Drug smuggling is decreasing at the border

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Drug smuggling is decreasing at the border


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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

New reports indicate drug smuggling has been decreasing at the border, and it appears states legalizing cannabis is partially responsible. Federal immigration agents say drug smuggling has been steadily decreasing in recent years, and unfortunately, smugglers have switched to moving people across the border since it’s more profitable.

“Right now, it’s more profitable for the smugglers to bring over humans as opposed to narcotics,” Kris Goland, a supervisory marine interdiction agent, told the Washington Examiner.

Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, told Cannabis News Box that legalization is certainly having an impact on criminal activity at the border.

“Two-thirds of U.S. states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes and 11 of those states have made cannabis legal for adults’ use,” O’Keefe said. “Demand for cannabis is increasingly being met for state-legal, regulated businesses instead of organized crime. This gives customers access to a safe, tested product that is labeled for potency.”

Since more conservative politicians in states like New Mexico and Texas have been the main roadblock in the way of legalization, evidence of legalization decreasing something like cartel activity could have an impact on if they decide to support legalization in the future. O’Keefe said this is one of many reasons these kinds of politicians should reconsider their opposition to legalization.

“The fact that regulated marijuana sales are displacing smuggled marijuana is one of the many benefits of legalization,” O’Keefe said. “It could be a factor that helps tips the scales in border states. About 12% of adults regularly consume cannabis. Most thoughtful policymakers would prefer cannabis sales to raise funds for Medicaid, schools, and other public needs instead of enriching drug cartels.”

O’Keefe explained that before the state legalized, Colorado had “multi-million dollar smuggling rings” bringing cannabis from Mexico to the state. Now, she says, the legal market has pretty much eliminated all of that activity. Colorado officials reported last year that “comparison of inventory tracking data and consumption estimates signals that Colorado’s preexisting illicit marijuana market for residents and visitors has been fully absorbed into the regulated market.”

“Lawmakers have pointed out that legal, regulated sale displace the illicit market, and allow the government to control how and where cannabis is sold. Reports like this bolster that case,” O’Keefe said.

As we see with Colorado, legalizing cannabis to reduce cartel activity isn’t just an issue for border states, as these cartels operate throughout the United States. Every state can consider the impact legalization would have on cartel activity in their region.