A GOP congressman recently acknowledged that the state-level marijuana legalization movement is curbing illicit trafficking of cannabis from other countries as more people have access to legal, regulated markets.
Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) made the remarks on the House floor last week as he was defending funding for a wall along the southern border. He said the country will be “losing money” if work to expand the wall is suspended, which he said would result in “more drugs coming across the southern border.”
But not necessarily cannabis, he caveated.
“Not surprising, as marijuana becomes more legal in the United States, more of the drugs that cross the southern border are fentanyl, are meth, are heroin, resulting in more deaths all around the country—another reason why we should be taking our southern border seriously,” Grothman said.
In Grothman’s home state of Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced this week that he will include provisions to legalize marijuana in his biennial budget proposal.
Watch the congressman talk about marijuana legalization and the border below:
It should be noted that the majority of illicit drugs that are seized at the border come through lawful ports of entry, not carried across unsecured terrain. But in any case, it’s true that demand for cannabis trafficked illegal across the border is declining in the era of legalization.
The Congressional Research Service said in a report last year that the trend will continue, too.
Researchers said that authorities “are projecting a continued decline in U.S. demand for Mexican marijuana because drugs ‘other than marijuana’ will likely predominate.” And that’s “the case due to legalized cannabis or medical cannabis in several U.S. states and Canada, reducing its value as part of Mexican trafficking organizations’ portfolio.”
The head of the labor union that represents U.S. Border Patrol agents also said last year that states that legalize marijuana are disrupting cartel activity.
Federal data on Border Patrol drug seizures seems to substantiate the idea that cannabis legalization at the state level has reduced demand for the product from the illicit market. According to a 2018 report from the Cato Institute, these substantial declines are attributable to state-level cannabis reform efforts, which “has significantly undercut marijuana smuggling.”
Also, a 2020 report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that federal prosecutions for marijuana trafficking declined again in 2019. It showed that, as more states have moved to legalize cannabis, federal marijuana trafficking cases have consistently decreased since 2012.
An end-of-the-year report from Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in 2019 similarly showed that federal marijuana prosecutions are declining as more states legalize.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.