Could Legalizing Marijuana Taper Drug Smuggling In Arizona?

The war on drugs has been waged for close to half of a century. Both, opponents and proponents alike see very little change in the influx of drugs coming into the US. Although each decade has its own “drug of choice”, the war has done little to curb drug smuggling into the US or to help stop the distribution of drugs on American streets.


With little border help at hand, drug smugglers find very little difficulty getting their product across the border. So, after all of these years fighting against the flow of illegal drugs, what will be the one thing to make a difference? Some would contend that legalizing marijuana may be the catalyst to winning, at least partially, the war on illegal drugs.

On November 8th of this year, there will be an additional five states who will vote on whether to allow recreational pot to be legal. Among those states is Arizona. One of the first border states behind California, it is likely that, if passed, there will be pot stores erupting all around the Arizona countryside.

Arizona has been an epicenter for drug smuggling for decades. Nogales is a hotbed of backpacks full of illegal drugs coming across the border without anyone to police it. On a daily basis, the Arizona Department of Public Safety is catching people making it across the border with illegal drugs. So, a lot of attention has been paid on surmising how the drug cartel will deal with the legalization of marijuana in Arizona, should it pass.

Law enforcement believes that legalizing it will only make the cartels more powerful and allow them to get a bigger piece of the “profits” pie. Police and Houston truck accident lawyer professionals believe that it will increase the drug cartels’ prevalence in the American market and allow them to drive more serious drugs into the hands of Arizona’s residents.

The other segment, the proponents, believe that it will put the cartel business out of commission. Driving down the price by making it legal, those in favor of legalization believe that it will decrease the cartels’ ability to make money and put them out of the US market.

Carlos Alfaro, a proponent of Proposition 205, insists that other regions where pot has been legalized, have shown that it led to a decrease in seizures for border patrol agents, not an increase in traffic flow.

From 2011-2015, border statistics show that seizures by the border patrol agencies declined by as much as thirty-nine percent. Even in Tucson, where drug smuggling is at the highest level in Arizona, seizures have declined by twenty-eight percent in a four-year period.

Like any other commodity, as the availability increases, it drives down the profitability for those, selling a product. High supply decreases the price; it doesn’t increase it, which means that basic economics would say that legalizing pot would take away business from the cartel, not increase their influence. There are no real indications that it would likewise create a gateway for harder drugs as opponents have charged.

Those who want to legalize pot in Arizona also insist that if you do, there will be more safety measures in place ensuring that the public is not getting a product that is tainted or unsafe. With regulations in place, a higher standard will make sure that the public is afforded more standards of quality.

Regarding the argument that it will create more gateway drugs from hitting the market, it may be that as marijuana prices decrease and the cartels no longer have a hold on the market, they may have to branch out and push harder drugs like heroin or methamphetamine. Currently, both are a problem and continually smuggled into the country. So, the drug war is not just about pot, nor will legalizing it mean that drug smuggling will become a thing of the past.

What is apparent is that over the past fifty years what has been done to curb both, illegal immigration and drug smuggling has not been successful. The old ways of playing cat and mouse simply aren’t working. Whether marijuana will be the deciding factor or have any relation at all to a decrease in illegal drugs crossing the border, remains to be seen.

Legalized pot is a very emotional issue around the US, with people, both, for and against it. A lot of various arguments can be made from both sides. If it is legalized, however, that poses more than just the variable of smuggling drugs. There are other law issues such as driving while impaired and underage access to contend with. Entering into a new era is always fraught with trial and error when you legalize or illegalize anything.