Attorney General Terry Goddard said Tuesday he might be willing to consider legalizing marijuana if a way can be found to control its distribution - and figure out who has been smoking it.
Goddard said marijuana sales make up 75 percent of the money that Mexican cartels use for other operations, including smuggling other drugs and fighting the Mexican army and police.
He said that makes fighting drug distribution here important to cut off that cash. He acknowledged those profits could be slashed if possession of marijuana were not a crime in Arizona.
But Goddard said a number of other hurdles remain before that even becomes a possibility.
Goddard's comments came following a press conference Tuesday announcing the breakup of a major ring that police said has been responsible for bringing about 400,000 pounds of marijuana into Arizona each year since 2003.
The operation has led to the indictment of 59 people and the arrests of 39 of them, some in this country legally and others who were not.
Phoenix police Lt. Vince Piano said the operation was very sophisticated, complete with specially designed heavy-duty trucks to actually let vehicles drive over the border fence.
He said this operation was one of several under contract to Mexican drug lords to transport the marijuana from the border through the Tohono O'odham Reservation all the way to Phoenix. Piano said busting this organization doesn't stop the flow of drugs, as this is one of several "transportation groups" working with the cartel. But he said it does disrupt at least part of the flow.
Arizona drug laws came up during questions about the operation of drug cartels and the violence associated with their operations, particularly in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.
"The key is, they will no longer exist when people don't buy marijuana," said Matthew Allen, special agent in charge of the office of investigations for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "This is a market-driven economy and this is a market-driven activity."
By Howard Fischer
December 23, 2008
East Valley Tribune