This Viral Photo Shows Why Prohibition Isn’t Working

If you’ve been on Facebook or Twitter recently, you’ve probably read about what happened late last week in Pharr, Texas, where government officials intercepted a sizable shipment of cannabis coming from Mexico into the United States. These kinds of stories aren’t uncommon, but the Pharr incident went viral because of how the cannabis was hidden: Nearly 2,500 lbs. were bagged, sealed, and arranged into two truckloads of comically oversize fake plastic carrots.

This batch of bogus produce is the tip of the iceberg. For law enforcement officials, finding contraband cannabis in otherwise ordinary household objects is part of the job. Illegal cannabis has been found in hollowed-out coconuts, the inside of a foosball table, even a Barbie doll box — and those are just stories from the past seven days.

The media usually presents these stories humorously, but the cannabis "carrot” episode has another, more serious message: Prohibition isn’t working. And that’s not just because cannabis is still coming into the United States.

The photographs of the Pharr "carrots" exemplify how cannabis prohibition replaces professionalism with a haphazard black market. This underground economy benefits no one. Consumers deserve a product that’s grown, tested, and shipped in a consistent, standardized manner, not stored or transported in reckless or potentially unsafe ways (like inside carrots). And workers deserve to be fairly compensated for their labor, not beholden to the whims of cartels or other criminal organizations. In both cases, prohibition fuels shady business practices and unaccountable actors. The cannabis industry, like all industries, should be led by business owners and workers discussing how to make their products better, safer, or more effective — not criminals brainstorming how to best conceal them.

As long as the war on drugs continues, so too will stories like the one from Pharr. So the next time you see a photograph of cannabis “carrots” or something similar being shared online, use the opportunity to educate others about why prohibition needs to end. A picture is worth a thousand words, and these pictures aren’t just funny — they have a powerful story to tell.