“I wish the Americans would stop with this legalization.”
Fifty-year-old Rodrigo Silla (speaking above) is a lifelong cannabis farmer, and he was lamenting the rapidly dropping wholesale marijuana prices his crops would draw in an illuminating interview with The Washington Post in April.
Four U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana in the last 25 months, in part, on the merits of taking down the underground black market and adding to the tax base. So nearly one year after Colorado first started selling recreational pot, we have to ask:
Is legalization actually working?
It sure looks like it, based on legitimate media reports that have reporters in the field. The above Washington Post story was reported in Tepaca de Badiraguato, Mexico. The below National Public Radio story was also reported in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa. The below Vice piece interviewed a retired federal agent “who worked to prevent drugs from crossing the southern border.”
These in-the-know people are on the ground saying that pot legalization in the U.S. is damaging the illicit black market for drugs in Mexico and beyond.
So yes, legalization is working — when it comes to Mexico’s dwindling contributions to the American black market, at least.
Farmers in the storied “Golden Triangle” region of Mexico’s Sinaloa state, which has produced the country’s most notorious gangsters and biggest marijuana harvests, say they are no longer planting the crop. Its wholesale price has collapsed in the past five years, from $100 per kilogram to less than $25.
“It’s not worth it anymore,” said Rodrigo Silla, 50, a lifelong cannabis farmer who said he couldn’t remember the last time his family and others in their tiny hamlet gave up growing mota. “I wish the Americans would stop with this legalization.”
Made-in-America marijuana is on a roll. More than half the states have now voted to permit pot for recreational or medical use, most recently Oregon and Alaska. That number also includes the District of Columbia. As a result, Americans appear to be buying more domestic marijuana, which in turn is undercutting growers and cartels in Mexico.
“Two or three years ago, a kilogram [2.2 pounds] of marijuana was worth $60 to $90,” says Nabor, a 24-year-old pot grower in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa. “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.”
“Is it hurting the cartels? Yes. The cartels are criminal organizations that were making as much as 35-40 percent of their income from marijuana,” retired federal agent Terry Nelson, a former field level commander who worked to prevent drugs from crossing the southern border, said. “They aren’t able to move as much cannabis inside the U.S. now.”
In 2012, a study by the Mexican Competitiveness Institute found that U.S. state legalization would cut into cartel business and take over about 30 percent of their market.