The U.S. Border Patrol confiscated a high (no pun intended) of over 3.8 million pounds of marijuana in 2009. Analysts now expect seizures to drop to 0.6 million pounds in fiscal year 2019. This is a reduction of 84 percent. Princeton Policy Advisors show the dramatic drop in illicit drugs nabbed at the U.S. border between FY2009 and projected FY2021 levels.
Are enforcement officers doing a better job? Not really. The collapse in smuggling is related primarily to the legalization of recreational cannabis, which began with Colorado in 2014 and more recently in California. Following legalization in Colorado, not only did the rate of teen cannabis use in the state fall to its lowest level in nearly a decade, domestic supplies have led to lower demand for imported Mexican weed as well.
As the U.S. industry grows, American producers will continue to reduce consumer interest in lower quality, smuggled products. I previously pointed out the importance of decreasing our trade deficit. Legalization keeps American cash in the hands of American small businesses rather than shifting our wealth to criminals in other countries.
Steven Kopits, president, Princeton Policy Advisors, believes the anticipated legalization of cannabis in New Jersey will put “another nail in the smuggling coffin.” The research group anticipates a further two-thirds drop of cannabis smuggling in the field by 2021.
Kopits reminds us that other, more dangerous drugs are still smuggled into the country. Analysts believe most of these products enter through legal crossing points. Restricting the flood of illicit products will require more customs personnel. Troops in the field, such as those recommended by President Trump, are less effective at stemming the flow.
Although some hard drugs are carried by foot away from official crossing points, this is rare. For example, border patrol agents in San Diego recently apprehended three teens after discovering opioids (fentanyl) worth nearly $450,000 strapped to their bodies in three separate smuggling attempts.
Reports of deadly drugs entering the nation are alarming, but fentanyl transit appears to occur in small, albeit potent, amounts. The only illicit substance showing significant increase in trafficking is methamphetamine. The border patrol estimates about 20,000 pounds of hard drugs will be seized in 2018. This is considered to be the equivalent of two backpacks of product per day. This hardly constitutes a national emergency.
As those of us supporting the legalization of both medical and recreational cannabis have argued, the best way to end the War on Drugs is to allow American businesses to provide these products to responsible adult users. Law enforcement efforts do not slow use. They simply clog our courts, fill our jails and prisons, and impede officers from working to reduce more serious violent crimes.
Cannabis Legalization has proven to make sense in America.