President Donald Trump legalized hemp with the 2018 Farm Bill, giving many marijuana legislation supporters hope that the tides are turning in terms of federal prohibition. Recently, the debate over wall construction on the southern border has resulted in an unexpected side debate: whether border control can be better achieved through legalization of marijuana.
The Cato Institute, a think tank based in Washington, DC, has released several reports and collections of data related to marijuana legalization and the climate in today’s society regarding such a move. A recent report released by the group suggests that, contrary to President Trump’s assertion that the wall is the only option, marijuana legalization may, in fact, be a significant help in border control for the US-Mexico border.
The report studies the move to legalize marijuana in Colorado in 2014, noting that this change in policy resulted in a 78% drop in marijuana seizures near the southern border between 2014 and 2018. Meanwhile, doubling the number of border patrol agents and constructing over 600 miles of fence on the border between 2003 and 2009 had absolutely no effect on the amount of marijuana seizures at that time.
The Cato Institute maintains the legalization moves within the U.S. are hitting the finances of the black market, causing the correlating drop in smuggling seizures over the border. In order to keep costing smugglers money and reducing the efficacy of smuggling marijuana into the U.S., the prevailing trend of legalization must continue — even to the extent of federal legalization.
Another important factor mentioned in the report is that, with the decrease in marijuana smuggling and related financial success for the black market, the streets do not seem to be flooded with greater amounts of other drugs. This means the move to legalize marijuana is not indirectly contributing to the struggle against other illegal narcotics. In fact, the amount of drug seizures at the southern border was on a decline for all drugs during the same 2014-2018 window.
This provides hope that the legalized marijuana market is not only providing much-needed revenue to the states where the step has been taken, but it is also helping cut down on illegal drug trade and correlating overdose deaths. With these incentives coupled with the border issue decline, the step towards federal legalization may make more sense than even the staunchest supporters have noted thus far.