Former U-S Attorney Expects Organized Crime Will Target Legal Pot

By Austin Jenkins

Fronts for organized crime may try to get a piece of the action as Washington moves to implement legalized marijuana. That’s the prediction of former U-S Attorney John McKay, a key supporter of Washington’s new pot law.

As U-S Attorney, John McKay prosecuted marijuana smugglers. Now he teaches law school and has become a visible activist in the legalization movement. McKay believes the regulated sale of pot to adult, recreational users is key to ending the border violence in Mexico. But he acknowledges the black market won’t go quietly into the night.

John McKay: “Organized crime will attempt to exploit the Washington state legal market. They’ll apply for legal licenses, they will attempt to put up fronts, they may attempt to grow.”

McKay says state regulators and law enforcement will have to be vigilant. But he’s confident the legal market will ultimately prevail. McKay says look at what happened after prohibition ended.

John McKay: “The rum runners and the bootleggers tried to put up legal fronts but eventually law enforcement prevailed, we got the bad guys out of the alcohol business and businesses, legitimate businesses took over alcohol and that’s what we want to have happen to marijuana.”

Even under that scenario, a black market could continue to exist in Washington. Take cigarettes for example. The state recently estimated more than one-third of cigarettes consumed are untaxed contraband.

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