Santa Cruz, CA: A study released on Tuesday by the RAND Drug Policy Research Center concludes that legalizing marijuana in California would “effectively eliminate” the involvement of Mexican drug traffickers in the state’s commercial marijuana trade.
Authors of the report conclude (on page 19): “We believe that legalizing marijuana in California would effectively eliminate Mexican DTOs’ (drug trafficking organizations) revenues from supplying Mexican-grown marijuana to the California market. … [E]ven with taxes, legally produced marijuana would likely cost no more than would illegal marijuana from Mexico and would cost less than half as much per unit of THC. Thus, the needs of the California market would be supplied by the new legal industry. While, in theory, some DTO employees might choose to work in the legal marijuana industry, they would not be able to generate unusual profits, nor be able to draw on talents that are particular to a criminal organization.”
Authors also determined that Mexican cartels would have no incentive to try and provide illicit cannabis to the youth market in California, who would be restricted from purchasing marijuana legally until age 21. They wrote: “We also believe that Mexican DTOs would eventually lose all revenue stemming from the selling of Mexican marijuana to underage users in California. When it becomes possible in California for anyone over the age of 21 to provide juveniles with marijuana that is cheaper, better, and subject to more quality control, Mexican DTOs will have no more competitive advantage than they would trying to sell alcohol and cigarettes to California youth today.”
On November 2, California voters will decide on Proposition 19, which would legalize the private adult use and cultivation of limited amounts of cannabis, and allow local governments to regulate the commercial production and distribution of marijuana.
The report did state that the exportation of marijuana by Mexican drug cartels would remain lucrative even if Californians decided to legalize the plant statewide. The authors estimated that Mexican drug traffickers would likely generate some $1.5 billion in revenue annually exporting marijuana to other regions of the country.
The report criticized previous estimates made by the federal government alleging that Mexican cartels generated some $8.5 billion per year trafficking in cannabis. The RAND report called the estimate “not credible,” instead determining, “Mexican DTOs’ annual gross revenues from illegally exporting marijuana and selling it to wholesalers in the United States are likely less than $2 billion.”
Commenting on the report, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said, “Regardless of whether Mexican cartels are reaping 60 percent of their profits from exporting pot or 16 percent, the fundamental principle remains the same: the criminal prohibition of marijuana fuels an underground, unregulated, often times violent black market economy that empowers criminal entrepreneurs and jeopardizes the public’s — and the marijuana consumer’s — safety.”
He continued: “Californians this November have a choice. A ‘yes’ vote on Prop. 19 seeks to take control of this illegal market and turn it over to regulators, lawmakers, and licensed business. A ‘no’ vote continues to abdicate control of this market to criminal gangs and drug traffickers.”
For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Full text of the report, “Reducing Drug Trafficking Revenues and Violence in Mexico,” is available online at: http://www.rand.org/pubs/occasional_papers/OP325/.