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Massachusetts Wants To Boost The Marijuana Black Market

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Massachusetts Wants To Boost The Marijuana Black Market

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Massachusetts voters chose to legalize marijuana for recreational use in November, putting an end to more than a century of prohibition in the region. This Wednesday, the state’s House leaders are going directly against their constituents, advancing a bill that would set the tax on recreational pot to 28 percent, double the amount currently allowed. On top of that, the proposal would also give municipal officials — or bureaucrats — power over which shops and farms can be banned, taking this authority away from local voters.

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Claiming that this piece of legislation actually better serves voters by protecting public health, safety, and the “best interests of the state,” lawmakers supporting the bill seem to ignore that the measures adopted in its text would have very different real-world consequences.

If the goal here is to boost the illicit marijuana drug market, the mandatory high taxes are enough to do the trick, and if what legislators want is to allow local government officials to be influenced by certain entrepreneurs to keep competitors from establishing shops or farms in certain locations in order to boost their own business, this bill also seems to be the perfect fit. In other words, if what Massachusetts lawmakers see as a victory is nothing but to create an environment where only gangsters and monied pot entrepreneurs are able to succeed, then they have hit the jackpot.

To advocates who have been working to legalize marijuana in the state for years, this bill represents a refusal to embrace what voters have already chosen to see implemented in 2016. Furthermore, they add that increasing taxes on marijuana sales will rise the cost of the final product to the consumer, who may choose to obtain his or her supply of weed from elsewhere.

Knowing consumers won’t buy pot if the cost is too high, many entrepreneurs who already run medical marijuana dispensaries in the state are beginning to reconsider plans to expand their business now that recreational marijuana is legal. But if legitimate businesses are disincentivized from opening their doors, consumers will then be at greater risk of experiencing health issues as they may end up purchasing marijuana in the black market, where products are often moldy or even adulterated.

Instead of protecting voters, lawmakers are making the marijuana market in the state more dangerous by both raising the overall cost of doing business and giving bureaucrats the power to pick and choose who may or may not do business in the state.

Unless lawmakers completely reword the bill, it’s poised to be passed this week before it goes to the Senate. If passed by both chambers, this bill could be signed by Governor Charlie Baker by the end of the month, putting an end to what anti-drug war advocates fought so hard to achieve.

California Deputies Caught Selling Stolen Marijuana On The Side

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California Deputies Caught Selling Stolen Marijuana On The Side

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The drug war is a disaster on many levels, especially because it ignores the most basic principle there is, that the individual owns his body and only he has the right to do with it as he pleases.

marijuanaBut the drug war is also a failure when it comes to helping bring an end to violent crime, which stems from the black market created precisely because of the existence of restrictive laws concerning drug commerce and use in the first place.

And as it turns out, the disastrous war on drugs has also failed law enforcement, by giving officers incentives to be corrupt.

In California, two former Kern County deputies pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute. What’s worse, they did so by abusing their positions within the law enforcement agency.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Logan August, 30, and Derrick Penney, 34, conspired with an informant for the police to steal marijuana that had been seized during investigations.

Once stolen marijuana was in their hands, August and Penney would then trim it then deliver it to one of their confidential informants who would then sell the stolen property. The proceeds were shared with August and Penney, along with another accomplice.

The instances involving theft and the distribution of marijuana happened more often, officials found, as an additional 25 pounds of marijuana had been stolen by the deputies.

The fact August served as a “peace officer” assigned to a narcotics unit helped, as he spent the period between March and December 2014 participating in marijuana-related operations.

According to the DOJ, he stole marijuana on at least ten separate occasions.

After this embarrassment to Kern County, officers involved in this scheme will spend only 5 years in jail for selling marijuana — not for stealing private property.

When laws meant to make us “safer” end up creating incentives for law enforcers to become criminals, you bet that they are also creating a lot of perverted incentives to those being hunted down by the police.

When government pushes a particular practice or substance into the shadows, they are also giving individuals incentives to distort the markets. Instead of working to beat the competition by providing better services and goods, they resort to simply killing their competitors, literally or figuratively by sabotaging their business. Corrupt law enforcement agents like the two deputies in Kern County saw a way to benefit from it, despite the fact they had sworn to uphold the law at all costs.

Ending the war on drugs is the only way to put an end to this vicious cycle.

 

Jeff Sessions Doesn’t Have The Money To Go After Medical Marijuana States — But This Reality Could Change

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Jeff Sessions Doesn’t Have The Money To Go After Medical Marijuana States — But This Reality Could Change

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The problem with political movements championed by libertarians is that, all too often, these victories are vulnerable.

Lawmakers come and go and so do their positions, prompting the new batch of freshly elected legislators to change the law as soon as a lobbyist is able to convince them that the current situation is “unsustainable.” With this, many rules protecting liberties are lost while others are added to the books. But due to this fluctuating system, it’s hard to keep legislators accountable, especially those who have grown used to Washington, D.C., spending more time with the powerful than with their constituents.

Sessions Under President Barack Obama, nullification advocates pushing for anti-drug war initiatives locally were able to pass a series of bills that helped to ease the federal government’s control over their property and personal choices. With that, a series of states passed medical marijuana laws while a few others legalized recreational weed.

But even as states made their own voices heard, telling the feds they were not their boss, Obama doubled down, breaking records that not even George W. Bush dreamed of breaking. Instead of respecting the states and their residents, the past administration dedicated many resources to go after pot farmers and weed sellers in states where the substance was legal.

With President Donald Trump in the White House, many speculated that things would only get worse, especially after he picked Senator Jeff Sessions to serve as his U.S. Attorney General.

But at least for now, it doesn’t seem that way.

Congress has, at least for the time being, blocked the U.S. Department of Justice from spending any taxpayer money on ventures that would interfere with states and their medical marijuana laws.

With the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, lawmakers made provisions that allow states to carry on with the pursuit of their own medical marijuana rules without the fear that the feds would try to restrict them.

So for now, and ever since 2014, the first year this provision was added to the budget, states are protected from rogue government agencies wanting to go after states for having passed their own medical marijuana laws. Even after Sessions issued a stringent warning saying that “it does remain a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana throughout any place in the United States, whether a state legalizes it or not.”

So as you can see, working hard for bills to pass so that our liberties are protected is, indeed, very much worth it. The problem is that with each new administration and every new Congress, we run the risk of losing those protections. That’s why it’s important to stay wary — and actively involved. After all, eternal vigilance is the price we pay for liberty.

Residents Leave Kansas In Search For Legal Medical Cannabis

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Residents Leave Kansas In Search For Legal Medical Cannabis

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A new bill under review by the Kansas legislature could help residents suffering from conditions that could benefit from medical marijuana. This piece of news is being met with enthusiasm by locals since many have been moving out of the state in order to obtain the help that they need elsewhere.

KansasAccording to the Kansas City senator who wrote the bill, the benefits of legalizing the plant “outweigh the detriments.” And he’s right. After all, what right does a bureaucrat have to tell a patient what drugs he or she are allowed to take?

According to local news sources, the bill being pushed through the senate could help residents like Tracy Marling, who left the state three years ago. Her move was ignited by her daughter’s rare form of epilepsy. Because the young girl wasn’t responding to traditional medicines, the mother decided to take her child elsewhere. Now that she can use cannabis, the child has been responding better, and the mom is now telling reporters how the lack of legal access to the plant forced her to leave the state.

In an interview, Marling told reporters that if there’s “something that helps somebody this much, there is no reason why they shouldn’t have access to it.”

In other 28 states, medical marijuana is already a possibility. And if Marling’s story is an indicator, many other families may be moving to one of these states in order to escape prohibitionist policies in their own homes.

Locals who believe that the choice should be up to the individual and not to a bureaucrat are being urged by former Kansas residents like Marling to contact their representative. Hopefully, lawmakers will finally understand the importance of giving the individual back the power to choose, giving locals more control over their own lives.

To marijuana and anti-drug war advocates, the decentralization of policy making has been the best of gifts. As more states join the likes of California, Colorado, and Washington in nullifying the federal prohibition of marijuana, more families will have access to the plant, allowing patients who are suffering from maladies that could be treated with the help of the plant feel more comfortable with trying the treatment without fearing to be the target of law enforcement.

This move toward more freedom will also help medical research in the future, giving researchers the opportunity of exploring cannabis’ full potential. After all, when substances are illegal, even medical researchers have a hard time having access to the material.

In other words, when government prohibition is en vogue, medical innovation also pays a price. But who ultimately pays the cost is always the consumer.

Maryland Lawmakers Closer to Legalizing Recreational Weed

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Maryland Lawmakers Closer to Legalizing Recreational Weed

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Maryland could soon join the group of states putting an end to the federal ban on marijuana by passing a piece of legislation that would legalize the substance for recreational use. The bill would allow the state to regulate the sales and add a tax to recreational marijuana-related transactions.

RecreationalAccording to legislators behind the effort, adults ages 21 and older would be allowed to possess and even grow limited amounts of the plant if two pieces of legislation under consideration by the state legislature pass.

The goal, one of the legislators behind the effort told the press, is to end the failed policy of cannabis prohibition across the state, establishing what they call a sensible system. The pieces of legislation are based on the “lessons learned from other states,” which goes to show how important the nullification movement has been to the anti-drug war movement.

If the bills are approved by both chambers, marijuana retail stores would be regulated, requiring entrepreneurs to have a license to open a business. Local manufacturers, as well as testing and cultivating facilities, would also be subject to regulation. The state would also establish a 9 percent sales tax on retail marijuana while cultivators would have to pay an excise tax of $30 per ounce. Revenue created by the taxation of the industry locally would be used to back community school and workforce development programs, public education, and substance-abuse treatment and prevention.

If the One Line State chooses to pass these bills, the system that will be put in place will be similar to what is currently in use in Colorado. Maryland would then be joining others such as the states where voters have approved liberating marijuana for recreational use. They include California, Alaska, Oregon, Maine, Washington, Massachusetts, and Nevada.

Unlike other states, Maryland could be the first to approve the legalization of recreational weed on their own, without having to rely on the public to vote for a measure. But if legislators aren’t successful, a “Plan B” bill is also being considered, which would allow voters to decide whether the state constitution should be amended to legalize the plant for recreational use.

In 2013, Maryland approved marijuana for medical use, decriminalizing the possession of small amounts one year later. Despite the growing support for legalization even then, lawmakers killed a measure in the Maryland legislature in 2014 that would have legalized recreational marijuana.

Only time can tell whether this year’s measure will see the light of day.

 

No Property Rights: CO Supreme Court Allows Cops to Destroy Seized Pot

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

No Property Rights: CO Supreme Court Allows Cops to Destroy Seized Pot

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The Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that police are allowed to destroy marijuana seized in criminal investigations, reversing the requirement that police store marijuana as personal property.

Property RightsAccording to the Associated Press, local police disliked the requirement that forced officers to care and store marijuana gathered as evidence correctly. As a result, the recent decision has been welcomed by local law enforcement.

The decision stems from a 2011 case revolving around a medical marijuana patient from Colorado Springs whose plants were seized after he was accused of having more plants than allowed by law. Currently, residents are allowed to grow up to 12 plants .

As a result of the investigation, the Colorado Springs resident lost more than 60 pounds, which were held by the police and then returned moldy. While the accused was later acquitted, he lost access to his possessions because of police’s lack of proper care to the product.

According to Colorado Justice Allison Eid, a possible Supreme Court nominee, the return provision that had been en vogue violates federal law. The decision supported that Colorado law enforcement should thus follow federal rules, despite comments made by dissenting judges who argued that the return provision does not violate federal law.

To libertarians, this decision sounds beyond appalling for a simple reason: it ignores property rights altogether in the name of the U.S. government’s long lasting war on personal choice — also known as the war on drugs.

While Colorado set an example to the entire country by legalizing marijuana for recreational use, restrictions concerning growth of the plant require law enforcement officials to violate property rights of the individual in question by not allowing individuals to do what they please in their own property. And by ruling that even during an investigation seized marijuana is not to be treated as personal property, the state’s highest court just emphasizes both the state and local governments’ lack of dedication to the individual’s right to the fruits of his labor.

Instead of spending precious resources seizing, investigating, and arresting individuals for exercising their right to keep and maintain personal property, it’s time to put an end to the madness that the nationwide war on substances seen as immoral or damaging. After all, it’s up to the individual whether he is willing to expose his own body to whatever substance available or not. And the government has no moral obligation to stop him.

Marijuana Sales Break Records in 2016, Here’s Why This is Important

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Marijuana Sales Break Records in 2016, Here’s Why This is Important

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In 2016, marijuana sales grew 30 percent in the United States and Canada, reaching $5.86 billion in U.S. sales alone. As new rules regarding marijuana use and commerce begin to take effect in states like Florida, the year of 2017 promises to be the best in record for cannabis. And yet, the federal government continues to uphold its ban on the plant. Going as far as reassuring the public that CBD, one of the main ingredients in the cannabis plant used to manage pain, is also a Schedule I drug.

MarijuanaRegardless of the federal government’s lack of grasp, the market has chosen to ignore restrictions. Which is what the last big numbers tied to marijuana sales helps to prove.

By 2021, legal sales in the North American continent could reach the $20.2 billion mark, making the marijuana industry’s growth incomparable to the growth of other remarkable industries such as the the Internet. At this rate, the industry could be posting a 25 percent compound annual growth, experts say. But before marijuana, few industries showed this type of success.

In the 1990’s, one of the few consumer industry categories that reached the $5 billion mark in annual spending — only to produce the same rate of growth following the boom — was cable television. In the 2000’s, the Internet did the same, with a 29 percent compound annual growth. As the marijuana market continues to grow, however, the most important aspect of this story is often ignored.

As options become more widely available, and substances such as cannabis achieve legitimate statuses, consumers who rely on the product or who are simply curious now have options. When consumers have options and they are able to “shop around,” they are also less likely to be exposed to the evils of defective or corrupted products. Bad quality is often associated with items available in the black market precisely because the dealer selling products in obscurity has no incentive to compete.

When drugs and other products considered dangerous are decriminalized or legalized, consumers are the first to benefit.

Instead of standing in the way of personal choice, we must boost choice by simply letting the market decide where it goes first. Not because companies and entrepreneurs have a right to tell consumers what to do, but because consumers will lead the way, demanding better services and acting accordingly, by boycotting a certain product or service provider.

Former DEA ‘Propagandist’ Now Says Marijuana is Safe

in Criminal Justice, Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Alice Salles Comments are off

Former DEA ‘Propagandist’ Now Says Marijuana is Safe

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Marijuana is the Drug Enforcement Administration’s “cash cow,” the former spokeswoman for the agency told the audience during a recent Marijuana for Medical Professionals Conference in Colorado.

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“Marijuana is safe, we know it is safe. [But] it’s our cash cow and we will never give up,” she added.

According to Belita Nelson, she was hired by the agency in 1998 to become their “chief propagandist,” despite the fact reporters were unable to find professional links between her and the agency online. Nevertheless, Nelson was listed as the founder of a drug-awareness nonprofit in the 1990s, and was seen on TV regularly talking about the dangers of cannabis. Now, she advocates for the plant’s medical benefits.

While allegedly working for the DEA, Nelson claims, she learned a friend had developed cancer. To help him fight the consequences of chemotherapy, she reached out to her teenage son, asking him if he had access to marijuana.

Passing the substance on to her friend, both noticed that, over time, adding weed to his treatment worked. Instead of ignoring the evidence before her, the former drug warrior turned into an acolyte. In 2004, Nelson resigned from the agency due to a dispute involving the heroin epidemic. The agency had been investigating reports showing that addicts had an easier time getting off the opioids by using marijuana. But according to Nelson, the agency preferred to maintain its official line than to cave in after looking at the evidence that weed is safe.

Regardless of the agency’s lack of attention to the evidence at hand, the U.S. government holds a patent on cannabis, which was granted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But while this patent claims cannabis can protect the brain from damage tied to certain diseases, it has no bearing on drug-related laws. Instead of waiting on the federal government to reschedule cannabis, many pro-legalization advocates are using nullification methods to pass pro-marijuana bills in their states, putting an end to federal prohibition locally. This method could end up being much more effective than petitioning the federal government for a change.

But until all states have been successful in this effort, it’s hard to know whether the end to the drug war is nigh.

Over the decades, the arbitrary use of legislation to criminalize behavior has been responsible for great damage, especially in Black and Latino communities. If we’re serious about liberty, we’re also serious about putting an end to such rules. Allowing people to make their own decisions freely so they may live with the consequences of their actions on their own.

As CA Moves to Legalize Recreational Weed, Startups Work Hard to Meet the Demand

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As CA Moves to Legalize Recreational Weed, Startups Work Hard to Meet the Demand

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

California could soon be legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

If Proposition 64 passes this November, recreational marijuana would be legal in the Golden State for individuals aged 21 or older. Taxes would be established and then used to back government-run drug law enforcement, research, and what the architects of Prop 64 call “environmental restoration, cleanup, and enforcement efforts” resulting from illegal marijuana production.

PotWhile the initiative allows the state to profit from legalization, helping to boost the militaristic approach to the war on drugs locally, the law could benefit individual users and business owners who commercialize weed. And that’s what the startup community living in the heart of the American tech revolution is celebrating.

According to some reports, Silicon Valley’s class of pot entrepreneurs can’t wait until the votes have been all counted. Instead of sitting and waiting to see how things play out, they are already putting a “signature Valley spin on the age-old practice of selling marijuana,” using what they have learned from the social media explosion in order to prepare the market for consumers dying to use their smartphones to order some ounces of girl scout cookies, Bruce Banner, or perhaps sour diesel.

But they are not stopping there. They are also eager to develop software for growers and dispensaries, helping to “blow open the doors to innovation on the technology side of the cannabis industry,” says Chris Walsh, editorial director of Denver-based Marijuana Business Daily.

While this enthusiasm shows the importance of allowing markets to let consumers make all decisions, it is also a risky business, considering marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

During the upcoming months and even years, many states will be joining the list of states legalizing marijuana, but federal regulators will, most likely, be the last ones to embrace the trend.

Estimates suggest that by 2020, marijuana sales in America will exceed $22 billion. While there’s a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs to join the industry, barriers lifted by the very laws removing the criminal element and regulating the sale and use of weed may make it difficult for those who aren’t already established or well-connected to succeed.

To those who are already in the business or getting ready to cash in, there’s still an issue with the financial aspect of the marijuana industry, considering the fact that most investment firms will steer away from marijuana entrepreneurs due to federal pressure. But companies like Snoop Dogg’s Casa Verde Capital have already thought of that, offering startups the means to get going with their ideas without having to worry about convincing powerful, well-connected men in suits their business plan will work despite all odds.

As more states join the legalization movement, opportunities will be made available. It’s up to those willing to take the risk of going against the feds to embrace them.

Arizona Business Pushing for More Prohibition Gets a Taste of Free Market Consequences

in Business and Economy, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Arizona Business Pushing for More Prohibition Gets a Taste of Free Market Consequences

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In The Economics of Prohibition, Austrian economist Mark Thorton explains that the “search for privilege and personal gain through the political process” embraced by major corporations and their lobbying minions are responsible for “any net losses to society produced by government policies.” Adding that, throughout history, we are able to see countless examples of prohibitionist policies being enacted due to this marriage of convenience.

boycottAs information is more readily available due to the widespread growth of the Internet, we now live in an era in which people are often made aware of how companies use their political influence to push for certain policies.

In Phoenix, a company whose political activities have been associated with marijuana prohibition is getting a taste of how the free market deals with unwanted subjects.

According to The Phoenix New Times, a Discount Tire Company is facing a growing boycott movement after its billionaire owner made a $1 million donation to help defeat the ballot initiative crafted with the goal of legalizing marijuana in the Grand Canyon state.

The boycott was first launched by local immigrant-rights groups following the company’s decision to hang a “Re-Elect Sheriff Joe Arpaio” sign in their windows. More recently, however, the company donated money to defeat marijuana legalization in the state, and the boycott movement grew.

The reaction did not come as a surprise, considering that the pro-legalization sentiment in Arizona is growing strong.

Prop 205, the initiative Discount Tires has invested money against, would legalize the use of cannabis for adults who are 21 or older. Individuals would be allowed to possess up to an ounce of the product. If Prop 205 wins, weed sales would also be legalized, and individuals would be allowed to grow the plant for personal use.

Possession of more than an ounce up to 2.5 ounces would be considered a non-arrestable civil offense. Nevertheless, the individual caught with more than one ounce of weed would have to pay a fine.

Despite the restrictions proposed by Prop 205, the law would help locals, offering a solution to an aspect of the drug war that continues to put countless of non-violent young men and women in jail.

In addition to Discount Tires’ donation, other groups have invested heavily in the campaign against the pro-marijuana legalization initiative.

Some of the groups behind the effort include the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, Insys Therapeutics, a synthetic THC-maker, Larry Van Tuyl, whose family’s string of car dealerships was sold to Warren Buffett in 2014, Bennett Dorrance, a local resident who’s the heir to the Campbell Soup fortune, Tucson real estate mogul Donald R. Diamond, Foster Friess of Wyoming, who’s known as a “Republican mega-donor,” Empire Southwest LLC, which sells, rents, and services machinery and power generation equipment to contractors, and the Arizona Republican Party.

As long as the boycotts are peaceful, the effort is a perfect example of how free individuals are able to show their preferences in a freer market setting, letting service providers know where they stand and thus, forcing company owners to cater to their clientele in a way they deem acceptable if they are willing to survive their competition.

SHOCKER: Prison Food Makers Don’t Want Arizona to Legalize Pot

in Drugs, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

SHOCKER: Prison Food Makers Don’t Want Arizona to Legalize Pot

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Rent-seeking, better known as the practice many companies embrace while trying to obtain benefits through the political machine, is, more often than not, the reason why our liberties are clipped, one by one, in the name of the greater good.

The war on drugs is the perfect example of this.

WeedEver since the idea of the drug war was first considered a valuable policy, politicians have used it as a way to bring their own enemies to heel. Much like major companies — whose profits suffer greatly whenever new competitors enter the market — these politicians often exploit their titles while claiming to hold an entirely different position in public.

With the war against marijuana, we have seen countless industries such as the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries step up their efforts to ensure the plant remains criminalized. As some begin to embrace the trend — even adding marijuana to their portfolio — others remain stubborn, fighting against the change and pushing Washington insiders to keep weed as a Schedule I substance.

Still, there’s one particular industry fighting marijuana legalization that, up until recently, had not made it to the news.

While the law enforcement and prison sectors have always been anti-drug legalization — with the exceptions of groups such as Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) — yet another prison-related company has been investing in keeping weed illegal in at least one state: The prison food industry.

According to official Arizona state reports, Services Group of America has donated $80,000 last month to a campaign committee that hopes to defeat the legal cannabis measure on this year’s November ballot.

SGA’s subsidiary, Food Services of America, is tasked with preparing meals for correction facilities. And, in the past, it has been accused of offering meals that fail to meet basic nutritional standards set by the government. They do not seem too keen on allowing prison demands for their food reach a new low.

Local news reports also add that other groups such as the state Chamber of Commerce in Arizona have also donated heavily to the anti-marijuana effort, addressing a $498,000 check to the campaign.

Before both groups offered their financial support, opioid maker Insys Therapeutics had gone further, donating $500,000 to the anti-pot campaign.

Other groups listed as major anti-weed donors include the Arizona Wine and Spirits Wholesale Association, and SAM Action, which is often described as the campaign arm of Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Despite the heavy-handed efforts coming from these companies to defeat the marijuana legalization efforts, polls show voters are supporting the effort to legalize pot in the Grand Canyon state.

Will rent seekers win this time?

In America, One Person is Arrested Over Pot Every 49 Seconds

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

In America, One Person is Arrested Over Pot Every 49 Seconds

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While campaigning for president, then Senator Barack Obama claimed that the federal government should not use its resources to prosecute marijuana providers in states where the substance was legalized for medical use. But after promising to put an end to the previous administration’s raids on medical pot providers, the current administration went on a witch hunt, cracking down on medical cannabis providers so aggressively that it managed to outdo the George W. Bush’s administration’s war on pot.

PotCurrently, medical marijuana is legal in 25 states in America, but according to the FBI, 2015 saw 574,641 marijuana-related arrests, resulting in one pot arrest every 49 seconds. In nine out of ten cases, the arrests were carried out for possession, not production or distribution.

Accounting for 38.6 percent of the 1.5 million drug-related arrests in 2015, marijuana arrests happened more frequently than other drug-related arrests.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), only 19.9 percent of 2015 drug arrests were tied to heroin, and only 5.1 percent were tied to synthetic or manufactured drugs.

While the rate of marijuana-related arrests is still high, arrests have dropped 2.3 percent when compared to the data available 15 years ago, when 734,497 Americans were arrested “for marijuana offenses of which 646,042 (40.9 percent) were for possession alone,” the FBI reported.

Each year, taxpayers have to come up with $3.6 billion to enforce marijuana possession-related laws. And yet, ACLU reports, the drug war continues to be a failure.

Among many marijuana legalization advocates, the fact many states are gearing up to vote on recreational marijuana legalization is a major step forward. Nevertheless, the federal government is still reluctant to embrace the new trend, keeping marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance.

To Mises Institute’s Ryan McMaken, “state-level nullification efforts in the US within Colorado, Oregon, Washington State, and Alaska, have weakened the US’s ability to insist on prohibition,” allowing other states and foreign governments to begin looking at marijuana-related laws under a different light. Prior to this major state-level movement to legalize marijuana locally, the US government’s drug war had been the major igniting force behind the drug wars across other countries in the continent. As more states embrace freedom, the federal government — as well as other governments — may finally begin looking at legalization as a feasible policy.

Until then, however, the US involvement with the United Nations may help to slow down the worldwide legalization trend, mainly because of the UN’s 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which legitimizes the US drug war.

NYC Weed Arrests Up Again, Is Full Legalization the Solution?

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NYC Weed Arrests Up Again, Is Full Legalization the Solution?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Someone forgot to tell progressive New York Mayor Bill de Blasio that times, they have already changed.

NYPDDuring the then mayoral candidate’s campaign, de Blasio vowed to ensure the New York Police Department would cease to treat possession of small amounts of marijuana as a crime, but ever since he was elected, the number of marijuana-related arrests went up. This year, Gothamist.com reports, it went up nearly a third.

In 1977, New York decriminalized possession of fewer than 25 grams of weed. Users smoking or holding the bud in public, however, were still subject to police scrutiny. But while commissioner Ray Kelly was in command between 2002 and 2013, arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana went up considerably. In 2010, low-level pot possession had become the top cause of arrest in the city, mostly due to the fact 50,383 people had been arrested for related offenses throughout that year.

That’s when pressure began to mount.

Faced with countless accusations of racial bias, commissioner Kelly decided to send officers a memo asking them to stop “improper” marijuana arrests, which often involved blacks and Latinos.

Once de Blasio took office, however, marijuana-related arrests dropped, but that didn’t last. In 2014, police had made 26,400 weed-related arrests. Now, recent figures show that the number of people going to prison for related offenses has increased considerably.

During the first half of 2015, NYPD had arrested 7,236 people for marijuana possession, but during the same period this year, the number went up to 9,331: A 30 percent increase.

Despite de Blasio’s campaign promises, things might not get better for pot smokers in the Big Apple unless state laws change.

A bill from 2015 that is still stuck in the state legislature could help give marijuana users more peace of mind. But the bill isn’t perfect.

If S. 1747, or the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act, passes, marijuana would be regulated and taxed like tobacco and alcohol. Proponents of similar pieces of legislation often say that while similar measures might have a negative effect on the overall cost of weed, it would keep officers from knocking people’s doors down in the middle of the night. But to many libertarians, only decriminalization of all substances, including marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol, works.

Mises Institute’s David Gordon argues in a piece from 2002 that punishing a person for using drugs is to “impose a severe disability on him; and justice requires that punishment be imposed only on someone who violates rights.” Drug use, therefore, cannot be criminalized simply because it could lead to bad social consequences. After all, Gordon continues, “[t]o punish people simply because their acts encourage others to act in a way deemed undesirable is to use people as means, in a morally unacceptable way.”

Despite the strong support the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act has obtained over the past year, many proponents of the bill believe that it could take years for something similar to pass through the state legislature, forcing New Yorkers to think twice before stepping outside with a small amount of weed in their pocket.

Arizona Court Rules that Weed Smell Enough Justification for Search Warrant

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Alice Salles Comments are off

Arizona Court Rules that Weed Smell Enough Justification for Search Warrant

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In current-day America, the Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government is nothing but a suggestion. In Arizona, the careless approach to the law of the land is now even backed by lady Justice.

WeedAccording to an NBC affiliate, a recent ruling supports that officers are allowed to have access to a warrant to search a person’s property over the smell of marijuana. The decision came after the state Supreme Court ruled that the enactment of the medical marijuana law does not eliminate a legal doctrine that supports that the smell of marijuana is sufficient to establish probable cause for a search.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruling added that only with the “person’s presentation of a valid [medical marijuana] registration card” attorneys would be able to challenge the legal foundation for a search based on the smell of marijuana alone.

The case that resulted in this ruling involved an officer who noticed the odor of marijuana while contacting an individual. The encounter led him and other officers to discover a marijuana operation that counted with hundreds of marijuana plants.

To medical marijuana users in the state, this ruling is concerning. Rebecca Calloway, a local dispensary worker and college graduate with a medical marijuana card, says that this ruling makes matters worse since “a lot of pedestrians [already] feel they are being harassed by cops with nothing better to do.”

To privacy advocates, the ruling gives officers a loophole, giving them the freedom to use smell as a reasonable cause for searches in different occasions.

Instead of looking at the Constitution for guidance, the Arizona justices decided to continue giving drug warriors legal justifications to send more non-violent “criminals” to taxpayer-funded prisons, managing to step on the 4th Amendment rights of citizens who do not happen to be marijuana users in the process. But this is not the first time Arizona justices stand with drug warriors.

In May, Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the state’s medical marijuana laws do not give physicians immunity against prosecution in case doctors claim to have reviewed a patient’s medical records from the previous 12 months before issuing a written statement allowing for the use of medical marijuana.

While the state has come a long way by passing a medical marijuana law that helps residents suffering from a series of conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, and others, anti-drug war advocates in the state are hoping to get an initiative added to the November ballot that would legalize marijuana for recreational use.

In early July, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted 258,582 signatures to secretary of state officials. To quality for Arizona’s statewide ballot, the campaign must have 150,642 valid signatures from registered voters.

If passed, the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act would legalize marijuana for recreational use and establish a network of licensed cannabis shops that would collect taxes on the sales of marijuana and marijuana-related products. The proposal resembles the model used in Colorado.

Video Game Shows the Economic Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana

in Drugs, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Video Game Shows the Economic Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In a truly free society, individuals would be able to provide the products consumers are after without having to deal with the restrictions imposed by bureaucrats.

Hemp IncWhen analyzed closely, private regulatory practices promoted within the marketplace are often much more efficient than regulations imposed by government officials who often are responding to potential threats instead of responding to legitimate market demands, putting a strain on job creators and consumers, who end up paying more—sometimes with their lives—for the product they want or need.

But as states begin to accelerate the process to legalize marijuana, the debate is finally shifting. Now, we’re finally talking more about the health and financial benefits of marijuana legalization than the legalization’s downside.

That’s why Hemp Inc. matters.

According to VICE News, the video game produced by HKA Digital Studios allows users to grow and sell weed while interacting with smokers, who sometimes happen to be celebrities. As a result of their economic ventures, these pot entrepreneurs are able to build marijuana empires. Unfortunately, that’s only currently—and legally—possible in real life if you move to states like Colorado and Washington.

The app was launched on April 26, but few news outlets covered the story.

Regardless of how popular the app becomes, the message it conveys is a powerful one. Despite the drug war, demands will always be met, no matter how many laws Congressmen pass. Once you lift barriers, however, industries flourish—including health industries—and consumer safety becomes a priority. Instead of assaulting people’s freedoms under the guise of safety, lawmakers are being increasingly reminded that they don’t know what is best for everyone. And that’s OK. Leaving it up to the individual is the only moral alternative.

So instead of logical arguments alone, anti-drug war advocates now have a new tool that demonstrates just how easily individuals are able to benefit themselves while benefitting others once marijuana is legal.

Instead of violent, bloody wars between gangs over street territory, the relationship between marijuana producers, sellers, and consumers is slowly becoming more like the relationship between the farmer, grocer, and the consumer—and that’s a positive development.

Unlike a real war, the drug war is an effort that targets a behavior seen as immoral, not a real enemy. But we have a modern historical example of how that type of war doesn’t lead us anywhere. Why are we still hesitant to put an end to this madness?

As Use of Pot Drops, Prohibitionists Must Look Elsewhere for Pro-Drug War Arguments

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

As Use of Pot Drops, Prohibitionists Must Look Elsewhere for Pro-Drug War Arguments

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The Washington Post has recently reported that rates of marijuana use among teens who reside in Colorado are unchanged when compared to data gathered before state voters legalized marijuana in 2012.

WeedIn 2009, a survey showed that 25 percent of Colorado youths had used marijuana in the past 30 days but in 2015, only 21 percent of youths did the same. The survey was carried out among random middle and high school students across the state.

According to the Colorado health department, the agency behind this survey, the use of marijuana among teens has not increased since legalization. A fact many drug warriors did not predict before voters decided to make the recreational use of the plant legal across the state.

In the past, opponents of legalization made the case that lifting restrictions on access to weed would push the number of teen smokers up, but as the number of marijuana use nationwide is falling considerably, prohibitionists begin to panic.

According to Mason Tvert, the Marijuana Policy Project’s director of communications, the theory that “making marijuana legal for adults will result in more teen use” has been clearly debunked with the help of these surveys. “Levels of teen use in Colorado have not increased since it ended marijuana prohibition,” Tvert added, “and they are lower than the national average. Elected officials and voters in states that are considering similar proposals should be wary of claims that it will hurt teens.”

But the fight against prohibition continues to win new supporters, even as prohibitionist politicians continue to put failed policies before real progress.

Most recently, a group known as Arkansans for Compassionate Care submitted 117,649 signatures to the secretary of state urging the state to place a proposal on the ballot that would legalize medical marijuana.

The proposal would help people with certain medical conditions have access to marijuana products with the help of a doctor’s recommendation. While the signatures haven’t been confirmed, the group needed 69,000 signatures from registered voters to have the initiative added to the ballot. Two other groups in the state of Arkansas are also gathering signatures for other proposals, one that would legalize medical marijuana and a second that would legalize recreational weed.

At least 25 states and Washington D.C. currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some form, with Ohio being the latest state to allow residents suffering from chronic pain, epilepsy, or side effects of cancer treatments to be treated with the help of cannabis.

As more states where the use of cannabis is legal investigate the use of its residents, it becomes clearer that freedom—not the government’s micromanagement skills—works.

Drug-Testing Industry Heavily Invested in Keeping Pot Illegal

in Consumer Protection, Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Drug-Testing Industry Heavily Invested in Keeping Pot Illegal

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The US government’s war on drugs has always counted with a great deal of support coming from a variety of special interest groups. Crony capitalism, it seems, is always to blame. But while libertarians have always known that, the media is just now realizing that there are more special interest groups involved with the drug war than they had previously thought.

TestToo bad mainstream news sources often misdiagnose the root of the problem.

According to an extensive ATTN article, the drug-testing industry is one of the most powerful opponents to weed legalization in America, along with the private prison industry, law enforcement, and big drug companies.

In the ATTN piece, the writer gives inside information on the history of cronyism involving the drug-testing industry and the US government. It also explains that several former DEA administrators are now part of nonprofits that advocate and actively lobby for drug-testing in Washington to remain relevant. The piece also explains that while federal agencies were bound by law to implement drug-testing programs in the 1980s due to the passage of the Drug Free Workplace Act, government agencies were the first to be hit with the government’s recommendations regarding drug-testing policies, thanks to an executive order issued by the President Ronald Reagan administration.

“Urine tests,” the article explains “didn’t become a common workplace practice in the U.S. until the 1980s,” which is when the Reagan administration began requiring federal government employees to be tested. This statement implies that the entire drug-testing industry may have not had as much influence as it does now if not for a string of orders and regulations that require organizations to use their services.

To Jason Williamson, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Criminal Law Reform Project, “passing or failing a drug test has no bearing on whether or not they’re going to be impaired at the job two weeks later.” This “piece of the puzzle,” Williamson told Attn.com, is huge, and a major reason why “drug-testing companies don’t need or want to talk about” the real implications of their services.

According to a 1985 study shared by the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association, airline pilots using flight simulators after smoking marijuana showed signs of impairment 24 hours “after usage.” But in a more recent government-sponsored study from 1989, researchers found that the psychoactive effects of cannabis use “wore off after one to four hours.” Proving that the largest drug-testing industry trade group in the country might have been helping these firms do business with countless organizations and government agencies without addressing the problems brought up by pro-marijuana legalization activists.

A quick search on the Center for Responsive Politics website shows that, to this day, organizations associated with DATIA such as Quest Diagnostics are actively—and heavily—involved with Washington politics.

According to a 2012 Reason piece, another organization known as the Drugs of Abuse Testing Coalition spent thousands lobbying for “Medicare reimbursement … and payment rates for qualitative drug screen testing.”

Targeting crony capitalism and its negative consequences, even when the subject is the drug war, could help us clear away the fog, giving advocates access to the real roots of the government’s ineffective drug war and how to solve the problem.

City Uses Pot Taxes to Help the Homeless

in Business and Economy, Drugs, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Taxes by Advocates HQ Comments are off

City Uses Pot Taxes to Help the Homeless

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Drug legalization continues to be an important topic. And as local governments look to marijuana taxes as a reliable way to boost their revenue, more Americans now see a greater number of practical reasons to lobby their states to liberate access to cannabis and other prohibited substances.

HomelessIn Colorado, where sales and consumption of recreational marijuana is legal, legalization of pot helped to boost the economy, injecting about $2 million into the local economy during the first month of legalization alone. Over time, the flood of cash coming from pot sales also helped the state’s education system. Now, the Colorado city of Aurora is also putting the legal cannabis money to what many believe to be a top priority project.

According to the Huffington Post, Aurora has recently announced that it will be allocating $1.5 million in recreational marijuana tax revenue for programs that focus on the city’s homeless population.

Due to this program, a local nonprofit group known as the Colfax Community Network should receive $200,000 from this special fund, while other organizations will be provided with vans to be used for homeless outreach. All paid by taxes tied to marijuana sales.

Toward the end of the year, the city of Aurora is projected to raise $5.4 million in marijuana tax revenue, a figure that could prompt legislators across the country to take the idea of the legalization of recreational marijuana seriously.

But what about other recreational drugs?

In March of 2016, a group of 22 top medical experts called for the decriminalization of all nonviolent drug use and possession. According to the group of doctors brought together by Johns Hopkins University and The Lancet, the global war on drugs was and still is a failure. Instead of maintaining these failed policies in place, these experts urged countries to “move gradually toward regulated drug markets and apply the scientific method to their assessment.”

Mentioning torture, abuse, and a dramatic downward change in life expectancy in Mexico since the country’s government decided to militarize its response to the drug trade in 2006, these doctors also cited use of incarceration as a drug control measure, which has destroyed the lives of many nonviolent drug users. Resorting to incarceration as opposed to treatment, these experts concluded, is the “biggest contribution” to the HIV and Hepatitis C epidemics among drug users.

When discussing domestic policy, the same group also concluded that prohibitionist laws in the United States have contributed to “stark racial disparities” when it comes to drug law enforcement.

While the debate surrounding drug use and commerce may naturally lead to a taxation debate, current laws keeping consumers from having access to their drug of choice continue to hurt more than help. Especially in poor areas of the country.

As libertarians all know, the free trade of goods and services is all consumers need to have access to so they may prosper and self-regulate, but if the pot taxation argument helps us bring more drug warriors to our side, we shouldn’t be ashamed of using it.

The damage done by the drug war calls for a drastic change.

4/20 Weed Sales Prove the War on Drugs is Hindering Economic Development

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

4/20 Weed Sales Prove the War on Drugs is Hindering Economic Development

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

On April 20th, marijuana enthusiasts celebrate what they call a national holiday. With the sales of marijuana products exceeding the $37.5 million mark on this past 4/20, the ongoing efforts to put an end to the drug war and their lucrative consequences show that entrepreneurs have a lot to gain once the substance is rescheduled federally.

Woman_smoking_marijauana (1)Former aide to President Richard Nixon John Ehrlichman, who served time in prison over his involvement with the Watergate scandal, allegedly admitted that the drug war launched by the Nixon administration had two targets, “the antiwar left and black people.”

Ehrlichman allegedly told journalist Dan Baum that members of the Nixon White House “knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.”

As US states disrupt the ongoing federal effort to put an end to drug consumption in America by passing their own marijuana legalization laws, the drug war is finally unwinding, at least partially.

According to Fox News, marijuana retailers registered a 30 percent increase in retail transactions on 4/20. The report comes from a software company that provides global cannabis businesses seed-to-sale tracking systems known as MJ Freeway. The startup, which was launched in 2010, is able to sift through data from cannabis retailers, producing an accurate analysis of 40 percent of America’s cannabis market.

As more states join the legalization bandwagon by passing recreational marijuana bills, legal retail sales are estimated to reach $6.7 billion by the end of 2016. As entrepreneurs heap the benefits, the industry promotes economic growth by offering great employment opportunities for residents of the states where weed is legal.

On April 20, MJ Freeway has disclosed, legally-licensed cannabis retail locations across the country sold $10,822 worth of products on average. The days before and after 4/20 have also seen a boost in sales. According to MJ, legal weed retailers sold $6,208 on April 19 and $5,442 on April 18 also on average.

California saw the largest dollar amount sold on April 20, beating others like Colorado and Washington, where recreational weed is legal. Colorado ended up beating all other states by having higher sales on average on April 20th.

While these numbers seem promising, it’s hard to assess just how much wealthier the country would be if all drug laws put in place in the name of an undeclared war on immoral behavior were lifted.

While discussing the health consequences associated with drug use is important, the burden should be shared by local communities, where individuals have access to religious entities and other privately-organized groups that support addicts, not in the hands of law enforcement.

As the country becomes increasingly enamoured with the idea of bringing the drug war to a halt, libertarian advocates claim that even gun violence would suffer a major blow once laws criminalizing drug consumption and sales are dropped.

According to Cato Institute’s Adam Bates, the only “common sense” approach to the gun violence issue in America is to end the drug war. After all, more than 2,000 homicides a year are gang-related, the government estimates. What is Washington waiting for?

This LA Gang Member Knows Why the Drug War Doesn’t Work

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

 This LA Gang Member Knows Why the Drug War Doesn’t Work

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Ozy, an online magazine that takes pride in presenting original content crafted by contributors with unique perspectives, has recently published an article allegedly written by “Loko,” a Bloods gang member from Los Angeles, California. In the piece, Loko talks about his life in the City of Angels, how changes to marijuana laws are reshaping local communities, and how other drug restrictions are ruining an entire generation of African Americans.

It’s hard to read his rendition of the current situation without thinking about how countless lives could have been saved if current and past government administrations hadn’t embraced the war on drugs.

Marijuana He opens his comments by claiming that living in the city is a daily struggle. The main problem nowadays, Loko tells Ozy’s Seth Ferranti, is “crystal.”

Methamphetamine, Loko explains, is what all of the “homeboys are using. … Blood, Crip, it doesn’t matter.” Meth is such a problem in LA that everyone “is going crazy.” But what makes it an issue isn’t that locals have easy access to the substance. The problem is that meth is illegal. That makes competition a matter of force, not product quality and demand, pitting gangs against gangs over who’s ready to offer the best, most potent crystal meth there is.

To Loko, the meth phenomena is “the second coming of crack.” And while it’s making many gangsters rich, it’s also hurting entire families.

To the Bloods gang member, life has mellowed out considerably after new marijuana policies were signed into law in in the Golden State.

At first, Loko was selling crystal meth he claims to have gotten from “the Mexicans,” but as life happened and his family grew, he decided to go legit. “Weed offers a better opportunity,” he told Ozy. Instead of “hustling” in the streets to push what he calls “super meth, like that Breaking Bad stuff,” he decided to get legalized, obtain a card and documents, and open his own legal dispensary.

“Meth is destroying the Black community,” he told the publication. In the early 2000s, locals didn’t go for meth. Now, it’s the most popular drug around.

According to Vice News, Mexican cartels are responsible for making crystal meth the real deal in Los Angeles.

In 2008, one pound of crystal meth was worth $8,000 to $10,000. The fact other types of substances were more accessible in California’s black market then also helped to keep the price of meth up. But now that weed is legal and that cartels are focusing on other substances, meth is widely available—and cheap. As Mexican cartels started mass producing the drug, the cost of methamphetamine went down. One pound of meth now costs about $3,500, Vice News reports. Seizures of meth at the border between the United States and Mexico have surged 33 percent around San Diego, hitting a record high in 2014. And if Loko is right, there’s no stopping to the trend. Unless the laws change.

According to Jeffrey Miron, the director of economic studies at the Cato Institute, taking on drug cartels and their leaders and getting them out of circulation “will likely have no impact on the drug trade.”

Violence doesn’t cease to exist when the Drug Enforcement Administration catches a kingpin, and yet, most governments in the world embrace prohibitionist policies, making the trade of wanted goods a criminal act. The hype around illegal substances often helps to boost the popularity of destructive substance abuse. Once California loosened its policy toward marijuana production and distribution, many people like Loko made better lives for themselves, distancing their families from the streets’ violent environment.

If policymakers are serious about saving lives and helping people kick drug addiction to the curb, they must begin taking the liberalization of all drug laws seriously, not only those that affect marijuana.

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