The Unexpected Result of Relaxing Marijuana Laws
In a sentence I never expected to write – the US’s changing attitude towards marijuana has led to a decrease in Mexican pot smuggling and a large increase in heroin and meth smuggling.
As more and more states decriminalize marijuana, legalize it for medical use, and even legalize it for recreational use…Mexican drug cartels are losing vast amount of money. Their cheaply grown, low potency pot just can’t compete with its genetically engineered and meticulously grown US counterpart.
In fact, Raul Benitez-Manaut, a professor and researcher from the National Autonomous University in Mexico, had the following to say about this strange shift,
“Legalization of marijuana for recreational use has given U.S. consumers access to high-quality marijuana, with genetically improved strains, grown in greenhouses…That’s why the Mexican cartels are switching to heroin and meth” (The Washington Post).
Join us on an exploration of this new phenomenon and what it means for American anti-drug efforts.
A Drastic Increase in Heroin & Meth Seizures
What exactly is happening at our shared border with Mexico? Well, according to the Post, seizures of both heroin and meth are way up. Marijuana arrests, on the other hand, are way down:
- Since 2011, there’s been a 37% decrease in the amount of marijuana intercepted by federal, state, and local border officers.
- There were 2,181 kilograms of heroin seized along the border in 2014.
- While the majority of this heroin was of the “black tar” variety, some was white. This is higher quality heroin which can be snorted or smoked instead of injected.
- There were 15,803 kilograms of meth seized along the border in 2014. This is a huge increase from the 3,076 seized in 2009.
- The DEA estimates that 90% of all US consumed meth is manufactured in Mexico.
- There’s also been a sharp decrease in the amount of cocaine intercepted along the border. There were 11,917 kilograms seized in 2014, down from over 27,000 kilograms seized in 2011.
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This is all a long way of telling a short story – as drug cartels in Central and South America lose their marijuana business to US growers, they’ve started to double down on smuggling both heroin and meth.
With our country currently in the grips of a heroin epidemic, and meth ever increasing in popularity, this seems like a strategic move by the cartel. It also seems like it’s working to increase the their bottom line.
What Can We Do?
There’s no easy answer to this question. While, on the one hand, it’s certainly a good thing that the production and distribution of marijuana is being taken away from illegal drug gangs – it’s a very bad thing if they’re replacing lost profits by increasing heroin and methamphetamine production.
One answer may be to take some of the same ideas currently being used for marijuana and apply them to heroin and meth. Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t think we should legalize either drug. Still, some government regulation would take the power away from the cartels.
While this is a dangerous road to walk, and one that’s no doubt unpopular among the majority of Americans, it is worth considering. Think about it like this – if the cartels are already hurting from lost marijuana profit, imagine how much they’d hurt if they lost heroin and meth money.
Money is the lifeblood of these criminal organizations. Take away the money and you take away much of their power. Seems like something worth exploring at the very least, right?
As for the here and now – as for today – we can only hope that most of the drugs being smuggled are also intercepted at the border.