Nothing is more amusing (and sad) than when I see some ignorant out of stater commenting about how nightmarish the legalization of marijuana has been for Colorado. The most high-profile and hilarious example of this came from disgraced New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who I have criticized sharply on several occasions, here, here and here. He foolishly spouted some hysterical nonsense last month when he said:
“See if you want to live in a major city in Colorado, where there’s head shops popping up on every corner and people flying into your airport just to come and get high. To me, it’s just not the quality of life we want to have here in the state of New Jersey and there’s no tax revenue that’s worth that.”
Honestly, what planet does this clown live on? As someone who actually lives in Colorado, I can tell you that the only thing that has changed since legalization is that there is a greater sense of freedom and people are no longer getting arrested in droves for non-violent drug possession charges. Let’s not forget that the police arrest someone every two seconds in America, many of which are for mere drug possession charges. Apparently, Christie thinks this is a good thing and ultimately results in this mythical wonderful “quality of life” that apparently exists in some corner of New Jersey where rainbow farting unicorns roam the countryside.
As someone who spent nearly three decades in the New York metro area, and who has lived in Colorado now for over three years, I can tell you there’s no comparison. I’ve met many, many people who have intentionally left New Jersey for Colorado, yet I’ve never met a single person who has intentionally left Colorado for New Jersey. Perhaps that person exists and is currently flying back east on his unicorn and is therefore unavailable for comment.
Anyway, while we are on the topic, the Huffington Post posted a great article comparing the two states. They note:
Business climate: It turns out Colorado is a great place for business, ranking seventh out of the 50 states in a 2013 study from CNBC that took into consideration metrics like economy, infrastructure and the cost of doing business. New Jersey came in 42nd.
Forbes agrees, listing Colorado as the fifth best state for “business and careers.” New Jersey comes in 32nd on the Forbes list.
Economic growth and job creation: FreeEnterprise.com gathered data on just how well the 50 states do at creating jobs and fostering economic growth. They ranked Colorado second in the nation for innovation and entrepreneurship (New Jersey was 14th), 14th in economic performance (New Jersey came in at 33rd), and eighth for business climate (New Jersey was 49th).
The state of the states: Politico recently gathered various data points from the Census Bureau, the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and incorporated them with a slew of other factors, including income, high school graduation rates, life expectancy and more. In their subsequent ranking of the 50 states, Colorado came in seventh overall, while New Jersey came in 12th.
General well-being: The health care company Healthways partnered up with Gallup in 2013 to evaluate well-being across the United States. Looking at residents’ habits and behavior, emotional and physical health, work environments and more, they determined that Colorado ranks seventh in overall well-being. New Jersey comes in 23rd.
Furthermore, the city I currently live in was recently ranked the most fit city in all of America, and 3 of the top 10 cities were in Colorado. New Jersey had no cities in the top ten. Although to be fair, Christie probably skews the data quite a bit. See the rankings here.
Technology and science: The Milken Institute, a California think tank, recently took a close look at how states foster growth in technology and science, two areas that will likely prove key to the United States’ economic recovery. Colorado was ranked fourth in the nation. New Jersey was ranked 15th.
Chris Christie is clearly an ill informed blowhard and let’s not forget this guy wants to become President. How scary is that?
Moving along to the meat of this piece, Vice recently published a great article explaining how the legalization of pot is causing Mexican drug cartels to reduce plantings of marijuana and it also describes the frighteningly irrational response from the DEA. It reports that:
Marijuana has accounted for nearly half of all total drug arrests in the US for the past 20 years, according to the FBI’s crime statistics. And according to the Department of Justice (DOJ), a large portion of the US illegal drug market is controlled directly by Mexican cartels. The DOJ’s National Drug Intelligence Center, which has since been shut down, found in 2011 that the top cartels controlled the majority of drug trade in marijuana, heroin, and methamphetamine in over 1,000 US cities.
Now, those cartels and their farmers complain that marijuana legalization is hurting their business. And some reports could suggest that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is more interested in helping to protect the Mexican cartels’ hold on the pot trade than in letting it dissipate. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that pot farmers in the Sinaloa region have stopped planting due to a massive drop in wholesale prices, from $100 per kilo down to only $25. One farmer is quoted as saying: “It’s not worth it anymore. I wish the Americans would stop with this legalization.”
“Is it hurting the cartels? Yes. The cartels are criminal organizations that were making as much as 35-40 percent of their income from marijuana,” Nelson said, “They aren’t able to move as much cannabis inside the US now.”
In 2012, a study by the Mexican Competitiveness Institute found that US state legalization would cut into cartel business and take over about 30 percent of their market.
Given the DEA’s historic relationship with the Sinaloa cartel, and the agency’s fury over legalized marijuana, it almost seems like the DEA wants to crush the legal weed market in order to protect the interests of their cartel friends. Almost.
Not almost, that is exactly what they want to do.
“The DEA doesn’t want the drug war to end,” said Nelson, when asked about a possible connection between the agency’s hatred of legal pot and its buddies in Sinaloa. “If it ends, they don’t get their toys and their budgets. Once it ends, they aren’t going to have the kind of influence in foreign government. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but where there’s smoke there’s probably fire.”
The Sinaloa cartel came to prominence in January when the “Fast and Furious” scandal surfaced, in which it was revealed that DEA agents ignored Sinaloa drug shipments and essentially granted immunity to cartel criminals in exchange for information.
Another way the DEA tries to shut down legal marijuana dispensaries, and medical marijuana clinics, is through the banks. While large banks like HSBC and Wachovia have gotten away with laundering billions in cartel drug money, famously referred to as “too big to jail” by Attorney General Eric Holder, banks have been meticulously instructed by the DEA not to work with any kind of marijuana facility.
That’s pennies compared to what the US spends on the drug war. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, we spend $51 billion per year fighting illegal drugs. A 2010 study by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron found that not only would the US save tremendous amounts of money were it to end drug prohibition, legalizing could bring in an additional $46.7 billion in yearly tax revenue.
“We’ve spent 1.3 trillion since 1972 on the drug war. What have we gotten for that? Drugs are cheaper and easier to get than ever before,” Nelson told VICE News.
For more evidence of the insane mindset permeating the DEA, check out this article that shows how the agency seized hemp seed from Kentucky as state universities attempted to participate in legal studies.
The DEA has no idea what to do with itself now that the population of innocent citizens it can harass for exercising a personal choice and the amount of bribe money it can extract from drug cartels dissipates. Bottom line is that people want drugs, and as long as that’s the case, no petty authoritarian wearing a badge and a costume on some misguided moral crusade will change that.