Cathy Reisenwitz

America’s first foray into rolling back prohibition 2.0 is barely underway, and already marijuana prices have dropped low enough to convince some cartel farmers in Mexico to abandon the crop. Mere months after two US states legalized marijuana sales, five Nobel Prize-winning economists released a UN report recommending that countries end their war on drugs. It would seem they were onto something. But in order to further decrease drug-trade violence in so-called producer states, the US first needs to legalize marijuana, but then also the US must stop using the UN to pressure producer countries into supply-based drug prohibition.

Latin America is the largest global exporter of cannabis and cocaine. In 2011 the DOJ’s now-shuttered National Drug Intelligence Center found that the top cartels controlled the majority of drug trade in marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine in over 1,000 US cities.

Research into black markets shows that producer countries experience more violence than consumer countries. In essence, the global war on drugs is a UN scheme to shrug drug war costs off rich countries’ shoulders and onto poor Latin American countries, with horrifyingly violent results. Much of the recent child migrant crisis is a direct result of children fleeing cartel violence and conscription into criminal gangs.

When drug prices are high, cartels will step up and produce. By keeping demand for cannabis and cocaine high, but supply low, the US in essence forced the Latin America economy to revolve around drugs. Under prohibition, there is no more profitable export. And of course violence proliferates in illegal industries. So in countries where the dominant export is illegal, violence will be endemic.

That’s exactly what the five economists found.


Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz is a Young Voices Associate and a D.C.-based writer and political commentator.