AZ Debate: Would Legalizing Pot Help the Drug Cartels?

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Five states vote Nov. 8 on whether to allow recreational pot, including Arizona and California, the first two border states to consider the idea. If Arizona’s measure passes, pot shops would soon arise in a place that has long been a center of drug smuggling. In cities such as Nogales, smugglers are seen almost daily scaling the border fence with backpacks of weed, reports the Associated Press. “This is a day-in and day-out fight,” said Col. Frank Milstead, head of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. “I can’t tell you that a day goes by that we don’t actually interdict somebody smuggling some sort of drug into the state.”

How drug cartels may respond to legalization has been a focus of debate in Arizona. Law enforcement leaders say the change will strengthen cartels, allowing them to infiltrate the legal pot market and driving them to sell more hard drugs. Advocates of legalization say it will undercut the cartels by eliminating a key segment of their business. Carlos Alfaro, deputy campaign manager for Proposition 205, says legalization in other states has already led to a drop in marijuana seizures by the Border Patrol. Authorities confiscate huge volumes of pot in Arizona. The Border Patrol seized nearly 800,000 pounds in the last fiscal year. Another 120,000 pounds was seized at border crossings within the Tucson sector.

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