Decades into the War on Drugs, drug cartels were stronger than ever. In the eyes of many experts, the drug war may have even made matters worse.
But in the era of legal cannabis, there’s growing evidence that legalization and regulated markets are doing what the War on Drugs failed to accomplish.
Additionally, DEA and other law enforcement agents rounded up roughly 1.5 million pounds of marijuana at the border. In 2009, they were taking in nearly 4 million pounds.
Decreases in the amount and number cannabis seizures, however, aren’t the only signs that legal cannabis is shifting the battle lines in the War on Drugs.
Legal cannabis is also taking a huge bite out of Mexican drug cartel profits.
“Two or three years ago, a kilogram of marijuana was worth $60 to $90,” a Mexican marijuana grower told NPR news in December 2014. “But now they’re paying us $30 to $40 a kilo. It’s a big difference. If the U.S. continues to legalize pot, they’ll run us into the ground.”
That grower’s story is in line with data about the difficulties marijuana growers in Mexico face in light of increased competition from the north.
As U.S. marijuana production has ramped up in places such as California, Colorado and Washington, marijuana prices have fallen, especially at the bulk level.
It’s not just profits that are being effected by U.S. competition in the cannabis industry. It’s quality, too.
Mexican growers are facing serious pressure on the quality of the marijuana they are able to produce.
“The quality of marijuana produced in Mexico and the Caribbean is thought to be inferior to the marijuana produced domestically in the United States or in Canada,” the DEA wrote last year in its 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment.
In response, Mexican cartels are trying to produce higher-quality cannabis to keep up with the demand of their consumers in the United States and Canada, according to reports by law enforcement.
In the U.S. experts are still trying to figure out the direct causes of the decrease in cartel activity in terms of seizures and profits. While some thing that recreational use has increased the consumption of domestic marijuana, others attribute it primarily to the larger and older medical marijuana market.