Sunday, November 07, 2010

Well That Was A Load

It seems the Mexican government has found and destroyed 121 1/2 tons of marijuana.

If you engage in a bit of the wacky tobacco, you probably have a pretty good idea of what a gram of marijuana looks like -- maybe even an ounce. But even the most expanded mind would have trouble conceptualizing the sheer mass of 121.5 tons of marijuana. Mexican authorities are calling this haul "the largest seizure in the country's history of marijuana prepared and packed for sale and distribution."

Read on to see more photos of the psychoactive largess ... and how they got rid of it.
The site has lots of pictures. But that is not what interests me. I like running the numbers. So let us run some. Assume this was low grade Mexican and that the average consumer will consume an ounce of this stuff a month.

121.5 toms = 243,000 pounds
243,000 pounds = 3,888,000 ounces

If we assume it represents 10% of the flows (the usual DEA number for the amount captured) and that what was caught is part of a months supply that would mean that there are about 39 million pot consumers in America. Roughly 10% of the American population. I have run other DEA numbers in other years and in those years I came up with 45 million regular pot users in America. So this is in the ball park. And that does not even count the high quality stuff grown in America. Consumption rates for that are about a 1/4 of the rate of the Mexican stuff (to account for the higher quality). And the DEA says that the imported stuff only accounts for 1/2 of total usage by weight. Which means that there could be on the order of 200 million regular pot users in America. Probably way on the high side. So what do we know for sure? The DEA estimate of 15 million regular pot users in America (5% of the population) is way low. My own feeling from looking at such numbers over the years is that about 1/4 of the American population are regular pot users.

So could some one please explain to me the wisdom of making war on anywhere from 5% (minimum) to 25% (the most likely number) of the American population? Couldn't we be doing something better with the 60% of the drug war money being used to go after pot smokers and their suppliers? And just to give you some idea - Drug War costs are estimated in the range of $50 to $100 billion a year (State, Federal, local - and depending on how you allocate the costs).

Let me also ask why are the numbers so crazy out of line on either end? It is because no one really knows what is going on to even an order of magnitude because the activity is underground. Even so we do know that the entire American population could be supplied with pot for a year with about 120,000 tons of Mexican grade pot. When you compare that with the millions of tons of potatoes produced or wheat or or carrots or beef or the billions of tons of building supplies the actual flows by weight are insignificant.

Another way to look at the numbers: American police arrest about 800,000 pot users and dealers every year. Let us assume the number of uniques is 500,000 (accounting for the fact that some users/dealers get arrested more than once a year). If that is about 1% of the user community it says that there are about 50 million pot users in America. Again that is consistent with other numbers I have run. And again I will remind you that these are just guesses. But they again point to the fact that the DEA estimates for regular pot users in America is way low.

And might I add for those of you out there who are Constitutionalists - where is the Drug Prohibition Amendment?

So is making war on 25% of the American population a wise policy? If you are part of the criminal justice system (police, prisons, lawyers, probation officers, judges, etc.) it is easy money. And most Americans (for now) are willing to cough up that dough with nary a complaint. It is really nice when the marks hand over their money without complaint. There is no better con going. So far.

Some Drug War books and videos:

Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed: A Judicial Indictment Of War On Drugs

Drug War Zone: Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of El Paso and Juárez

American Drug War: The Last White Hope

Cross Posted at Classical Values

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