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Monday, September 21, 2009

How the Legal Status of Cannabis Fosters and Environment For Organized Crime to Profit

In the 1920s, the Volstead act made alcohol effectively illegal in the United States, and the result was utter chaos. It is hard to say whether or not anyone saw the ensuing storm of lawlessness coming, or whether it would have even been possible to predict it, but when the storm hit, the United States government was woefully unequipped to handle the issue. The result of the prohibition on alcohol was that it became America’s hottest black market commodity. The financial incentives to break the law by bootlegging booze were too much to resist for many people, particularly after the onset of the great depression.

Fortunately, the United States government was roused from its fairy tale fantasy and reversed the Volstead act with the 21st amendment, thus once again making alcohol legal, like it had always been. Unfortunately, the 21st amendment did not reverse the lasting legacy of the prohibition; organized crime. The high profitability of bootlegged alcohol allowed for the establishment of large and powerful organized crime networks. Once alcohol was made legal again, those networks of organized crime were forced to branch out into new enterprises, mainly other drugs.

This brings us to cannabis, which found itself on the wrong side of the legal fence with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Of course at this time, cannabis wasn’t very popular amongst the majority ethnic group in America; white people. However, that all changed in the 1960s, and today white folks consume more cannabis than those of Latin American or Africa-American descent. In fact, two thirds of all white Americans consume or have consumed cannabis, while only one fourth of Latin Americans and Black-Americans consume or have consumed cannabis. What is even more interesting is the fact that despite the relatively low numbers of users in both ethnic minorities, those two minorities represent the vast majority of citizens incarcerated for cannabis possession and distribution.

The funny thing about cannabis, is that it is regarded as relatively cheap drug, so how could it be so profitable for organized crime? There are plenty of other drugs out there that have much higher street value, such as cocaine, and are much more addictive, thus keeping users coming back for more day in and day out. With all these other drugs available to sell, why sell cannabis?

To begin with, cannabis isn’t only cheep to buy, it is cheep, and easy to produce. Think about it, cannabis is a plant. Have soil? Got sun? Great, plant a seed, water and wait. It’s that easy, and three to five months later you have a large quantity of consumable cannabis buds that will return an incredible profit for your investment. There are no chemical processes that need to be applied to extract the drug; the buds you pick from your plants are as ready to smoke, as picked cherries are ready to eat. Since its illegal, you can also expect to be able to command a great enough fee to cover your risks as well.

How large will the return be? Well that depends, however the average cannabis plant grown outdoors will produce up to one pound of cannabis buds at harvest. Cannabis sold on the streets is literally worth it’s weight in gold, with an average price of $200-$350 dollars an ounce. Just planting a few plants and selling the harvest can amass a profit well into the tens of thousands.

The question is, why is it worth so much? Its not because it’s a drug, coffee is a drug, and it certainly doesn’t cost hundreds of dollars an ounce. Tobacco is also a drug, and despite the government’s best efforts to increase its price via taxation, it also isn’t worth hundreds of dollars an ounce. Both products are in high demand, and all three drugs have ample supply, so why is cannabis worth so much more? Well, its pretty obvious isn’t it? Cannabis’s value is artificially inflated by its legal status. Since it is illegal, a buyer pays a premium for the risk involved in its distribution.

There is one other factor involved in cannabis’s massive black market value, its popularity. There are a couple of factors that drive it’s popularity for sale and consumption. What makes it so popular for consumption is the fact that it is safe, far safer than other street drugs, and far safer than drugs like alcohol, tobacco and even caffeine. Why? Because it isn’t possible to overdose on it’s main psychoactive ingredient, delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.

What makes it so popular for sale, is who happens consumes it. The majority of consumers are members of the wealthiest and most powerful ethnic demographic in the United States, white people. Thus the market is rather large, and the consumers have the money to spend on the commodity.

Not only that, cannabis isn’t particularly addictive, and it does not have unpleasant withdrawal symptoms usually associated with opiates and psycho-stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines. In fact it is significantly less addictive than tobacco, which is regarded by some to be even more addictive than heroin. Cannabis is probably even less addictive than caffeine, not to mention that the withdrawal symptoms, if any, are also less severe than caffeine as well. What this means, is that not only do users have the money to spend on the drug, they also are a lot less likely to rob or maybe even kill their dealer or someone else to get the drug, making it a relatively safe and profitable drug to sell.

It is easy to see why cannabis is such an enticing criminal enterprise; it’s easy to produce, cheap to produce, and commands massive profits. No wonder so many Mexican drug cartels are growing mega crops of cannabis and smuggling it across the border. Likewise, is it any wonder that so many Americans are willing to go to Canada and take advantage of the virtual decriminalization of cannabis there, so that they can smuggle large quantities of high grade cannabis across the border and cash in its massive profits?

Profiteering by organized criminal enterprises aside, the worst part about cannabis being illegal is that it is impossible to prevent it from falling into the hands of minors. The reason for this is that there is no way to control who it is sold to. Unlike in a store where a clerk has no financial incentive to sell to an underage buyer, a dealer who needs to sell their stash quickly to pay off any debts and avoid getting caught, will sell a bag to anyone who has the money in hand, and aren’t likely to card the buyer to verify their age.

To sum up, if alcohol was easy enough to produce during the prohibition, despite its complicated, time consuming, and costly production process, and that prohibition failed, how can our government possibly expect to control the production of a plant? Anyone can grow a plant, and the cannabis plant grows itself, it is after all, a weed. It grows naturally in all but the most extreme environments on the planet. We might as well be trying to stop people from growing tomatoes or roses. In fact, we might as well be trying to get the planet to not produce vegetation.


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