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January 19, 2014
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Publisher's Notebook: Cartels will still control Colorado marijuana sales

Tough decisions often come with unintended consequences.

Take pot, for example (not literally, mind you).

In the rush to legalize marijuana, Colorado and Washington have created a financial mess, opening the door to all kinds of sinister behavior.

The reason for this mess can be attributed to conflicting views on marijuana. The federal government still considers pot to be a dangerous and illegal drug, no matter what the individual states believe.

In fact, the federal government lists marijuana under the Controlled Substance Act, right along with LSD and Ecstasy.

As we know, state and federal laws are not always in sync. Oregon’s timber industry knows that better than most.

So while you can buy and sell pot from a number of Colorado and Washington pot shops, those pot shop owners are prohibited from opening bank accounts because the federal government controls the banks and they don’t want pot money mixing with so-called “legitimate” money ­— from booze, cigarettes, sex stores or Wall Street crooks.

Never mind the banks have been laundering drug money since well before the Cocaine Cowboys built Miami. They would deliver sacks and sacks of cash to various Miami banks, which is how that city was transformed from a swamp to a place where A-Rod would eventually take steroids from a $30 million bachelor pad.

The logic was sound. Some estimate that Colorado’s new pot laws will cost the Mexican cartels more than a billion dollars per year in lost sales. Colorado’s 35 pot stores did an estimated $1 million per day during the first week.

That’s a pile of cash.

While the cartels have other revenue streams (cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, kidnapping and extortion), marijuana represented at least 20 percent of their business, according to people who keep track of such things.

Al Capone didn’t want Prohibition to end. The last thing the cartels want to see is the legalization of marijuana.

On the flip side, unless those states find a way to allow pot shop owners to deposit their money in a bank — and not walk around with bags and bags of cash — the cartels won’t go away.

An all-cash business is attractive on several fronts. It’s a great way to cook the tax books (how will the states know how much to tax these shops?) and a wonderful way to launder money from cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine sales.

The New York Times detailed a story last week out of Seattle, where a pot shop owner had to fill a bag with $51,000 cash and drive it to the state’s Department of Revenue in the trunk of his BMW in order to pay his taxes.

The cartels are already well established in Washington and Colorado, so it’s not too far-fetched to imagine them owning a few of these pot shops behind the scenes.

You don’t say no when the cartels ask for a “favor.”

“We need you to open a pot shop. We’ll provide the money and the pot.”

“What if we don’t want to?”

“We’ll kill your family and your dog.”

I know, why not just call the cops?

That hasn’t worked out too well along the border in Texas or Arizona. If you want to see a real war, just spend a week with the cops in El Paso. We ought to bring the troops home from Afghanistan and post them on the border.

Then there is the extortion.

“We need 25 percent of all the cash you bring in.”

“What if we say no?”

“We’ll kill your family and your dog and maybe your cat.”

“My cat?”

“Yes. Your cat and if you have any birds, them, too.”

So long as there is demand, there will be a fight among suppliers. Legalizing marijuana doesn’t address demand, or why so many Americans want to get stoned in the first place. It just makes it easier to demand it.

There ought to be enough drug money to set aside some for early education. Our children need to know the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, free from substances available in shops and alleyways and campus restrooms.

Unfortunately, more and more teens say they are smoking pot and that they don’t believe it’s harmful.

According to data from a Monitoring the Future survey, the number of teens smoking marijuana daily rose from 2.4 percent in 1993 to 6.5 percent today. And one of four said they’d smoked pot in the last month.

In an article for the Huffington Post, the director of the National Drug Control Policy expressed his disappointment with the latest data.

“These increases in marijuana use over the past few years are a serious setback in our nation’s efforts to raise a healthy generation of young people,” he said. “Teens deserve to grow up in an environment where they are prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and drug use never factors into that equation.”

Legalization of pot might make economic sense, but it does little to help create the kind of bodies and minds we’ll need to depend on in a world that seems to be getting dopier by the minute.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher of The News-Review. He can be reached at 541-957-4263 or

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The News-Review Updated Jan 19, 2014 09:48AM Published Jan 20, 2014 09:24AM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.