State Marijuana Legalization Initiatives: Implications for Federal Law Enforcement

State Marijuana Legalization Initiatives: Implications for Federal Law Enforcement. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Lisa N. Sacco and Kristin Finklea. September 9, 2013.

A number of criminal networks rely heavily on profits generated from the sale of illegal drugs, including marijuana, in the United States. As such, scholars and policymakers have questioned whether or how any changes in state or federal marijuana policy in the U.S. might impact organized crime proceeds and levels of drug trafficking-related violence, particularly in Mexico. In short, there are no definitive answers to these questions; without clear understanding of (1) actual proceeds generated by the sale of illicit drugs in the U.S., (2) the proportion of total proceeds attributable to the sale of marijuana, and (3) the proportion of marijuana sales controlled by criminal organizations and affiliated gangs, any estimates of how marijuana legalization might impact the drug trafficking organizations are purely speculative. Given the differences between federal marijuana policies and those of states including Colorado and Washington, Congress may choose to address state legalization initiatives in a number of ways, or choose to take no action. Among the host of options, policymakers may choose to amend or affirm federal marijuana policy, exercise oversight over federal law enforcement activities, or incentivize state policies through the provision or denial of certain funds.

[PDF format, 26 pages, 409.99 KB].


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