War on Drugs is to Blame for Government Corruption in El Paso, Texas


El Paso, Texas County Commissioner Willie Gadara Jr.’s recent indictment on federal drug-trafficking charges is the perfect opportunity to shift collective disgust away from Gandara’s hypocrisy and direct it toward the root of the problem: drug prohibition.

Drug prohibition laws that make drug trafficking extremely profitable are to blame for government corruption; Gandara’s alleged crime is an outgrowth of laws that make drug trafficking profitable.

Gandara has been an outspoken proponent of drug prohibition as a politician, referring to drug legalization as a “coward practice of combating cartels … an insult to law enforcement, and the laziest form of parenting our children and youth about the effects of drugs.” Gandara has even criticized politicians that favor marijuana legalization as a way to counter drug war violence, such as Beto O’Rourke, a former El Paso City Representative.

If Gandara is convicted for drug trafficking, it will show how profit opportunities that exist in black market drug trafficking are enough to corrupt even our own government officials. Laws that forbid the transport of drugs raise their price (look under the heading Economic Realities and the Mexican Cartels) and create enormous profit opportunities for anyone willing to risk the dangers of supplying those drugs. The profit potential was evidently enough to entice Gandara, a government official who undoubtedly knew the risks involved. Understanding Mr. Gandara’s supposed willingness to promote drug prohibition laws on one hand, and traffic drugs on the other, is most important.

Drug prohibition is what makes drug trafficking profitable. Denouncing drug legalization and keeping drugs illegal is in any drug traffickers’ interest, because if drugs were legal, their transport would not be nearly as profitable. A person could simply buy marijuana, or other drugs, that were transported legally and much more cheaply. This is what gives politicians like Gandara the incentive to promote anti-drug policies.

As long as drug prohibition policies exist, politicians will be able to exploit these laws for profit by trafficking drugs in a black market that boosts their price. While Gandara’s actions (once again, if convicted) are certainly deplorable, they are only made possible by drug prohibition laws that make drug trafficking an enticing, profitable venture that is worth the risk for many. It’s time to recognize that our nation’s current drug prohibition creates very backward incentives that keep drug prohibition from achieving its intended goals. The corruption of government officials that are lured into the high risk, yet high reward world of drug trafficking is a prime example of how drug policy can backfire.

Drug legalization, although it does present its own moral issues for different people, would be a positive step toward eliminating problems, like government corruption, that are associated with black markets. People should be able to make their own moral decisions about whether to use drugs or not, and there would be a role for government in regulating a legal market for drugs. This would be far better than policies that create black markets and all of their unintended consequences.

Photo Credit: dannybirchall