Katie Kieffer

El Chapo haunts the streets of Chicago. His ghost hoards cash in Los Angeles stash houses. His shadow darkens underground tunnels between Mexico and the U.S. His spirit drives his clan to bloodshed. The world’s most-wanted kingpin may be dead. But the Sinaloa cartel will thrive until America legalizes drugs.

Guatemalan authorities are currently investigating whether Joaquín Guzmán (nicknamed El Chapo) was killed in a gunfight near Mexico’s border in a remote jungle-ranch province known as Peten.

El Chapo is an entrepreneurial criminal. ‘Entrepreneurial’ because he takes risks and acclimates to overcome obstacles. ‘Criminal’ because he does not compete on quality or price; he retains his monopoly with bribes, blackmail, misogyny (dynastic marriage) and violence.

Chapo may be worth $1 billion, but he hardly enjoys the money. Fear and hiding dominate his lifestyle because he did not earn his money justly and openly like a real entrepreneur (think late CEO and co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs). Chapo knows he could lose everything, at any moment. He was already caught and he would still be sitting in Mexico’s fortified Punte Grande prison, but he bribed enough people to escape after serving just five years.

Chapo built a network that will survive him. In a very bloody and unethical way, Chapo developed the Sinaloa cartel into such a powerful, violent and ruthless monopoly that nothing short of losing its biggest customer (the U.S.) will kill Chapo’s ghost (or legacy).

If we are serious about winning the war on drugs, we need to legalize and regulate drugs. Doing so would be the equivalent of Donald Trump bellowing: “You’re fired!” to the drug cartels.

There are huge benefits to forcing the drug market above ground by legalizing drugs:

Promote equality

I encourage you to learn the history of prohibition in America; you will quickly discover that most regulations banning alcohol and drugs were instituted to slyly enforce racism—not to promote health or justice.

The federal government’s prosecution of consumable substances is rooted in “racial considerations,” Senior judicial analyst for FOX News, Judge Andrew Napolitano, explains in his book Theodore and Woodrow. He explains how the “xenophobic” Anti-Saloon League lobbied for alcohol prohibition as a way to hurt Irish and Italian Catholic immigrants who had a “culture of alcohol consumption” and to bully German immigrants who produced beer and spirits.

Napolitano also tells how the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914 targeted Chinese and Filipino immigrants who had cultural practices of consuming controlled opium. And, federal regulations against marijuana helped “give white law enforcement a pretext to arrest darker-skinned Mexicans” since “the crop originated in Mexico, and its use was common among Mexican immigrants.”

Increase revenues

Drug cartels such as the Sinaloa likely pay more than most legitimate businesses pay in taxes in cash bribes to buy off Mexican authorities, Mexican citizens and American law enforcement, reports The New York Times.

Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2011, which included a sequester mechanism. Now, Obama says he does not like the sequester mechanism because it will mean “meat cleaver” cuts to the budget.

As CNBC host Larry Kudlow tweeted: “$44 billion spending cut is only one quarter of one percent of GDP. 1.25% of the $3.6 trillion budget. But worth doing. Small potatoes.”

As you can see, this is more like a “paper cut approach” to cutting spending. But if President Obama truly thinks cutting $44 billion is a “meat cleaver approach,” then he could propose a “relaxed approach” to raising revenues: legalizing and regulating drugs.

The Justice Department estimates that Americans pump up to $39 billion into Columbian and Mexican cartels annually. Why not kill two birds with one stone by legalizing drugs, which would keep $39 billion in the U.S. while stopping the border violence?

Napolitano writes how the Anti-Saloon League succeeded in getting Congress to pass the Sixteenth Amendment, which legalized the income tax. “…prior to the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913, the alcohol excise tax accounted for 40 percent of the federal government’s revenue.” So, prior to the prohibition, Americans did not pay income tax because alcohol was legal and regulated.

Likewise, I feel like we could eliminate or drastically lower taxes that hurt entrepreneurship by legalizing and taxing drugs like marijuana. If you don’t want to do drugs, you won’t pay a tax. And you will also not be “punished” with exorbitant taxes if you decide to start a business.

Healthier society

Per the Constitution, you have the right to put whatever you want into your own body; only states can ban drugs. Freedom means you have the right to decide whether to live a healthy lifestyle or to destroy your body with a habit like binge drinking. The founders understood that federal laws against drugs would violate natural law and thereby damage the psyche.

Banning the consumption of alcohol or drugs also encourages people to be physically unhealthy. The federal government is not a reliable authority when it comes to health. For example, marijuana is verifiably more effective at eliminating pain than pharmaceutical drugs. Many people in chronic pain could benefit from medicinal marijuana. But drug companies do not want to lose their monopoly, so they lobby Congress to continue fighting a futile war on drugs.

Even if you use marijuana recreationally, a 20-year study published last January in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that moderate consumption (about a joint a week) does not damage the lungs.

The study also shows that the chemical in marijuana that gives you a high (tetrathydrocanabinol or THC) fights inflammation. So, smoking marijuana once a week is sort of like sprinkling basil on your spaghetti? Why is it illegal again?

End violence

El Chapo’s main competition is the Zetas cartel. Zetas is an example of how the underground market for one product (in this case, drugs) replaces free-market innovation with violence. Unscrupulous people start to realize that they can use violence (not innovation) to make money with all sorts of “commodities,” not just drugs. For example, the Zetas cartel uses violence to cash in on humans via kidnapping and human trafficking.

If the market controlled the price of drugs, the price would drop because the markup on the street is largely to compensate people who risk their lives to sell their product. The cartels would no longer risk wholesaling their product in the U.S. because they could not get a price to commensurate with the risk associated with trafficking. In addition, the monopoly they have would crumble.

So, legalize drugs. And scare away the ghost of El Chapo forever.


Katie Kieffer

Katie Kieffer is a columnist and political commentator. She runs KatieKieffer.com. Kieffer is the author of the forthcoming book "LET ME BE CLEAR."