In November, California will be one of five states to vote on recreational legalization and regulation. Though they turned down a bill posing this same question before, it looks like the state will vote “yes” on Prop 64, thus solidifying the whole west coast from Canada to Mexico.
So how will the legalization of cannabis in the country’s most populated state (over 38 million residents) and its third largest affect the Mexican drug cartels’ marijuana smuggling business? This question has recently caused more and more debates and has experts predicting the future as best they can.
California’s southern most part borders Mexico, which makes it one of the most popular and convenient areas for organized crime to slip their sub par weed into the U.S. This is done in a variety of ways. Currently one of the most intriguing and alluring methods is through multimillion dollar tunnels dug under the border crossing. Tons of brick weed are successfully making it across the California state line every single day. And pot has always been such a vital cash crop for the Mexican cartels, due to the plant’s high mark up value in comparison to virtually every other crop, that they have learned to willingly accept huge amounts being seized on the regular, taking those losses in stride with minimal setbacks.
With that said, cartel related busts in SoCal are definitely going down as of late. Let’s look at the numbers: The Border Patrol in San Diego had an 88 percent drop in marijuana seizures from 2011 (68,825 pounds) to 2015 (8,158 pounds). Yes, thousands of pounds continue to be confiscated by border patrol yearly, but nonetheless, that is still a staggering drop.
The blaring questions becomes, why is that? One popular reason for this clearly noticeable drop is that Mexican drug-trafficking organizations are pushing less marijuana through the border. The idea is that even though it is not legal recreationally in California, the medical practices have been more laxed than anywhere else in the country to the point where anyone in the Golden State can get a medical card and buy weed legally anyway. So the cartels are now essentially competing with locally grown product that is of much better quality as well. Experts then tell us to imagine once it is even more legal to buy and smoke pot than ever before in CA through the passing of Prop 64. The prices may plummet for local grown product to the point where a much higher grade cannabis can actually somewhat compete with Mexican drug-traffickers’ wholesale prices.
An additional noteworthy fact is that Arizona, another sizable state straddling the southern border, will also be voting for or against legalization in November, and recent polls have shown that a majority of voters are in favor of passing their version of the bill. If or when this happens, it would mean that two states containing an enormous stretch of the United States border with Mexico would be growing and selling their own fully legalized marijuana. This could spell the end, or at the least, cause a greatly dwindling marketplace for Mexican pot smuggling.
For those that think this sounds like a giant victory over the Mexican cartels, don’t celebrate yet. Like many successful corporations manage to do when in tough times, there is strong speculation that the cartels will adapt, staying a step ahead of the curve and two steps ahead of law enforcement. Many experts say that the cartels will buy warehouses in California, and because they will not be paying taxes, they could, in theory, undercut legal growers’ wholesale prices with ease. Some suggest that they will even start producing massive amounts of cannabis concentrates like butane hash oil (BHO), as it is more compact and easier to ship around the country, supplying an ever-growing need in non-legalized states as the demand for such products continues to rapidly grow. Probably the most disturbing expectation of the cartels is that they will simply up their smuggling of harder drugs such as heroin, meth, and one of the newest crazes in the states, fentanyl.
The bottom line is that the cartels will not curl into a ball, shrivel up, and die. In effect, the opposite is more likely to happen. They will switch their business model and keep trucking ahead. Ironically, this is the American way. Never give up. Never quit. And make lots of money.