Frequent marijuana smokers tend to be skeptical of the Rand Corporation, for all the reasons heavy drug users are usually wary of multinational think tanks. Based on the way the RAND press shop is framing the corporation's research on Proposition 19, the California ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana in the state, these fears might not seem so unfounded. While the company's press release on the research proclaims legalizing marijuana "will not dramatically reduce Mexican drug trafficking revenues" (a talking point most articles about the study repeated verbatim), FireDogLake's Jon Walker observes the data itself tells a very different story.
With their newest report about marijuana legalization, the Rand Corporation buries the lede from their own study, one which strongly supporters the anti-cartel claims made by marijuana reformers. While not part of the press release, the study, in fact, backs up one of the main arguments of the supporters of marijuana legalization. The study determines legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana could eliminate all the profits the Mexican drug cartels currently make thanks to cannabis prohibition.
Walker cites this passage from the Rand report (PDF) as evidence. (Note: DTO stands for drug-trafficking organization):
We believe that legalizing marijuana in California would effectively eliminate Mexican DTOs’ revenues from supplying Mexican-grown marijuana to the California market. As we elaborate in this chapter, even with taxes, legally produced marijuana would likely cost no more than would illegal marijuana from Mexico and would cost less than half as much per unit of THC (Kilmer, Caulkins, Pacula, et al., 2010). Thus, the needs of the California market would be supplied by the new legal industry. While, in theory, some DTO employees might choose to work in the legal marijuana industry, they would not be able to generate unusual profits, nor be able to draw on talents that are particular to a criminal organization.
In Rand Corp.'s defense, they were totally high at the time.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.