Jason Rantz: Border crisis and legalizing drugs – perfect storm slams Seattle, Portland … your town next?

This border crisis couldn’t have come at a worse time.

As some media outlets and politicians focus attention on the plight of migrant children at our porous border with Mexico, one significant storyline is being mostly ignored. Thanks to the lax policies under the Biden administration, our open border lets cartels take better advantage of the drug legalization policies spreading in the Pacific Northwest.

Drug culture threatens to consume the Pacific Northwest. I know the reality. I live here and have seen firsthand how it’s ravaged communities, worsened the homelessness crisis, and torn families apart. This is a crisis of our own making. 


If we don’t act fast, we will lose Seattle and Portland. Drugs are flooding our streets, overdoses are on the rise, and Mexican drug cartels are expanding their reach. There doesn’t appear to be any end in sight. In fact, we’re just getting started.

The Washington State Supreme Court and Oregon voters codified legalization in their respective states.


In a shocking decision, the Washington State Supreme Court declared a felony drug possession law unconstitutional. The far-left court ludicrously argued that finding an illicit drug on someone’s person or on their property is not enough to prove they knowingly possessed those drugs. (Who among us hasn’t reached into a jacket pocket, pulled out an eight ball of cocaine, and wondered how it got there? It’s that ridiculous of an argument.)

In Oregon, voters approved Measure 110, which prohibits law enforcement from doing much more than writing a ticket when a suspect is caught with personal possession amounts of any illicit substance. The measure went into effect earlier this year.

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This drug-permissive culture has meant everything from fentanyl and oxycodone to heroin and meth have overwhelmed some neighborhoods. And Mexican drug cartels are taking advantage. They have focused considerable attention on fentanyl, a very potent, synthetic opioid.

“The Pacific Northwest of the United States is under siege by the Mexican based CJNG [Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion] cartel, who is flooding the region with clandestine produced synthetic opioids in the form of prescription pills,” the Drug Enforcement Agency said in a report released this March.

Washington has been targeted most directly. CJNG has reportedly laced drugs with fentanyl, sending the tainted drugs statewide. Even just a little bit too much fentanyl can quickly kill a user.  

While CJNG ships its drugs to Seattle, Organizacion del Beltran-Leyva targets Bellingham in Northern Washington and Cartel de Sinaloa focuses on the Eastern Washington city of Spokane. 

Though the cartels focus on black market marijuana in Oregon, the state isn’t immune to the growing fentanyl trend. Neighborhoods are being inundated with fentanyl-laced pills that resemble prescription pain meds. And cartels have taken notice of the state.

Rather than proactively address the growing cartel problem, progressive leaders in the Pacific Northwest continue to embrace the drug culture.

“I look at our efforts to combat transnational organized crime, if we think of cartels, the drug cartels. They’re still coming up this way,” Kieran Ramsey, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Portland Field Office said. “We look at the Interstate 5 corridor and we see the increase in fentanyl deaths and fentanyl overdoses in the state of Oregon – huge concern for us …”

The crisis – not “challenge” – at the border can make this already precarious situation much worse. 

Cartels took advantage of understaffed points of entry at our border during the Obama presidency. With not enough staff nor drug-sniffing dogs trained on fentanyl, the drug was easy to bring into the country. And Americans paid a steep price. The majority of the more than 67,000 fatal overdoses between 2013 and 2017 were synthetic-opioid-related. 

If cartels could so easily exploit our points of entry, what do you think they will do when it’s this easy to cross the border on foot with little to no resistance? Texas’ Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has been sounding the alarm, warning that Biden’s policies are “empowering the drug cartels in Mexico who make money off of the people that they assist in smuggling into the state of Texas.”

Rather than proactively address the growing cartel problem, progressive leaders in the Pacific Northwest continue to embrace the drug culture. Surely they can’t believe those drugs will stay in Texas?

Thanks to the Washington ruling, thousands of drug cases are being dropped and suspects released. In King County, for example, the prosecutor’s office tells me a previously convicted child molestor was booked in early February on a failure to appear warrant. It was connected to a drug case where he was allegedly found with eight grams of meth, a scale and three cellphones. He was released due to this ruling.

More worrisome, drug dealers often plead down to simple drug possession charges as prosecutors see it as a quicker and cheaper way to get criminals off the streets. In other more egregious cases, sex offenders or murders earn longer sentences with felony drug possession charges. This ruling means they get out of jail faster because their drug convictions can’t be used to calculate sentences. 

The public safety implications are immeasurable.

How are already understaffed and underfunded local police departments supposed to tackle a possible influx of drug dealers who sell with relative impunity? Dealers have already taken advantage of lax laws, carrying less product and resupplying more often as a way to avoid suspicion of dealing. 

Now, we’ll have more dealers on the streets, at a time when both Seattle and Portland police are consumed with a rise in homicides. Last year, both cities had record high gun homicide rates and there’s no sign that the violence will subside. In fact, in both cities, victims are being shot to death in broad daylight by criminals taking advantage of departments that were defunded.

Politicians in Washington and Oregon see drug laws as too punitive. They lazily argue the laws are examples of systemic oppression and criminalize addiction. They rarely acknowledge the impact their lax policies have on communities.

Oregon just voted to decriminalize and Democrats in Washington were already trying to pass a bill that would rid the state of the felony possession law, making a legislative fix unlikely. 


Without local leadership stepping up, it’s never been more important to take the border crisis seriously. But the Biden administration refuses to acknowledge a crisis, mostly downplaying its impact. 

Cartels won’t pass up this opportunity to grow their footprint. That will spell disaster for Washington and Oregon. And before you know it, it’ll land in your neighborhood.



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