Home Culture How Will Marijuana Legalization Affect Drug Cartels?

How Will Marijuana Legalization Affect Drug Cartels?


In my daily perusal of the cannabis newswires, I came across an Associated Press story entitled “Legalizing Marijuana in Arizona Could Strengthen Drug Cartels”.

Sadly, most people don’t read past the headlines of many stories; this is especially true when a story pops up on social media. So what does the title above tell those people? That legalizing may be a bad idea because it could make drug cartels stronger.

The problem is, this isn’t true. And when you read the article, most of it is devoted to why the title isn’t accurate. In fact, this is the strongest statement in the article to back up the title:

Law enforcement leaders say the change will strengthen cartels, allowing them to infiltrate the legal pot market and driving them to sell more hard drugs. Advocates of legalization say it will undercut the cartels by eliminating a key segment of their business.

But that paragraph is followed by this passage:

Carlos Alfaro, the deputy campaign manager for Proposition 205, says legalization in other states has already led to a drop in marijuana seizures by the Border Patrol.

From fiscal year 2011 to 2015, the number of seizures made by the agency nationwide fell by 39 percent. In the Tucson sector, at one point the busiest smuggling corridor in the nation, seizures fell by 28 percent, according to Border Patrol statistics.

“Now cartels have competition,” Alfaro said. “They have to compete with legitimate business in the U.S. with product that is more pure, with regulations on the shelf and prices.”

Reports have shown that marijuana seizures from Mexico have been dropping all along the border since some U.S. states have legalized the growing, sale and possession of certain amounts of marijuana.

To be fair, legalization and competition could make cartels focus on harder drugs, which are more profitable now that the price of cannabis grown south of the border is falling. There is plenty of evidence to show that more hard drugs are being used in the United States, especially heroin. But is that the fault of marijuana legalization or is it caused by the continued prohibition of those drugs?

Furthermore, would reversing marijuana legalization in the states solve the problem? Unlikely. More prohibition of marijuana would only serve to raise the price and restore profits to the cartels.

People will always use drugs. The question is, will we continue prohibition, making it profitable for criminals to deal in those drugs, or will we finally admit our current course leads to nowhere and a better way must be found?