Working in cooperation with county narcotics enforcement teams, the Ann Arbor Police Department successfully orchestrated a major drug raid last week, arresting 22 University students and a University alum who allegedly operated a massive marijuana distribution ring. Searching 15 buildings on and off-campus, including Bursley Hall and the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity, police exposed a massive black-market operation and confiscated cash and assets valued in excess of $100,000, around $100,000 in actual marijuana and five firearms. While police and law enforcement officials may hail this bust as a resounding public safety victory, the fact remains that marijuana — a weed, no pun intended — only exists as a danger because harsh, restrictive drug laws make it a lucrative and dangerous underground business.
Considering that marijuana is cheap and simple to grow, it is shocking that 34 pounds can fetch $100,000. Unlike many narcotics which must be grown in specific climates, carefully refined and imported, marijuana can be grown in any average basement and used without any processing. While production costs help push the street value of imported narcotics such as Colombian cocaine to thousands of dollars per pound, marijuana — which could be farmed in the Arb — is only expensive because of laws that prohibit its growth and sale. Furthermore, these laws make marijuana sales not only lucrative, but because of the tough competition between competing drug rings, dangerous. While the AAPD may be proud of its actions, it is only threatening public safety by forcing the possession and sale of marijuana further underground.
With no conclusive medical evidence finding serious hazards related to marijuana use, it is ludicrous that both the city and county have pipelined resources to combat the plant. It is nonsensical that the dangers of marijuana, which is consumed in its natural form, are paralleled by the hazards of refined opiates such as heroin, controlled prescription narcotics and synthetic chemicals. Even though the so-called war on drugs aims to protect people from dangerous substances, marijuana presents no such threat. Nonetheless, state, local and federal authorities continue to spend millions of dollars annually to fight against it.
Because money is diverted to fighting marijuana, law enforcement’s ability to tackle violent crime is diminished. While the AAPD managed to arrest dozens of students in connection with marijuana, the individuals who perpetrated a string of gunpoint robberies earlier this year are still at large. Furthermore, while some may argue that marijuana trafficking directly leads to violent crime — five guns were confiscated during last week’s drug raid — it is the drug’s criminalization that make its sale dangerous. If marijuana were legal, it would be a commonly available plant — there would be no need for the drug gangs, cartels or rings that breed violent crime.
The laws criminalizing marijuana were designed with the same altruistic purpose that all other anti-drug laws were: to protect society. However, marijuana presents little inherent danger. If society is truly interested in being more safe, it should focus on repealing the laws that make marijuana expensive to buy, risky to grow and dangerous to sell.