There is compelling evidence from multiple sources that legalization efforts in the United States are putting a dent in illegal marijuana originating from Mexico.
In figures provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the seizure of marijuana at the border is at its lowest level in ten years. This figure is used as a general indicator of how much marijuana is crossing the U.S.-Mexican border.
To compound this evidence, the street price of marijuana has decreased sharply.
“Two or three years ago, a kilogram [2.2 pounds] of marijuana was worth $60 to $90,”
a Mexican marijuana grower told NPR.
“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.”
What’s more, customers are demanding higher quality as cannabis becomes more mainstream. In its 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment, the DEA has pointed towards quality as a deciding factor among the U.S. cannabis consumer.
“Mexican cartels are attempting to produce higher-quality marijuana to keep up with U.S. demand.” said the report.
“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.”
While the instinct might be to look at Colorado, Washington and Oregon as indicators of these changes, California may hold the key to evaluating long term trends regarding reduction in illegal marijuana. The Golden State has been growing, consuming and selling cannabis far longer than any other state, (both legally and illegally) and the “Emerald Triangle” is the largest cannabis-producing region in the world. Based on research by the RAND corporation, exports from California to other states could cause a decrease in demand for illegal marijuana from Mexico, should interstate commerce between marijuana-friendly states become legal.
As with any business, supply and demand are at play in Mexico’s illegal drug industry. Methamphetamine and cocaine from Mexico are increasing as Americans have a consistent appetite for these substances.