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Marijuana legalization is leading Mexican cartels to mellow out

by Oscar Pascual |

America’s legal cannabis is getting so good, it’s even convincing Mexican cartels to chill out.

As many more U.S. states continue to legalize marijuana, homicide rates in Mexico have steadily declined, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

After reaching a peak in 2011 of 22,852 murders, the number of killings south of the border dramatically lowered to 15,649 in 2014, when the number of states with legal weed in America reached four.

Note the 2011-2014 time frame, as it provides sufficient numbers before and after Washington state and Colorado were the first to legalize marijuana in 2012.

The murder rate may have dropped because cartels just don’t have as much weed money to kill people. Last year, U.S. Border Patrol seized 1.9 million pounds of Mexican pot, or “mota.” That number is down 24 percent from 2011 when 2.5 million pounds were captured.

Meanwhile in America, legal marijuana sales skyrocketed 74 percent last year, banking $2.7 billion, according to an estimate from industry investor organization ArcView Group.

Mexican security also notes the dive in marijuana production. In their most recent figures released last September, the Mexican government had seized the lowest amount of cannabis inside Mexico since 2000.

The correlation between more legal bud and fewer dead bodies doesn’t seem to be a coincidence, either.

“The drug consumer in the US yields billions of dollars, money that goes back to Mexico to bribe police and money that buys guns,” former Mexican president Vicente Fox said during a 2011 visit to a Colorado university. “So when you question yourselves about what is going on in Mexico, it depends very much on what happens in this nation.”

On the downside, it’s also forcing cartels to bulk up on shadier business such as meth, heroin, sex trafficking, and illegal iron mining.

While the U.S. confiscated the lowest amount of cannabis since 2011, it also seized a record 34,840 pounds of methamphetamine at the Mexican border last year.

Regardless, American legalization seems to be a good thing for Mexico. The final step for our southern neighbors would be to legalize pot themselves, as cheaper labor costs could give them an edge over imported American weed, one theory goes.

“Cannabis is not unlike wine,” said Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at Washington’s Institute of Policy Studies, in an interview with journalist Ioan Grillo, author of “El Narco,” one of the premier studies of Mexico’s narco war.

“I can buy a $200 bottle of wine, if that is what I am after. But many people will prefer the cheaper, mass-market product,” Tree told Grillo. “And if all the prohibition factors are taken out, then marijuana is really just an herb that can be produced very cheaply.”