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WIRE: Arizona DEA to support regulating marijuana like alcohol

TEMPE, Ariz. — A 23-year veteran of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) who spent years investigating Mexican drug cartels is throwing his support behind the initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Arizona and echoing the message of a billboard supporters launched this week at Tempe Marketplace.


“If Arizona regulates marijuana, adults could buy American,” reads the Independence Day-themed ad, instead of buying marijuana that has been illegally smuggled across the Mexican border into Arizona. It also notes that revenue from regulated marijuana sales would “support schools, not cartels.” The proposed initiative would initially generate $64 million in annual state tax revenue, including $51 million for K-12 education and all-day kindergarten programs, according to an independent study conducted by the Grand Canyon Institute.

“I know from personal experience that the illegal status of marijuana in the United States helps to fuel demand for marijuana produced by drug cartels in Mexico,” said Michael Capasso, who retired in 2015 following more than three and half years as chief of the DEA Financial Crimes Unit. During his tenure at the agency, Capasso spearheaded a task force comprised of Phoenix-area police officers targeting Mexican cartels trafficking drugs into the U.S. He also directed operations in Sierra Vista, one of the DEA’s front-line posts along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“If we truly hope to eliminate the criminal element associated with marijuana, the only solution is to make marijuana legal and tightly regulate its production and sale,” Capasso said. “I am supporting the Arizona initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol because it will make our communities safer. Marijuana should be sold by licensed businesses, not drug cartels.”

The billboard is located in the north parking lot of Tempe Marketplace, directly north of  the Thirsty Lion Pub and Grill, and it will run up until the July Fourth holiday. Capasso was scheduled to participate in a news conference in front of the billboard on Tuesday but was unable to attend due to a family emergency.

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The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is supporting a 2016 statewide ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Arizona and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol. For more information, visit

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