For a second year running, the U.S. Border Partrol reported drastically reduced cannabis seizures along the Mexican border—and even the mainstream media can't help making the connection to the growing trend toward legalization and tolerance in the United States. In reporting the findings, the Washington Post used the headline, "Legal marijuana is finally doing what the drug war couldn't."
Last year, border agents confiscated some 1.5 million pounds—down from a peak of nearly 4 million in 2009. Increased domestic production in California, Colorado and Washington have driven prices down, especially at the bulk level.
"Two or three years ago, a kilogram [2.2 pounds] of marijuana was worth $60 to $90," a Mexican cannabis farmer recently told NPR. "But now they're paying us $30 to $40 a kilo. It's a big difference. If the U.S. continues to legalize pot, they'll run us into the ground."
Medical marijuana laws have also contributed to a lifting of pressure that has sent prices plummeting.
"Those trying to understand what has happened with U.S. cannabis consumption and imports over the past decade need to pay close attention to licensed and unlicensed production in medical states, especially California," Beau Kilmer of the RAND Corporation told the Post.
However, there may be another downside here, apart from harm to rural livelihoods in Mexico.
The Post writes: "The cartels, of course, are adapting to the new reality. Seizure data appears to indicate that with marijuana profits tumbling, they're switching over to heroin and meth."
As we noted in similar findings last year, it's important in advocating legalization not to portray it as a panacea. There isn't any magic wand we can wave to make the cartels go away. But we can take measures that begin to weaken them. And the switch from compacted cannabis bricks to refined powders was already underway before U.S. states began legalizing—because the latter are easier to smuggle and deliver more bang for the buck. It's also important to remember that as cannabis use rises in the United States, meth use has been dropping.
(Photo Courtesy of South Texas Today)