Marijuana Legalization: Bad For The Cartels

Stratfor Map
Stratfor Map

Marijuana legalization has already led to many benefits in the United States, ranging from increased tax revenues to decreasing usage by minors to lowering incarceration rates for non-violent marijuana offenders. But marijuana legalization is also putting a substantial dent into what the Department of Justice calls the “greatest organized crime threat to the United States,” the Mexican drug cartels. And that’s a good thing.

A bit of history on the Mexican drug cartels is in order. Time Magazine reports that, months after coming into office, Richard Nixon ordered the U.S.-Mexican border shut down to cut off the flow of Mexican marijuana coming into the U.S. But as this complete shutdown of border commerce debilitated the Mexican economy, it was clear that this action was also intended to force Mexico to comply with newly established U.S. drug policies, including more policing for marijuana at the border. This increased policing ultimately led to Mexican cartels’ control of land routes into the U.S. Later on in his presidency, in 1971, Nixon declared the U.S. war on drugs. In the 1980s, the Columbian cocaine cartels started using the already developed Mexican drug routes to ensure their cocaine made it to U.S. consumers, and this in turn strengthened and emboldened Mexican drug trafficking. Ronald Reagan further involved the U.S. in Mexican drug affairs via the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which mandated that countries that did not adhere to U.S. drug policies would not receive U.S. financial aid.

This constant and intense U.S. pressure on Mexico culminated in what is now being called the “Mexican War on Drugs,” which has been raging in Mexico since 2006. Yet the U.S. remains the number one consumer of Mexican cartel-controlled illegal drugs and approximately 70,000 people have lost their lives at the hands of the cartels. On March 25, 2009, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accurately stated that, our “insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade” and that “the United States bears shared responsibility for the drug-fueled violence sweeping Mexico.”

So, what does legalization of cannabis in the United States have to do with helping Mexico eliminate its cartels? If Americans buy their cannabis from state-licensed operations, they are not buying their cannabis from the hardened criminals that make up the drug cartels and that is going to have positive long-term effects for pretty much everyone except the cartels themselves.

A few years ago, our law firm was representing a medical marijuana dispensary against a city that was attempting to shut it down. A city police officer took the stand to explain why this city was so eager to shut down this dispensary. Among the reasons he expressed was a concern about Mexican drug cartels. On cross-examination, one of our cannabis litigation lawyers asked this police officer whether he was aware of any Mexican drug cartel links to medical marijuana in his city or anywhere else in the United States. He answered truthfully with a “no.” We then asked if he was aware of Mexican drug cartel links to illegal drugs in the United States and he, of course, answered with a “yes.” Needless to say, in our closing argument we talked of how having legal marijuana in this city would, if anything, serve to drive out or at least reduce gang influences.

According to Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope, “approximately 30 percent of cartels’ drug export revenues come from marijuana.” Though on one level marijuana legalization has little effect on the cartels’ ability to smuggle hard drugs like heroin into the United States, just reducing the cartels’ marijuana sales will reduce their power, influence, and wealth and should correspondingly reduce their ability to move heroin and other hard drugs across borders. Standing alone, any reduction in the drug cartels’ power and presence in Mexico and in Columbia would be a great achievement.

We may already be seeing the results in Mexico of marijuana legalization in the United States. Violent crimes are decreasing in Mexico. Homicides hit a high in 2011, with Mexican police departments reporting almost 23,000 murders. Last year, they reported 15,649.

It is both our responsibility and to our benefit to help reduce the drug violence in Mexico and Columbia that we helped to create, and legalizing cannabis is a very good way for us to do that.

Do you agree?

14 responses to “Marijuana Legalization: Bad For The Cartels”

  1. Yes it will stop these cartels from making money. And having power over the poor people in Mexico.!mexicans have large family’s. And they stick togeather to help each other gain power.! Send the family members threw to be Mexican police, border patrol agents that are paid very well to turn there backs when drugs are being moved into the u.s!. And they hire bandits to kill the ones not willing to except the drug money to turn there backs!. It’s been going on for years!. Then we have the U.S. Police and border patrol that do the same!. Take the power away from cartels and make marijuana legal in the U.S. !. And ramp up! And change out police,and border patrol every 3 months to help stop these corrupt agents!.the war on terror has to be increased!. And the war on corruption needs to start!. 911 helped to make these borders more safe but we need more agents , police , and military on the borders . And more then 2 or 3 togeather on patrol at a time.!. Change up these groups so they do not conspire to help cartels!. And legalizing marijuana will help stop the funding of illegal drug trade that keeps the lights on !. For these cartels!!. Free the weed!. Or it will continue ! And we will find our self at war with Mexico!!.legalize it period!!.

  2. Yes, it may be reduce the income of cartels and, thus, their power. But, there is yet another issue: weapons. The vast majority of weapons used by cartels’ gunmen are legally bought in the US and illegally introduced into Mexico. In this sense, a considerable share on the “War on Drugs” goes to the weapon industry, moreover, as the weapons are sold legally, they pay taxes, so the US government also receives a share.

    Again, the benefits of a few (cartels, weapon industry, governments, politicians, corrupted officials, etc.) are the losses of the most. The true war on drugs should be fought in the economic field and legalizing them (why only marijuana?) is the way. Of course it would also help to prohibit the selling of large weapons, specially assault rifles. —I wonder why this kind of weapons that were designed to kill people are legal in the US; while, with the argument that they harm people, drugs are not.

    One correction: It’s Colombia, not Columbia.

  3. There are at least 21 groups that don’t want to legalize marijuana.
    1 Conservative political and religious groups
    2 Police and Correction officers unions (Excluding those in LEAP)
    3 Liquor Industry
    4 Tobacco Industry
    5 Pharmaceutical industry
    6 Owners of Privatized Prisons
    7 Mandatory Drug Test Clinics
    8 Mandatory Drug Rehab Clinics
    9 Oil Industry
    10 The banks that launder the Cartels’ money.
    11 The Military-Industrial Complex.
    12 The IRS. They can audit raided marijuana clinics for Money.
    13 The CIA who helped their clients, including item 15.
    14 The DEA
    15 ONDCP? Office of National Drug Control Policy | The White House
    16 The NIDA? National Institute on Drug Abuse
    17 US tourism. Scares Canadians from going to Mexico.
    18. Bail bond companies
    19. Judges and attorneys in drug courts
    20. Community service projects
    21 The Drug Cartels

  4. I agree , but with allowing for the legal route for MJ in the US of A…we need to keep taxes, filing fees, permits cost down or it will just be too pricey …..and cartels will still have buyers lined up….In Colorado……medicial Mj is cheaper… rec sale were less than expected…because of the high taxation of Recreational……………

  5. No, I do not agree.

    Legal cannabis was heavily sold as something that would destroy the cartels. Nothing close has come to pass, and full cannabis legalization as our law of the land will not significantly advance that theory. As with any business that is losing market share and revenue, the cartels have increased the production and marketing of the other products in their bag; heroin, meth and cocaine, to pick up the slack. It is this segment of the illegal drug trade that generates the most profits and, as a result, the worst violence. (And the reduction in Mexico’s murder statistics have as much if not more to do with the settling of cartel territory and distribution channels as it does legal pot in the US.)

    The only viable solution is to repeal the whole of drug prohibition and replace it with a regulated market. The cartels will literally disappear, if not overnight (but quickly), and gun violence in America will be reduced 50% – at the minimum. Accidental overdoses – the primary kind – will all but disappear as well. The availabilty of clean and cheap needles will reduce the spead of Hep and HIV. Tens of millions of citizens will once again have respect for our police, as they will make us all safer chasing and catching the true bad guys.

    I have long been a vocal opponent to the incremental approach to drug policy, exemplified by focusing on the smallest community of cannabis users: medical. A good argument can and has been made that, had we focused on the whole of drug prohibition these past 40+ years, we’d be farther along the path to true drug policy reform.

  6. For quite some time, the only reason I could think of against smoking cannabis was that it fattened the pockets of narco-terrorists. Thank goodness for medical marijuana – now I can grow my own without fear.

  7. It shouldn’t stop at cannabis. We are handing gangs and organized crime an extremely lucrative revenue source simply by allowing prohibition to continue. We now have a law enforcement and prison industrial complex the likes of which we would never have seen had the “war on drugs” been about education and treatment…

    • right and tomorrow Nancy Pelosi will reject her pharmaceutical masters donations and start representing the voters.

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