thousands of children orphaned and displaced. The cartels have spawned mass graves, terrorist acts and continue to buy illegal assault weapons and ship their drugs to the United States. More than 100 schools have been closed in Mexico as a result of the violence, as well as entire police forces deserting, under threat of death by the cartels.

The Chihuahua province, just south of the U.S.-Mexican border, is currently more dangerous than all of Afghanistan. The violence has spilled over the border. Cartels recruit young aged children in Mexico and in the U.S. for drug-related activity, such as the case of “El Ponchis” (The Cloak) where a 14-year-old American, from San Diego, was convicted for the beheading and torturing of four people for a cartel.

The cartels receive their money to perpetuate this war, as you probably guessed, from the sale and export of drugs to the U.S. The cartels make approximately $39 billion annually from drug sales into the U.S. Currently, 90 percent of the illicit drugs in the United States have made their way in through Mexico.

In 2007, the Congressional Research Service released a report to Congress stating that more than 10,000 metric tons of marijuana were being produced in Mexico per year, with about 2,900 metric tons of it being intercepted. This means that the cartels manage to smuggle in over 7,000 metric tons of marijuana a year.

Not only this, but the cartels also manage to produce upwards of 275 metric tons of cocaine, and 19 metric tons of heroin for export into the U.S. per year. Seizures of methamphetamine has also increased five-fold from the year 2000 to 2006, prompting evidence that production has also increased drastically.

So, how does this all relate? Well, here in the United States, millions of people smoke, or have smoked, marijuana. More than 42 percent of high school seniors have reported smoking marijuana. The American people provide a steady flow of income for the cartels who are terrorists and mass murderers.

For example, one kilogram of cocaine costs at little as $2,000 to produce south of the U.S-Mexican border. However, it sells for up to $120,000, depending on the location. Some may argue that, should marijuana be legalized, it would reduce the market share of the cartels, which would result in them making less money. But would this really happen?

If Congress moved to legalize marijuana, then certainly they would demand that marijuana be grown in facilities either run by, or regulated by the government. Not only this, but the production distribution, packaging, and retail of marijuana would all be heavily regulated and taxed. The farmers growing the marijuana would most likely be unionized and at a minimum be paid well and have health benefits.

All of these factors would drive up the cost of legal marijuana, far past the cost of nearly free labor to grow the plant in Mexico, and whatever prices the dealers charge locally. Though the cartels would not have any standing in the legal market, they would continue to completely dominate the black market. If people already purchase marijuana illegally, why would they purchase more expensive marijuana that is legal?

These cartels are pushing millions of people out of Mexico, causing them to flee the violence into the United States. These groups of murderers and terrorists need to be brought to justice first. If we can successfully crush the drug cartels, who are creating havoc in Mexico, and killing and endangering America citizens and officers near the border, then, we can talk about legalizing marijuana.

Victor Paduchak is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].