In the realm of unintended consequences, irony rules supreme.
Take legalized marijuana for instance. It has generally been assumed that the profits from legalization, now a reality in Colorado as well as Washington, would come at the expense of the violent drug trafficking organizations operating in North and Central America. According to Mexican President Felipe Calderon, that may not be the case.
After a recent meeting with leaders from Honduras, Costa Rica and Belize, Calderon and representatives of President-Elect Enrique Pena Nieto spoke at length about the potential implications of legalized pot (Trib 11/12). To paraphrase the politico-speak, the Mexican leaders wondered how or why governments south of our border should continue to enforce a ban on growing and smuggling a drug that is now legal in two states.
If this were a test run for a new drug policy, it would be a game-changer. Turning a blind eye to large-scale marijuana grow operations in Mexico would have a direct impact on black market sales throughout the U.S., especially given that 48 states still prohibit its use or sale. The obvious winners in a hands-off approach to Mexican marijuana cultivation (setting aside the future implications for other drugs grown in other countries) would be DTO’s like the Sinaloa cartel, the Zetas and the Beltran-Leyva cartel.
This would be an unintended consequence of breathtaking proportions.
Then, of course, there is the slippery slope. If Mexican officials stop banning marijuana smuggling, what’s next? Would a weary Colombian government step away from their cocaine eradication program? Would Mexican authorities also turn a blind eye to the meth labs that have sprouted along their northern border?
It is hard to blame the Mexican government’s reaction to American flip-flopping. Since Calderon’s declaration of war against the drug cartels began six years ago, death and violence has descended on Mexicans like a modern day plague. With municipal, state and federal police agencies seeping with corruption, the Mexican army has taken the lead in the brutal crackdown against drug cartels. Their violent altercations with cartel operatives often surpass even Hollywood’s gruesome imagination. Many Mexicans are claiming that the soldiers themselves are often more brutal than the narco-terrorists they hunt.
In short, it’s a mess.
The only thing certain at this point is that our government’s next move must be very considered. From medical marijuana patients to cartel bosses, from DEA agents to the terrorized citizens of Mexican killing fields, the disparate groups with a stake in the future of legalized marijuana need strong leadership and a balanced process for moving forward.
Still, if it really is possible that the passage of I-502 could inadvertently lead to a more porous border and increased cartel drug profiteering, the irony would be impossible to ignore.
And it would not be the least bit funny.