As five congressional panels held hearings in recent days on Mexican drug cartel violence and border security, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff had one thing to say about legalizing marijuana in hopes of easing the bloodshed: “It won’t work.”
In a conversation with this columnist Saturday, Mr. Chertoff likened today’s drug wars in Mexico to previous mob wars in America, which – he pointed out – didn’t stop once Prohibition ended in 1933.
This is the “But there will still be crime!” argument — legalization of marijuana won’t help end the bloodshed in the drug war because the drug cartels will just turn to another drug or crime to continue their existence. This is the slippery slope exactly opposite of the logic behind “Why don’t we just legalize rape and there’ll be no more rapes!” argument.
Well, of course criminals will keep committing crimes – that’s what criminals do.
The question is how legalization affect the rest of society? We found that implementing alcohol Prohibition raised the consumption of hard liquor and increased the homicide rate. We saw both decline after Prohibition’s repeal. Implementing prohibition led to the following statistical increases:
- Police funding: INCREASED $11.4 Million
- Arrests for Prohibition Law Violations: INCREASED 102+%
- Arrests for Drunkenness and Disorderly Conduct: INCREASED 41%
- Arrests of Drunken Drivers: INCREASED 81%
- Thefts and Burglaries: INCREASED 9%
- Homicides, Assault, and Battery: INCREASED 13%
- Number of Federal Convicts: INCREASED 561%
- Federal Prison Population: INCREASED 366%
- Total Federal Expenditures on Penal Institutions: INCREASED 1,000%
Now, what did the mob get into after the end of Prohibition? Drugs, gambling, and prostitution, along with various traditional robberies, extortions, and graft. But the huge majority of people who consume alcohol were no longer criminals – by definition crime was reduced enormously by ending Prohibition.
Legalizing marijuana will not end the Mexican drug cartels, but it will dry up 60%-75% of their business. They cannot just manufacture demand for heroin and cocaine. With less money they can buy less firepower and bribe fewer officials. Will the fire of drug crime go out? No, but at least we can stop pouring gasoline on it.