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Monday, May 5, 2014

Kansas Officials See Dramatic Rise Marijuana Seizures

The head of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that the end of marijuana prohibition in certain states has led to a rise in illegal shipments to the surrounding areas. In fact, Kansas officials have seen a dramatic rise, 61 percent, in marijuana seizures since Colorado legalized the drug, according to the Washington Post.

The rise of seizures in the surrounding states may have to do with the fact that Colorado sits on the edge of the Midwest, where people’s views on marijuana tend to be more conservative than liberal. However, despite the state of Washington being on the western edge of the “green triangle,” DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart believes that recreational marijuana sales in Washington will spark a fire similar to the one Colorado has started.

“The trends are what us in law enforcement had expected would happen,” Leonhart told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “In 2012, 438,000 Americans were addicted to heroin. And 10 times that number were dependent on marijuana.” Leonhart makes some valid points when she cites certain statistics, such as marijuana-related emergency room visits rising 28 percent between 2007 and 2011 and that since 2009 more high school seniors have been smoking marijuana than cigarettes.

However, Leonhart may be premature in condemning recreational marijuana while still in its infancy, after 77 years of prohibition it should be expected that it will take some time for states choosing to legalize marijuana to work out the kinks. Arguing that legal marijuana in one state leads to the drug flowing downstream into a state that deems the substance illegal is no different than people driving form a “dry” (alcohol-free) county to the next in order to acquire alcohol. No one can argue that alcohol is any safer than marijuana.

It is hard for a number of officials to adapt to the changing views about a drug that makes up for more than half of all the drug arrests every year. Around 86 people per hour are arrested for marijuana in the United States, according to NORML. DEA officials have been fighting the "war on drugs" for so long it is practically coded into their DNA. It comes as no surprise that DEA officials have said privately that they are frustrated with Colorado and Washington’s legalization laws.

James Capra, the DEA’s Chief of Operations, at a hearing told senators that state legalization laws are “reckless and irresponsible.” “It scares us,” he said. “Every part of the world where this has been tried, it has failed time and time again.”

Marijuana may not be good for you; it may even be addictive and lead to negative consequences. Nevertheless, the cost of imprisoning marijuana offenders is too great, the DEA may be right that attempts at legalization have failed “time and time again," but the "war on drugs" has failed equally and at a greater cost.

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