Marijuana Plant

Marijuana Plant via ilmungo on Flickr

In Congressional testimony today, two FBI officials said that “marijuana is the top revenue generator for Mexican DTOs [cartels]“, calling it “a cash crop that finances corruption and the carnage of violence year after year.”

The officials Kevin L. Perkins, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigative Division, FBI and Anthony P. Placido, Assistant Administrator for Intelligence, DEA, testified before the Senate’s Drug Caucus hearing on Mexican drug trafficking today. In their prepared statement, Perkins and Placido write of marijuana:

Mexico is the number one foreign supplier of marijuana abused in the United States. In fact, according to a 2008 inter-agency report, marijuana is the top revenue generator for Mexican DTOs—a cash crop that finances corruption and the carnage of violence year after year. The profits derived from marijuana trafficking—an industry with minimal overhead costs, controlled entirely by the traffickers—are used not only to finance other drug enterprises by Mexico’s poly-drug cartels, but also to pay recurring “business” expenses, purchase weapons, and bribe corrupt officials. Though the GOM has a robust eradication program, many of the military personnel traditionally assigned to eradicate marijuana and opium poppy have recently been diverted to the offensive against the cartels.

The rest of their extensive prepared statement goes into the many fronts on which the United States and Mexico are fighting the violent cartels and other drugs they push. Of course, nowhere does the FBI make the obvious connection that if you want to stop the cartels from financing their operations with marijuana, you can make marijuana legal and cut out their legs from under the cartels. In her opening statement, Senator Diane Feinstein cites the gruesome statistics of the toll of the border drug war, but doesn’t even mention marijuana. And when asked whether the US was considering marijuana legalization as an option to fight the cartels, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton simply says, “no.”

One step forward: California voters will get a chance in November to decide if the state should legalize marijuana. Two steps backward: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently told authorities in Mexico that the United States was looking at anything that worked to fight the drug cartels killing Mexicans daily — but responded “no” when asked if anything included legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana.

So who is talking about legalizing marijuana to fight the cartels? That would be students in El Paso, across from the cartel hotspot Ciudad Juarez, as well as students across the country active with Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Today is the National Day of Action for Students for Sensible Drug Policy, whose chapters are memorializing the 7200 killed in the Drug War since 2008 by planting Mexican flags on campuses across the country. Vanessa Romero, a leader of the UT-El Paso chapter wrote on the Seminal on Sunday about her experience with the Drug War:

The last time I visited Juarez was three years ago. Drug violence had not yet hit mainstream news, or mainstream numbers. But peril was very much evident. In El Paso, with the absence of television and newspapers, one would not know of the atrocity that is taking place. The city of El Paso is relatively safe. The images of heavily armed military with black masks on their faces, or caravans of secarios-hit men, or hired gangs to kill, are unseen on this side of the border. Figures of people who were killed the day before are reoccurring images on the headlines of newspapers. It is so frequent that there is even a question of whether people in El Paso and Juarez have become desensitized to the violence; after all, another dead body found in Juarez is, well, another dead body in Juarez. Sometimes the deaths are justified by saying that those who were slain were involved, or “it comes with the territory.” It is easy to write them off as such, anything for people to keep looking forward and maintaining a sense of security.

But there are painful reminders that this is not entirely so, in fact far from it. When tabling for Students for Sensible Drug Policy on campus we have unique opportunities to get the perspectives of students who cross over from Juarez everyday to come to school. And we empathize with their stories, ones that you won’t hear on television, and ones that will never be reported. You feel the pain of their expressions when they talk about what their home once was, what it is now, and the confusion of not knowing what it will be. We are naïve to believe that a border can provide protection. Physical separations manifested in concrete and wires have not kept violence en el otro lado-on the other side. Just last year a man was taken from his home in Horizon City, right outside of El Paso, in broad daylight, in front of a school bus full of children. Frequent human rights violations committed by the military, young girls being kidnapped, raped, and dumped back at their homes at the whims of people drunk on power occur, but justice will never be served. It’s war. We are fighting terrorism half way across the world, when one of the largest human rights conflicts is occurring right next door.

You can stand with the students calling for legalization by signing their petition at EndDrugProhibition.com. You’ll be several steps ahead of the FBI, Secretary of State, and the Senate in finding a solution for violence from the Mexican cartels.