D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee addressed the crime wave in a lengthy press conference on Friday, citing a number of contributing factors, including the pandemic, too many guns in the city, and insufficient resources for officers. He also cited marijuana. “We have taken on a mindset that marijuana is not really a big issue in our city,” Contee said. “I can tell you that marijuana undoubtedly is connected to violent crime in our city.”
Fox News has conveniently excised the bit about marijuana to argue, as the Fox & Friends couch sitters did Monday morning, that use of the drug is what’s causing all of these shootings, both because of all the “buying and selling,” and also because the drug causes “psychosis.”
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) July 26, 2021
The extremely dubious idea that cannabis is causing people to go crazy and shoot a bunch of people may be convenient for the anti-legalization crowd to embrace, but it’s not what Contee was saying on Friday. “When you have something where people get high reward and can make a lot of money by selling illegal marijuana, and the risk for accountability is very low, that creates a very, very, very, very, very bad situation,” Contee said. “Those individuals get robbed, those individuals get shot at, those individuals get involved in disputes all across our city. I’m seeing it happen more and more.”
This is not an issue of “pot usage.” It’s an issue of the discrepancy between local and national laws surrounding cannabis. It’s legal to possess up to two ounces of cannabis in D.C., but it’s still illegal to sell it because of a congressional rider blocking the establishment of a commercial market. The result is a robust black market. So while, as Contee says, there’s very little accountability for dealers walking around with less than two ounces of cannabis, there’s also very little accountability for those robbing these dealers who, as Vox’s Ian Millhiser pointed out on Twitter, are unable to go to the police.
Legalizing cannabis at the federal level isn’t going to totally eliminate the black market and its inevitable byproduct, violent crime. In fact, the black market is flourishing in some states that have legalized cannabis for recreational use. Politico noted in 2019, however, that the reason for this has a lot to do with the “piecemeal” nature of cannabis laws, where it’s legal in some states and illegal in others, while being prohibited at the federal level. “You’re never going to eliminate [the illicit market] until most of the states are legal,” Adam Smith of the Craft Cannabis Alliance told the outlet. “As long as half the country still can’t get it legally, there’s a market for it illegally.”
The other reason the black market has persisted is, as Politico put it, “slow-moving regulators having trouble building a legal regime fast enough to contain a high-demand product that already has a large existing criminal network to supply it.” Regulators may be moving slow, but states are legalizing cannabis more rapidly than ever. This isn’t changing. As Steve Doocy of Fox & Friend said on Monday of states that have legalized, “It’s hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube.” He’s exactly right, which is why it’s long past time time to start coordinating a national effort to create a heavily regulated legal cannabis market, end the War on Drugs, and reduce violent crime resulting from, in Contee’s words, “selling illegal marijuana.”
Instead, Doocy and his cohosts are regurgitating tired Reefer Madness tropes so Fox News viewers can blame gun violence on something other than guns.