The increasing legalization of marijuana throughout many parts of the U.S. is sending ripple effects in all sorts of directions. Some of these ripples are heading south of the border, as legal weed production in the U.S. has driven down both the demand and value for the Mexican-grown herb.
“I’ve always liked this business, producing marijuana,” a 50-year-old small-scale cannabis farmer in Mexico told reporters from The Los Angeles Times earlier this week.
He went on to say that, after illegally growing cannabis for nearly forty years, this year’s harvest would be his last.
The man’s decision is largely the result of falling marijuana prices.
“The loosening of marijuana laws across much of the United States has increased competition from growers north of the border, apparently enough to drive down prices paid to Mexican farmers,” the article said.
“Small-scale farmers here in the state of Sinaloa, one of the country’s biggest production areas, stated that over the last four years the amount they receive per kilogram has fallen from $100 to $30.”
According to the co-director of the Drug Policy Research Center at the Rand Corp. think tank Beau Kilmer, Mexican-grown marijuana was at one point providing as much as two-thirds of all marijuana consumed in the U.S. annually.
Now, thanks to the increased competition of legal grow operations in the U.S.; experts estimate that number has dropped to as little as a third.
These change in the cannabis market aren’t affecting only the small scale farmers who used to rely on their illegal crops for income. They’re also changing the way drug smugglers and cartels conduct their business.
“Changes on the other side of the border are making marijuana less profitable for organizations like the Cartel de Sinaloa,” said Antonio Mazzitelli, the representative in Mexico of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
According to The Los Angeles Times, cartels are adapting by placing more focus on producing high-end marijuana capable of meeting Americans’ growing demand for high-quality herb.
They are also beginning to shift resources away from marijuana altogether, focusing more on smuggling drugs like heroin, meth, and cocaine into the U.S.