Will More Legalization Drive Less Trafficking?

Will More Legalization Drive Less Trafficking?

Legalization advocates often argue that legalized marijuana leads to a decrease in drug smuggling and drug-related crimes, and that nationwide legalization can counteract Mexican cartels and reduce violent crime.

Do those arguments still hold up?

Let’s take a look at two recent reports:

Less Marijuana Crossing the Border
According to a report by David Bier, an Immigration Policy Analyst with the CATO Institute, Border Patrol seizure figures show that the flow of illegal marijuana flows has fallen continuously since 2014, when states began to legalize marijuana.

“After decades of no progress in reducing marijuana smuggling,” the report reads, “the average Border Patrol agent between ports of entry confiscated 78 percent less marijuana in fiscal year 2018 than in fiscal year 2013.”

While it’s impossible to know exactly how much drugs enter the country illegally without seizing them, the figures mentioned above could indicate a couple of things: Either Mexican cartels are indeed smuggling less marijuana, or they’ve invented new methods to get their drugs across the border without getting caught. Given all the technology now used by Border Security, the first is the more likely scenario.

Bier says the best way to decrease rates of drug smuggling is “to hire more officers at ports of entry (...) and legalize marijuana nationwide.”

Less Drug-related Violence in the U.S.

A recent study by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) indicates that the societal harm of prohibition is “much greater than the societal harm of legalization.”

The study shows that the introduction of medical marijuana laws “lead to a decrease of 12.5% in violent crime (...) in states that border Mexico.” It appears that people in those areas could actually feel safer if the government decided to legalize marijuana.

What About Other Drugs?

One fear associated with legalization is that cartels will smuggle more other drugs to keep their profits high. While legalizing cannabis on a federal level could indeed put a hold to cannabis smuggling, it’s not realistic to think the cartels will simply stop doing business.

As always, there’s no perfect solution. It’s very likely that legalizing marijuana will continue contributing to a decrease in marijuana-related crimes and smuggling, but it won’t stop drug-related crimes entirely.