“In New York City,” NYC’s police commissioner, William Bratton said during a radio interview, “most of the violence we see around drug trafficking is involving marijuana.”
That isn’t particularly surprising, wrote Bonnie Kristian at Rare.us. Just like alcohol prohibition caused violent crime to increase by criminalizing a high-demand industry, so the drug war does the same—and marijuana is particularly popular. More than four in 10 Americans say they’ve tried pot at some point in their lives.
Bratton is right: the drug trade is a huge contributor to our violent crime rates. The reason is obvious: when you have a business as lucrative as the drug trade--by one estimate, heroin consumption in Baltimore alone generates some $950,000 in spending every single day--dealers will enter the industry and use violence to defend their sales.
All this adds up to a strong argument for ending the drug war—not because we want people doing heroin or think it’s totally fine to smoke pot all day, but because these negative consequences far outweigh any benefits of prohibition. If the drug trade isn’t illegal, it will become much less profitable and much less dangerous.
Unfortunately, that’s not where Bratton was going with his argument. After mentioning the effect of marijuana trafficking on violence in New York, he added, “I have to scratch my head as we are seeing many states wanting to legalize marijuana.”
The real head-scratcher is why Bratton doesn’t understand that legalizing pot would significantly decrease the violence he’s observing. “There may be costs to legalizing marijuana. Some people think that they outweigh the benefits,” Conor Friedersdorf notes at The Atlantic. “But there’s no question that legalizing marijuana would shift sale of the drug from criminals who sometimes engage in violence to businesses that almost never would.”
In fact, as Friedersdorf adds, “Legalization is the only effective way to eradicate such violence.”
It’s hard to believe—and frustrating, to boot—that the police chief of America’s largest city doesn’t understand that drug violence is an argument for ending prohibition, not against it.
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