Recent research has shown that expanded access to legal marijuana in the United States has impacted the Mexico-based drug cartels. The amount of marijuana seized by the United States Border Patrol over the last three years has decreased significantly.
In 2014, the Border Patrol seized 1.9 million pounds of marijuana, a significant decrease from the 2.5 million pounds seized in 2011. Mexico’s army noted an even steeper decline, confiscating 664 tons of cannabis in 2014, 32% less than the year before.
Although, marijuana advocates stated that legal marijuana in the United States would impact the amount of marijuana entering the country from Mexico, it seems that the reverse is happening. In December 2014, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) said that Mexican cartels are smuggling high-quality marijuana into Mexico. The cartels are able to charge higher prices due to the quality level of the marijuana.
Impacting the cartels
The legal marijuana business in the United States has had a significant impact on the Mexican cartels. The decreased revenue from marijuana trafficking has meant that the Mexican cartels have less money to buy guns, bribe police and pay assassins. Both, marijuana seizures and violence have declined in Mexico.
In 2011, homicides were at an all-time high when Mexican police departments reported approximately 23,000 murders. Last year, they reported 15,649 homicides. Alejandro Hope, a security analyst and former officer in Mexico’s federal intelligence agency, said that other factors have impacted the decreased number of homicides.
Hope said, “Finances from marijuana could be having an impact on violence but you also have to look at other causes. Many of the most violent cartel commanders have been killed or arrested.”
In 2012, the head of the Zetas cartel, Heriberto Lazcano, was killed by the Mexican marines. Lazcano was a former soldier and was known as the Executioner due to the mass graves he dug. After he was killed, his fellow gang members stole his corpse from the funeral home.
A lot of work to do
Even though the number of homicides and marijuana seizures have decreased in Mexico, the country still has a lot of work to do. The cartels have diversified their drug portfolio and homicide levels are still at high levels.
In September 2014, cartel gang members attacked a group of students, killing three and abducting 43. These gang members received assistance from corrupt police while pulling off this terrible tragedy. Cartel gunmen recently ambushed a police station in Jalisco and killed 15 people. This was one of the worst attacks on security forces in recent years.
A key problem is that cartels are now focused on other crimes, from sex trafficking to stealing crude oil from Mexican pipelines. The cartels are also making billions off of the smuggling and distribution of harder drugs. Seizures of both heroin and crystal meth have gone up as those of marijuana have decreased. According to the Department of Homeland Security, agents seized around 35,000 pounds of meth in 2014, a record amount.