Tax it, certify it with a stamp from U.S. customs, and let the marijuana traders go on their way, as legal border crossers and business people.
That may seem a pipe dream, especially knowing that the Border Patrol is spending billions of dollars for border security operations to secure the homeland against marijuana. However, in its formative years, back in the late 1930s, that is exactly how the Border Patrol treated weed from Mexico.
Today, however, marijuana is the moral and legal equivalent of transnational organized crime. Moreover, marijuana is regarded as a security threat to the homeland. Over the past five years, as the flow of illegal immigrants has diminished to historic lows, the Border Patrol is mostly on the lookout for marijuana.
The Border Patrol’s border security buildup, including more agents, drones, and fences, has resulted in record quantities of seized marijuana and tens of thousands of Mexicans, Central Americans, and U.S. citizens arrested for violation of federal drug control statutes. Marijuana is a “Schedule 1” controlled substance, the same as heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamines.
In press releases and congressional statements, the Border Patrol routinely points to record-breaking quantities of weed seized and presumably destroyed. Last year the Border Patrol boasted that its commitment to border security on the southwestern border yielded 2.53 million pounds of marijuana.
These seizures, declares, the Border Patrol are a direct strike against what it formerly called the drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) in Mexico, which in the past couple of years have been relabeled as transnational criminal organizations (TCOs).
Marijuana seizures, along with the apprehensions of those illegally crossing the weed across the border (usually in bundles tied to their back), are successes in the border campaign to “disrupt and dismantle” the TCOs.
In other agency releases, the Border Patrol prefers different alliterations. The agency’s Arizona-based Alliance to Combat Transnational Threats (ACTT) aims to “deny, degrade, disrupt, and ultimately dismantle criminal organizations and their ability to operate; engage communities to reduce their tolerance of illegal activity.” Alternatively, the Border Patrol sometimes deploys other “d” words, saying its drug war operations aim to “detect and deter” TCO activities.
The Border Patrol doesn’t say how many members of the TCO leadership have fallen to the agency. But it does regularly issue press releases lauding drug war seizures and arrests.
What’s so striking about these figures is that these drug war victories only rarely involve illegal drugs other than marijuana.
Measured by the weight, the Border Patrol in 2011 seized 2,529,211 pounds of heroin, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines, and ecstasy along the southwestern border.
The marijuana seizures weighed 2,518,211 pounds of marijuana – comprising 99.3% of the total. Measured by the seizures of these illegal drugs, marijuana constituted 93.5% of the total number of the Border Patrol seizures of these drugs between the ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico boundary.
Since the early 1990s the U.S. government has been stepping up its efforts to control drug flows across its borders. Until 1914 – when the U.S. Congress passed the Harrison Act, the first in a mounting number of federal anti-drug laws – there was little effort to control narcotics (such as heroin and opium), stimulants (such as cocaine), or psychoactive plants (such a marijuana). In the 1890s, you could even order a syringe and a small stash of cocaine through the Sears & Roebuck catalog – for $1.50 plus handling.
As addiction rates increased, calls for a crackdown against heroin, cocaine, and opium mounted after the turn of the century.
However, as the support for drug prohibition expanded, marijuana was largely ignored. Cannabis could be grown almost anywhere, but most of the weed crossed into the United States from Mexico.
Marijuana or marihuana is a portmanteau word, joining the Spanish names María and Juana. Thus, the English nicknames Mary Jane and Mary Warner.
(to be continued)