Prop 19 Passage May Negatively Affect Mexican Drug Traffickers in Unforeseen Ways

Mexico's drug traffickers would lose some customers but not much money if California voters approve the marijuana-legalizing Prop 19 on Nov. 2, concludes a study by the nonpartisan RAND Drug Policy Research Center.

That's because Californians mostly grow their own already.

Illustration by Jay Brockman

Proponents of Prop 19 have pointed to undercutting the power and violent ways of Mexican drug cartels as among the reasons the initiative should be supported at the polls.

But the study finds legalization's impact in California will be minor on Mexican cartels and the violence associated with them. That's because the foreign cartels are minor players here without legalization.

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Of course, if Mexican cartels are not the boogeymen Prop 19 backers make them out to be, they also are not the boogeymen that seal-the-borderists like Jim Gilchrist and Barbara Coe make them out to be--at least not in Alta California.

The study finds:

  • Mexican drug trafficking organizations generate only $1 billion to $2 billion annually from exporting marijuana to the United States and selling it to wholesalers, far below existing estimates by the government and other groups.
  • The often-cited claim that marijuana accounts for 60 percent of gross drug export revenues of Mexican drug trafficking organizations is not credible, finding 15 percent to 26 percent as being a more credible range.
  • With California accounting for about 14 percent of the nation's marijuana use, marijuana legalization only influences the California market, cutting total drug export revenues by perhaps 2 to 4 percent.
  • The only impact legalization might have on Mexican drug trafficking organizations' bottom line is if California-grown pot is smuggled into other states that rely on Mexican crops.

On that last point, the statement says, "After legalization, if low-cost, high-quality marijuana produced in California dominates the U.S. marijuana market, then the Mexican drug trafficking organizations' revenue from exporting marijuana could decline by more than 65 percent and probably closer to 85 percent. In this scenario, results from the RAND study suggest the drug trafficking organizations would lose roughly 20 percent of their total drug export revenues."

Ah, one more reason to pass the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. Thanks, RAND.

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