Enforcement of U.S. laws against marijuana possession serves to encourage and enrich Mexican drug cartels and the Asian and biker gangs that control the “B.C. Bud” market in Canada, according to two former top federal law enforcement officials.
“It is the money, not the drug, that drives these cartels and gangs,” Charles Mandigo, who served 27 years with the FBI and headed its Seattle office, told a legislative hearing in Olympia.
He was testifying in favor of Initiative 502, which would legalize the growth and possession of cannabis, tax it, sell-it at state-sanctioned stores, and give the State Liquor Control Board authority over it.
John McKay, who served as U.S. Attorney for Western Washington from 2001 to 2007, said I-502 is an antidote to a “tremendously failed national policy and a tremendously failed state policy on marijuana.
“Criminal enforcement of marijuana doesn’t work,” McKay argued. It “creates an enormous flow of money to international drug cartels, criminals and thugs,” he added.
Descriptions at the joint House-Senate hearing gave support to the argument that marijuana enforcement is the new prohibition.
“Lower B.C. (British Columbia) is an enormous grow operation,” said McKay.
Washington, as well, has a thriving marijuana industry, ranking fourth or fifth among the 50 states. It is difficult to police. A marijuana grow operation, with possible cartel links, was found three years ago near the East Bank trail in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area.
I-502 has garnered enough valid voter signatures to win a place on the November ballot. The initiative campaign has drawn support from prominent law enforcement retirees as well as the medical and legal communities.
It was been referred to the Legislature. Lawmakers can approve it, simply send it to the ballot, or offer their own alternative to the voters along with the initiative.
Sheriff John Snaza of Thurston County, while acknowledging that 17.4 million Americans regularly smoke marijuana, raised several red flags about the initiative. “What are the impacts to our environment of the pesticides used to grow marijuana?” he asked.
Jim Cooper, executive director of Together, a non-profit that focuses on youth, testified that marijuana use by teenagers has been on the upswing since medical marijuana discussions began in the state a decade ago. He voiced concern that use will continue to climb if the drug is legalized. I-502 would legalize sales to those over 21.
“I will admit there is marijuana culture prevalent among our youth, but it is not a majority,” said Cooper, formerly president of the Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention.
Mandigo, the FBI veteran, emphasized that he does not condone the sale or use of marijuana. But he cited the spiral of drug-related violence, in which cartel-related murders have taken 50,000 lives in Mexico and drug killings have reached into British Columbia.
“Initiative 502 provides the means to remove the money from criminal groups that traffic in marijuana,” he said. “I-502 provides the means to remove the proceeds. Remove the money and you remove the proceeds.”
The arguments by Mandigo and McKay echo a recent public appeal from north of the border.
Four former Vancouver, B.C., mayors called for repeal of Canada’s anti-marijuana laws, arguing that they have produced a climate of crime and violence, enriching gangs and spawning Canada’s worst violent crime. Incumbent Mayor Gregor Robertson endorsed the statement.
If I-502 passes, income from taxing growth and sale of cannabis would go to a variety of uses including drug education and the state’s Basic Health Plan.
Mandigo offered a financial argument for the initiative: Under I-502, proceeds from growing and sale of marijuana would stay in Washington.
– Article from Seattle Post-Intelligencer.