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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Drugs, Federalism, and US Territory

A problem of federalism is that when one state's decision to allow an activity may undercut a neighboring state's efforts to prohibit it. The Los Angeles Times reports:
Law enforcement officers in the smaller, often isolated counties in states ringing Colorado say their departments shudder under the weight of Colorado pot flowing illegally across the border.
Drug arrests are rising, straining already strapped budgets in places where marijuana remains illegal.
"It has just devastated these smaller agencies," says Tom Gorman, director of the federally funded Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, a network of law enforcement organizations in four Western states. "The marijuana laws [in Colorado] were supposed to eliminate the black market. But in effect they have become the black market."
A study by his organization last year found that between 2005 and 2012, the amount of seized Colorado pot heading for other states increased 400%. Although it is legal for adults to possess small amounts of marijuana in Colorado, it remains against the law to take it out of the state.
But most agree it's fantasy to think that won't happen.
Puerto Rico's status as US territory is also problematic, as The New York Times reports:
Much of the cocaine being smuggled here now bypasses other surrounding islands and is taken directly from South America to Puerto Rico, a prized transshipment hub because it is on United States land. Once inside, packages that conceal drugs do not need to clear customs. The overwhelming majority of drugs that enter Puerto Rico end up in the United States mainland, passing through airports, seaports or mail parcels, said Vito S. Guarino, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration’s special agent in charge in San Juan and a veteran of the 1980 Caribbean-Miami drug wars.