Arizona AG: Marijuana legalization could curb Mexican drug cartel warfare
When President Bush vowed to "smoke 'em out" in the chase for Osama bin Laden -- who his administration claimed to be America's greatest enemy -- he meant it in the Wild West sense, not the California sense.
Who'd have thought that by the time his predecessor took office, otherwise conservative officials would be considering another way of smoking out a new and growing threat to American's safety: Mexican drug cartels, whose profits are largely derived from the illegal smuggling and sale of marijuana.
On Friday, Democrat Terry Goddard, Arizona's Attorney General, said that while he's not in favor or legalizing marijuana, he thinks it should be debated as a way of curbing violence in the increasingly deadly clashes between Mexico's gangs.
Speaking to CNN's Kiran Chetry about the firearms trade between the US and Mexico, he noted that almost all the guns seized in Mexico's drug war came from the US.
"This is the source," he said. "This is the gun store for a great deal of the world."
"What's the answer?" asked Chetry.
"There'd have to be a variety of answers," he said. "But one of 'em would be to enforce our laws more aggressively."
Goddard said he believes new firearm purchasing requirements could be key in helping stop what's called "straw buying," or purchasing a weapon with no intent of actually owning it and instead turning it over to a criminal for a fee.
"If we could isolate those, we'd find a lot of the criminals," he suggested.
"The entire trade, of course, is fueled by the selling and buying of drugs," said Chetry. "There are some who make the case, including a former deputy foreign minister of Mexico who now works for the Brookings Institution -- somebody by the name of Andres Rosenthal -- who says maybe we need to rethink our drug laws."
Rosenthal is one of a growing chorus of former Latin American leaders who have voiced support for the legalization of marijuana.
"He says, 'As with the repeal of prohibition, the US must follow a common-sense approach by thinking the unthinkable: The gradual legalization of some drugs. The US must realize that all drugs are not created equal,'" said Chetry. "They go on to say that marijuana, maybe some methamphetamines, do not have the same harmful effects and legalization might make a difference. Do you agree?"
"Well, I don't," said Goddard. "But I do think the debate needs to go forward. We need to find a better way to handle ... Right now, the item that's fueling the violent cartels, the murders in Mexico, the cartel wars that are going on right now that have resulted in over 1,000 deaths this year, I think we need to take a very aggressive stand on that and marijuana is the number one producer for the cartels. Sixty to 70 percent of their gross profits comes from marijuana. So, I think we need to look very hard at something we haven't looked at for years."
"So, that lends some credence to the argument ... Of legalization," said Chetry.
"It's certainly is a strong argument for getting that debate front and center and finding whatever options we might have to cut off the detestation in Mexico," said Goddard. "What we fear here on the Arizona border is the cartel on cartel battle is going to end up spreading across the border.
"If we can't stop it in Mexico, we're gonna end up with violence in the United States and none of us want that," he concluded.
A recent Zogby poll found 44 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. That figure is up from 34 percent in 2001, according to a USA Today-CNN-Gallup poll.
On Tuesday, President Obama's Attorney General announced that the federal government would not conduct police raids on marijuana dispensaries in states which have approved cannabis for medicinal purposes.
By David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster
Friday February 27, 2009
The Raw Story