The United States government’s Office of National Drug Control Policy is opposed to any change in policy. The agency released a statement strongly condemning the report’s decriminalization recommendation, “because illicit drug use is demonstrably harmful to public health. And decriminalization, not to mention legalization, causes the use of illegal drugs to become more prevalent.”
Longmire has warned that legalizing drugs like marijuana won’t necessarily end the cartels and violence in places like Mexico, due to the wide variety of criminal activities the various drug trafficking organizations are involved in. Eliminating the illegal drug trade into America would only take out a portion of their operations.
A recent RAND Corporation report that examined the potential effects of legalizing marijuana in California estimated that only a small portion, 15 to 26 percent, of Mexican drug trafficking organization revenue was garnered from trafficking marijuana into the United States. Longmire says that “it might knock some of the smaller, less efficient players out of the game,” but “it’s definitely not going to end the drug war.”
There is also a question of repercussions that marijuana or drug decriminalization might have on the workplace. Courts in Oregon and Washington have sided with employers in recent lawsuits over marijuana use and its effect on the workplace. However, the issue is far from settled. “It would be particularly problematic for employers at a number of different levels,” according to Eugene Ferraro, CPP, PCI, CEO and president of Business Controls, a security and technology company headquartered in Denver.
Ferraro, who has a background in human resources, says that most state laws would permit testing for marijuana even if the drug becomes legal, under “on the job impairment” and “just cause” or “reasonable suspicion” testing. However, Ferraro says that many states have requirements that employers must provide rehabilitation to individuals who test positive for drugs. If marijuana legalization leads to more employees using the drug, employers might be forced to rehabilitate more people, causing more inconvenience and higher costs. If marijuana were legalized, he says, it’s doubtful “that the states would suddenly go ‘oh yeah, we’ve got to go back and change all of our laws relative to drug testing,’” explains Ferraro.
Experts agree, however, that there is no single answer to the drug problem, emphasizes Longmire. “What people don’t understand is that it’s a global issue, and it’s extremely complex.”