To the rest of us, however, these acts are nothing short of a senseless tragedy -- a tragedy made all that much more heart-wrenching because it is U.S. policy that is helping to fuel this violence.
The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy says that more than 60 percent of the profits reaped by Mexican drug lords are derived from the exportation and sale of cannabis to the American market. (By comparison, only about 28 percent of their profits are derived from the distribution of cocaine, and less than 1 percent comes from trafficking methamphetamine.) Government officials estimate that approximately half the marijuana consumed in the United States originates from outside its borders, and they have identified Mexico as far and away America's largest pot provider.
In short, if the Obama administration wishes to once and for all reduce this unprecedented wave of Mexican drug-gang violence, then it needs to remove the drug lord's primary source of income -- and that's marijuana trafficking.
Despite 70+ years of criminal prohibition in the United States (and countless billions of dollars spent attempting to interdict marijuana at our southern border), America remains the primary destination for Mexican pot. Why? Because like it or not, Americans consume cannabis; in fact, Americans lead the world in their consumption of pot.
According to a 2007 economic assessment, U.S. citizens spend $113 billion dollars annually to consume an estimated 31.1 million pounds of pot. According to the federal government, over 100 million Americans have used marijuana; over one in ten Americans do so regularly. In short, criminal marijuana prohibition does not, and will not, reduce demand. So then it's time to regulate the supply.
It is time to remove the production and distribution of marijuana out of the hands of violent criminal enterprises and into the hands of licensed businesses, and the only way to do that is through legalization.
Or, I suppose, we could just keep on doing what we've been doing, and expecting different results. But then again that would be insane now, wouldn’t it?
Paul Armentano is the Deputy Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), and he is the co-author of the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? (Chelsea Green, 2009).