US Cannabis Legalization Impacting Cartel Operations

Cannabis legalization north of the Rio Grande is having a noticeable impact on Mexican cartels.

The cartels used to be able to count on major profits from trafficking marijuana to the U.S. That has been slowly changing, however, even though cannabis grown in the U.S. and sold legally is typically much pricier than Mexican marijuana.

To keep profit margins up, a number of cartels have branched into other sources of revenue, including black tar heroin and meth. A U.S. Customs official told the online news outlet Fusion that between 2013 and 2014, for instance, that the agency saw a spike in seizures of heroin and meth on the U.S.-Mexican border, and a simultaneous decrease in marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy seizures.

Marijuana seizures were down by nearly 21% in that time frame, and that was just the first year of recreational sales.

“Approximately 30% of cartels’ drug export revenues come from marijuana,” Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope told Fusion. “In the long term, Mexican marijuana could be displaced by legal production in the United States.”

Fusion also noted that according to another report, some Mexicans are purchasing marijuana to smuggle back home, because it’s higher quality.