What The New York Times and Other U.S. Media Outlets Are Ignoring in Pot Debate

Jan 4, 2014
6:24 pm

This all started after several of the Rebeldes read what New York Times columnist David Brooks had to say about weed this week. Brooks started with his own confession that he and his friends smoked pot, but after a while it wasn’t cool any more. Talk about First World Problems. Then Brooks wrote this when it came to how weed has become legal in Washington and Colorado:

The people who debate these policy changes usually cite the health risks users would face or the tax revenues the state might realize. Many people these days shy away from talk about the moral status of drug use because that would imply that one sort of life you might choose is better than another sort of life.

But, of course, these are the core questions: Laws profoundly mold culture, so what sort of community do we want our laws to nurture? What sort of individuals and behaviors do our governments want to encourage? I’d say that in healthy societies government wants to subtly tip the scale to favor temperate, prudent, self-governing citizenship. In those societies, government subtly encourages the highest pleasures, like enjoying the arts or being in nature, and discourages lesser pleasures, like being stoned.

In legalizing weed, citizens of Colorado are, indeed, enhancing individual freedom. But they are also nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be.

Brooks is not alone. Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus also got on the “weed is bad” kick with her piece. In her column, Marcus shares the following wisdom, besides other concerns:

So the reason to single out marijuana is the simple fact of its current (semi-)illegality. On balance, society will not be better off with another legal mind-altering substance. In particular, our kids will not be better off with another legal mind-altering substance.

Such opinions got slammed by Salon’s David Weigel:

Nothing I’ve written here seems more insightful than the average Facebook squib. Most liberal arts students probably hash this much out in the common rooms during freshmen year. But we’ve been waiting for the prohibitionist backlash to follow a legalization experiment like Colorado’s, and it seems relevant that the ‘lashers have started with such thin and logically lazy arguments. That’s all they’ve got, as people in the rest of the country keep getting arrested?

Granted, there are arguments to be made and both Brooks and Marcus are true buzzkills, but in the grand scheme of it all, these three U.S. media opinion makers as well as countless others are missing one critical part of this debate: when talking about legalizing marijuana, this is a question about “supply and demand.” Everyone seems to be focusing on the “demand” aspect while very little is being said about the “supply.”

That “supply” topic is being vigorously debated in the country that supplies the U.S. a lot of marijuana: Mexico.

As Jesús Aranda writes in Jornada (our translation) about a “drug war” that has led to over “100,000 drug-related deaths” since 2006:

And all for what? So that the U.S. market can expand legal drug use. So that U.S. agencies can advocate to hit the financial structures of Mexicans to take away part of their illicit profits from cartels, but without killing the goose that lays the golden eggs, that is, without affecting the infrastructure of the distribution drugs, because the millionaire business that are drug sales is an important part of the financial engine that drives the U.S. economy.

The United States has a very clear relationship with the world of drugs. It has been shown throughout history with the Iran-Contra conflict, when our neighbor did not mind exchanging drugs for arms to the Nicaraguan Contras. The recent revelations about the death of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena and possible CIA involvement in his death, tossing aside the official version that the perpetrators of the murder were drug traffickers Rafael “Caro” Quintero and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, “Don Neto.”

It’s time for the main stakeholders in the fight against drugs, Mexico’s Army and Navy, to openly state their short- medium- and long-terms views on drug war, especially to the personnel they put in harm’s way to help prevent the movement of drugs to a neighboring country that now shamelessly celebrates the recreational use of marijuana.

It’s time to seriously about the possibility of legalizing the production, sale and consumption of marijuana.

Granted some outlets (CBS News) did a piece a few months ago about a 2013 study concluding that “proposals to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado, Oregon and Washington could cut Mexican drug cartels’ earnings from traffic to the U.S. by as much as 30 percent.”

However, right now the United States is all about pot within the context of the United States and nothing else. We get Brooks and Marcus on one side worrying about Americans and its moral decay, while pro-cannabis groups are posting the following memes on Facebook:


But is anyone talking about this?


At least someone in Texas is talking about it:

Colorado’s legalization of marijuana will have a negligible impact on drug-related violence in Mexico because Colorado is too small a market, and enforcement on marijuana leaving the state will be artificially tight for the first year or two. As other states legalize — Washington is set to fully implement its voter-approved initiative later this year and states like California and Washington appear poised to do so in the coming years — we will see a larger impact. If a state such as Texas were to legalize, we would see a rapid and much greater impact due to the state’s size, geographic proximity to Mexico, and penchant for limited regulation of big business. It is Colorado’s leadership role in this broader trend that could have a real impact over the long term on cartel profits and violence in Mexico.

Let’s start having this discussion instead of privileged columnists lamenting their pothead days.