I was on MSNBC talking about the schism among Democrats regarding Arizona’s new immigration law and the Justice Department’s response. Obama is worried about his plummeting poll numbers among Hispanics (down 12 points this year), while Arizona Congressional Democrats are worried about being voted out of office.  But nobody is talking about pot.

When asked about it by Dylan Ratigan, I said that everyone discussing the “immigration problem” was ignoring the elephant in the middle of the room: marijuana prohibition. It’s channeling millions in drug money into the Mexican cartels, and  represents 60% of all cartel profits. That money gets used to finance violence not only at the border but in over 200 cities across the United States where they currently have a presence — up from 100 cities three years earlier.

While the Ariziona situation is being called “immigration problem,” it’s more accurately a drug war problem. The shooting that triggered the Arizona law was related to marijuana smuggling, not migrant workers. But rather than using it as an excuse to further erode civil liberties (as the Arizona law does), or ramp up militarization of the border with billions in taxpayer dollars that only serves to escalate the problem, the quite obvious solution seems to be to de-fund the cartels by legalizing marijuana.

As Markos said, “SB 1070 does nothing to deal with the violent drug smuggling at the border.”

The money that now goes to the cartels, with which they buy weapons and fund criminal enterprises of all sorts, could instead be paying teacher salaries and going into the coffers of states that badly need the revenue to meet their budgets. Legalization could generate $1.4 billion in revenues in California alone if it’s taxed at the same rate as alcohol. And that money would come straight out of the pockets of the cartels.

De-funding the cartels seems like a no-brainer. So why isn’t anyone talking about it? I frankly don’t know, but others are asking why the subject of legalization isn’t being discussed more frequently, period. Scott Morgan, of StoptheDrugWar.org:

Hey, watch this unbelievable video of firedoglake’s Jane Hamsher hurling marijuana legalization like a hand grenade into the middle of the immigration debate……and everyone just nods in stunned agreement. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I sure haven’t seen much coverage of marijuana policy on MSNBC recently, if ever. Is it necessary to tell them you’ll be discussing immigration in order to get some airtime for legalization on the most left-leaning cable news network?

I was shocked, too, when both Ratigan and conservative talk radio host Martha Zoeller agreed with me. Although Zoeller said that as a conservative she was going to have to think about the implications of full legalization before rendering an opinion, she didn’t rule it out. I frankly didn’t know what I was going to say if they came back to me.

We’ll soon be launching our marijuana legalization campaign. What started as a small “name our contest” campaign has turned into something much more far-reaching, and I think everyone is going to be really excited about what is coming together. Ending prohibition has far-reaching implications in many arenas, in addition to immigration. Hopefully everyone will be discussing them a lot more frequently on cable TV and beyond in the very near future.