Donald Trump said during the presidential debate on Sunday that the United States is”letting drugs pour through our southern border at a record clip. At a record clip. And it shouldn’t be allowed to happen.” Considering Trump has consistently been wrong about illegal immigration increasing, one has to wonder if he’s right about drugs crossing the border increasing.
The answer? He’s wrong, again.
“Drug seizures at the southwest border are the best barometer for measuring the amount of drugs flowing into the country from Mexico and points south,” the Washington Post wrote yesterday. “Data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection shows that the total amount of drugs seized at the Southwest border (along California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas) has dropped precipitously over the past five years, from roughly 2.5 million pounds of drugs in 2011 to about 1.5 million pounds in 2015.”
Why might drug seizures at the border be decreasing? You guessed it: Legal marijuana. The Post explains that marijuana is bulkier than most drugs and more commonly used than most drugs, so it’s historically made up a large portion of the weight of drugs being seized at the border. Since states have started legalizing marijuana, there’s been less demand for it on the black market, so there’s less of it flowing into the United States illegally.
That said, the data also shows other drugs are simply being imported less for other reasons, as cocaine seizures have also decreased.
With the most populated border state, California, voting on marijuana legalization in November, we may see an even larger decrease in drugs crossing the border if it’s approved. Legalizing marijuana often causes use of other drugs like pain killers to decrease, so there’s a larger effect than just seeing less illegal marijuana sales.
If legalizing marijuana has caused much less of it to be caught at the border, one has to imagine that legalizing other drugs would have a similar effect, but it might be some time before that happens. In the mean time, it appears marijuana legalization is doing more for reducing drug trafficking than any wall could.
[Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr]