Advocates of marijuana legalization have mostly gotten their way over the last two decades. One by one, states have succumbed to the medical marijuana movement. They are now starting to fall, like dominoes, to recreational marijuana. And yet, marijuana crimes persist even in states where cannabis is okay.
So what’s the deal? Why is it that state-legal marijuana has had very little effect on this particular problem? The answer is found in a single word: money. You have heard the phrase, ‘follow the money’. It applies to a majority of crimes perpetrated around the globe.
A $500K Bust in Utah
We could pick just about any state in the union to discuss ongoing marijuana crimes. Let’s go to Utah, where only medical cannabis is allowed. According to the medical providers behind the Utahmarijuana.org website, all cannabis consumed in the state must be purchased from a state-licensed pharmacy.
In addition, neither state residents nor visitors are allowed to cross into Utah with marijuana in their possession. Simply put, you cannot carry it across state lines. So imagine the surprise when a Utah state trooper pulled over a speeding driver and subsequently discovered $500K worth of marijuana in a duffel bag in the back seat.
Actually, the trooper wasn’t surprised at all. During the initial interview process for the speeding charge, the driver’s story didn’t add up. So the trooper called for a K9 unit that alerted to the presence of marijuana. Troopers then had probable cause to search the vehicle, thereby finding the driver’s illegal cargo.
All told, the driver was in possession of more than 280 pounds of marijuana. No one was convinced he was either a state resident or a legitimate medical cannabis user. In all likelihood, he was transporting the marijuana to street level dealers.
Money to Be Made
What would possess a driver to speed through the state of Utah while carrying so much marijuana? Money is the first answer. Half-a-million dollars in marijuana represents a lot of profit to every person in the supply chain. But there is something else to it. That something else is enforcement.
The driver will now face consequences after being caught. But what were his chances of being pulled over? Had he refrained from being too heavy on the gas pedal, probably pretty slim. He probably would have gotten away with his crime had he just minded his speed.
That speaks to the reality of marijuana crimes. They continue because there is money to be made. Not only that, but the amount of money waiting to be made far outweighs any potential losses that may be experienced in the invent someone is caught. Enforcement efforts and penalties are not significant enough to make a difference.
Sold More Cheaply on the Street
It is not clear from news reports whether the marijuana discovered by state troopers in their recent bust was intended for out-of-state delivery. It could just as easily have been delivered to distributors in Utah for sale on the street. There is nothing inherent to Utah’s medical cannabis program that would prevent or dissuade patients determined to purchase on the black market from doing so.
Black market marijuana is cheaper. That is just the reality. And because it is cheaper, people are willing to take a risk and buy it from street level dealers. That’s not going to change. So despite legalization efforts in more than two-thirds of the states, marijuana crimes persist. They will continue to persist for the foreseeable future. No one should be surprised by it. Those who are do not understand human nature.