Mexican Group’s Study a Mixed Bag for Marijuana Legalization Efforts in 3 US States

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A new study released by an influential Mexican think tank could bolster campaigns to legalize marijuana in Colorado, Oregon and Washington ahead of the election. Or it could hurt those efforts.

It all depends on how you look at it.

The report – released by the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness – surmises that legalization in any of the three states could slash profits of drug cartels in Mexico significantly (by $1.4 billion if Colorado passes its marijuana bill, $1.4 billion if Washington legalizes cannabis and $1.8 billion if Oregon approves its measure).

This can be seen as a powerful argument in favor of marijuana legalization, as it would keep marijuana money inside the United States and represent a major blow to the ruthless cartels behind a horrifying wave of violence in Mexico.

Betty Aldworth, advocacy director for the legalization campaign in Colorado, said the study helps validate the group’s message.

“If we regulate and control the marijuana market in Colorado, it will end the flow of marijuana profits from Colorado to the cartels in Mexico and elsewhere,” Aldworth said. “Coloradans are deeply concerned about the impacts of the war on marijuana in Mexico, and appreciate that moving marijuana sales off the streets and behind a counter will chip away at the cartels’ power both here in Colorado and abroad. This is one of the reasons we are seeing strong and growing support for Amendment 64 in the Latino community.”

But opponents to the legalization measures could use the study to their benefit.

According to the report, Mexican drug cartels would see a steep decline in profits because a significant amount of marijuana produced legally in Colorado, Oregon or Washington would find its way to nearby states, where it would be sold illegally at cheaper prices than Mexican cannabis smuggled into the country.

In other words, the study assumes states that legalize cannabis would become major marijuana producers for the rest of the US and that a hefty amount of diversion will take place. The other concern is that the Mexican drug cartels would try to get involved in the legal marijuana business, which would open up another can of worms.

Aldworth and other legalization supporters, however, take issue with the report’s assertion that a high level of diversion will take place, saying that US laws would still prevent cannabis from being transported across state lines. They stress that the underlying conclusion of the report – drug cartels will take a huge hit – still rings true if no (or limited) diversion takes place.