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How U.S. Marijuana Legalization Affected Mexican Drug Cartels

Time magazine has recently brought America’s attention to a correlation between the wave of marijuana legalization throughout the country, and the power of the Mexican drug cartels. The cartels have lost billions, as Americans turn to legal avenues of purchase for marijuana; violence also appears to have decreased somewhat, but the cartels are finding other ways to compensate for financial losses. Some statistics that speak to this correlation:

  • U.S. Border Patrol has been seizing steadily smaller quantities of the drug, from 2.5 million pounds in 2011 to 1.9 million pounds in 2014. Mexico’s army has noted an even steeper decline, confiscating 664 tons of cannabis in 2014, a drop of 32% compared to year before.

This downward trend contrasts the increasing state legalization, beginning with Colorado and Washington State in 2012, and followed by Alaska, Oregon and D.C. last year.

  • The legal marijuana industry grew 74% in 2014 to $2.7 billion, according to the ArcView group.This includes revenue from both recreational drug stores and from medical marijuana, which has been legalized in 23 states. The group predicts the industry will top $4 billion by 2016.
  • In total, Americans spend about $100 billion on illegal drugs every year.

Only a portion of this $100 billion is spent on legal marijuana, as the US Federal Law still prohibits cannabis. An advantage of legal purchasing:

  • American dispensaries label their drugs, showing how strong they are, measured in THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive ingredient), and grade their mix of sativa, which gets people stoned in a psychedelic way and indica, which has a more knock-out effect.
  • Coinciding with legalization, violence has decreased in Mexico. Homicides hit a high in 2011, with Mexican police departments reporting almost 23, 000 murders. Last year, they reported 15,649.

Unfortunately, this is still an heartrendingly high number of life losses. The violence and corruption of the cartels is far from extinguished:

  • Cartels have diversified to a portfolio of other crimes, from sex trafficking to stealing crude oil from Mexican pipelines. They also make billions smuggling hard drugs. Seizures of both heroin and crystal meth on the U.S.-Mexico border have gone up as those of marijuana have sunk, according to U.S. Homeland Security, with agents nabbing a record 34,840 pounds of meth in 2014.

Advocates of legalization hope for this inverse pattern of increasing legalization and decreasing cartel power to continue, especially as America continues to discuss the issue of legalization at both the state and federal levels.

And what will happen now that Joaquin Guzman Loera, also known as El Chapo, has escaped from prison? The U.S. had requested extradition of the cartel kingpin on June 25th, just weeks before his escape. Coincidence? You decide. Here’s more on that topic.

If you or someone you know has had legal problems due to marijuana possession, medical marijuana or related issues, please call us today for a free case review. 714-713-4525