Drug Law

134-Ton Mexican Pot Bust Won't Affect Availability in U.S.

| by Marijuana Policy Project

By Morgan Fox

Two days ago, Mexican authorities seized 134 tons of marijuana in Tijuana, just across the border from California. The value of the seizure was estimated at $340 million.

According to the logic of prohibitionist economics, such a huge bust should have quite a damaging effect on the marijuana market in the United States, right?

Wrong. Mexico confiscated more than 1,300 tons of marijuana in 2009 alone, and before that the average was more than 2,000 tons per year. Yet each year, production goes up and street prices in the U.S. remain relatively static.

In California, the efforts to make an impact on the availability and price of marijuana result in similarly impressive seizures, but they too fail to have any effect whatsoever. Each year during the late summer and early fall, eradication programs such as CAMP take to the hills and skies, destroying millions of budding marijuana plants. Yet each year, production goes up and street prices remain relatively static.

The lesson to be learned here is that no matter how much marijuana law enforcement takes off the street, it will still be equally and readily available. And it will cost about the same at the consumer level as it did before the governments of these two countries spent millions of dollars on their fruitless efforts.

The solution is simple, and follows the very basic laws of supply and demand: tax and regulate marijuana in California (and the rest of the U.S. for that matter). Less risk for American growers and distributors translates to lower consumer prices, and undercuts the Mexican suppliers. With a large source of income gone and decreased incentive to take the risks that do not hinder legitimate American marijuana businesses, we will soon see cross-border shipments into California dwindle down to nothing. And as the cartels’ influence in California declines, so too will the environmental damage from illegal grows on public land and the violence that exists in an industry without legal recourse for settling disputes.