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Will Legalizing Pot Put An End to Mexico's Massacres?

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Billions of U.S. Dollars have failied to curb Mexico's murderous cartels

By Tony O'Neill

05/04/11

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The biggest favor the U.S. government could do for Mexico would be to take away the drug cartels biggest profit maker and allow Calderón’s troop to focus on methamphetamines, the cartel’s second biggest source of income. At the moment, we have the worst of two worlds in America—prohibitionists are unhappy because in 16 states, people can legally consume marijuana with a doctor’s okay. Yet to the dismay of everyone else, while marijuana still remains illegal nationally, prisons are still being filled to capacity with non-violent drug offenders while police are forced to waste valuable time and resources arresting marijuana users. In the meantime, the government continues to fritter away billions of dollars a year to suppress an herb that’s widely agreed to be less harmful to the general public than alcohol or tobacco.  Even if we are to take seriously that most tenuous and discredited of all anti-marijuana lines—the “gateway theory”—marijuana legalization still seems like the most logical solution. After all, if we don’t want people “graduating” from soft drugs like marijuana to harder drugs, then surely the first logical step would be to limit marijuana users interaction with the black market altogether.

There’s an old slogan that people throw about in recovery circles (it’s even used in the basic text of Narcotics Anonymous): “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  In that context, it’s supposed to help the addict see the madness of thinking that they can control their drug use. However it’s easy to see how this mantra could be just as appropriately applied to America’s maddening “war without end”—a battle that continues to exact a terrible toll the harder we try to fight it.

Tony O'Neill is the author of several novels, including Digging the Vein and Down and Out on Murder Mile and Sick City. He is the co-author of the New York Times bestseller Hero of the Underground (with Jason Peter) and the Los Angeles Times bestseller Neon Angel (with Cherie Currie).  He lives in New York with his wife and daughter. O'Neill also interviewed Jerry Stahl and argued against abstinence for The Fix.

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