Unfortunately for the lovely country of Mexico, a bloody drug war has been ravaging its citizens for decades. Cartels control whole towns, kidnappings occur almost daily, and murder has become commonplace in some areas. However, this may change soon. According to Reuters, the Mexican Supreme Court has ruled in favor of legalizing the production of marijuana, which could perhaps be the first step to legalizing recreational marijuana for the whole country. The implications run deeper than allowing pot smokers to smoke in peace. This could indicate a new step for the cartels - legitimization.
Photo Source: UnSplash.com
Marijuana has been cultivated in Mexico for centuries. As opposed to the licensed weed producers in Canada (and some US states), poor farmers often chose marijuana over other crops due to its market value. This, and pressure from the cartels, have given the Mexican people a long history of growing pot. The climate is perfect for cannabis sativa, which prefers more tropical regions. The type of cannabis known as "sensimilla" (translated: seedless"), a very common breed in marijuana counter-culture, was first developed in Mexico, on one of the largest plots of land ever to be used to cultivate cannabis.
So what could this court ruling mean for the cartels? This is not a country like Canada or the United States. The cartels are, for all intents and purposes, the de facto purveyor of marijuana. What happens at the end of prohibition? The illegal producers become industrialists. And legalization may not be hurting the cartels as was expected. Get this, according to the Rand Corporation, legal marijuana use in California only cost the cartels 2 to 4 percent of their revenue.
Photo Source: pixabay.com
Why would cartels possibly benefit from recreational legalization in Mexico, or particularly, in the United States, where they make $19 to $29 billion in sales every year? Well, the Mexican drug cartels are infamous for their adaptability and sensitivity to the drug markets. They are not your typical gang-bangers. These are well-structured organizations, almost like legitimate corporations - except the way they do business includes several violent tactics. But more importantly, future legalization in Mexico may create a "grey market" for the cartels to occupy. According to an op-ed piece in Brookings, if marijuana became legal, it would be taxed, like the Colorado model. The higher the tax, the greater the opportunity for the cartels to undercut the state by charging less.
So where does the assumption come from that the cartels could look to this as a chance to legitimize? History. In the US in the 1920s, large-scale bootleggers like Al Capone built criminal empires out of illegal distribution efforts. However, these mafioso were only in the business of distribution. Where did this liquor come from? From places like Canada and the Carribean. Guess who was positioned to profit once Prohibition ended? Those Canadian and Carribean distilleries. If marijuana is legalized in Mexico, who better to get in the game than those who already have the manufacturing, distribution, and know-how to profit?