How Much Would Legalizing Marijuana in One or More U.S. States Hurt Mexican Gangsters?

If voters approve marijuana legalization in Washington, Colorado, or both states today, what sort of impact might an above-board cannabis market have on Mexico's notoriously violent drug cartels? In a recent Quartz piece, Tim Fernholz reports that a new study from the Mexican Center for Competitiveness (IMCO) estimates legal marijuana in those states plus Oregon (where the reform is also on the ballot but polling poorly) would "cut the cartels' income by $1.37 billion, or about 23% of their revenue." Fernholz says that calculation is based on a 2010 RAND Corporation estimate that legalizing marijuana in California "could cut the income of Mexican drug dealers by 20%." That scemario, in turn, was based on the assumption that legal California pot would be exported to other states, displacing imported Mexican marijuana and "cutting DTOs' [drug trafficking organizations'] marijuana export revenues by more than 65 percent and probably by 85 percent or more." But "if legalization only affects revenues from supplying marijuana to California," RAND said, "DTO drug export revenue losses would be very small, perhaps 2–4 percent."     

Notably, the RAND report rejected a widely cited estimate that 60 percent of the cartels' income comes from marijuana, saying that number "should not be taken seriously." It traced the claim to the federal government's 2006 National Drug Control Strategy but said "there is no empirical justification for this figure that can be verified" and noted that the Office of National Drug Control Policy "publicly distanced itself from this figure" in 2010. RAND concluded that the 60-percent estimate "is truly a mythical number, one that appeared out of nowhere and that has acquired great authority"—especially among marijuana legalizers, who ordinarily are quick to question the government's empirically shaky claims about drugs.

RAND instead settled on a range of 15 percent to 26 percent, so IMCO's report (which is in Spanish) apparently assumes that legalizing marijuana in three states would wipe out almost all of the cartels' marijuana revenue. That's possible, assuming the states that legalize marijuana end up exporting a lot of it. But as Fernholz notes, such exports would make an aggressive federal response more likely. Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, co-authored by two of the researchers who wrote the RAND report (Beau Kilmer and Jonathan Caulkins), concludes that "at least in the long run, marijuana legalization would make a meaningful, but not decisive, contribution to reducing the flow of funds to violent Mexican DTOs."

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  • Randian||

    God DAMN, Jacob. Something pissing you off today?

  • Timrek||

    He's just trying to get a head in the journalism business.

  • Sudden||

    A man as heady as him has several motivations.

  • ||

    They'll never be the head of a major corporation.

  • tarran||

    When I said the people were losing their heads over the election, I didn't mean it literally!

  • ||

    Oh good, I'd forgotten what I had for lunch today.

  • ||

    Head cheese?

  • ||

    With a head of lettuce.

  • Voros McCracken||

    Sullum chooses the nuclear option with choice of photos.

  • ||

    Not just a hat rack...anymore.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Exercising his freedom of speech against the Drug War.

    Sullum, you're a real libertarian.

  • John Thacker||

    "Meaningful, but not decisive" is still a pretty darn good recommendation for a government (in)action, compared to most alternatives.

  • BoscoH||

    A little alt text? Like "Some heads are gonna roll!"

  • BoscoH||

    Or... "I-aye-aye-aye ain't got noooooo booooo-dy. No body. Cares for me. No body. I-aye-aye-aye'm so sad and loooooo-nely. Sadnlonely. Want some sweet mama come n take a chance with me. Cuz I ain't so bad."

  • R C Dean||

    "Leashes? We don't need no steekin' leashes!"

  • Ken Shultz||

    No alt text could ever do a picture like that justice.

  • A Serious Man||

    It's shame they weren't more headstrong.

  • rho||

    This is not your dad's head shop.

  • ||

    Unless those are fake heads from a movie that's pretty tasteless.

  • Sudden||

    Sometimes, a grim reminder of what is at stake is the most effective means of preventing future transgressions.

  • ||

    That's from the auditions for The Head Detective. I guess it was originally going to be a drama.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Starring Hedy Lamarr.

  • ||

    And Lena Heady.

  • Drunk Jamie||

    That's HEDLY.

  • Sudden||

    Does she give good head?

  • The Hammer||

    "dunno, I couldn't find her head."

  • Zeb||

    I think it is appropriate. It is important to remind people who are all in for the drug war what they really are supporting.

  • Zeb||

    Though it does seem to have completely distracted everyone from the article, so maybe it was a bit much.

  • ||

    You think it will get peoples' heads in the game?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yeah, I'm already a little sickened by some other things going on today. Didn't need the heads.

    Anyway, I suppose this is mandatory: "The heads. You're looking at the heads. I, uh--sometimes he goes too far, you know--he's the first one to admit it!"

  • ||

    Meh.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It occurs to me that doctors should not be trained to be insensitive to human suffering. Maybe a chip that makes it hurt more?

  • ||

    Not insensitive, merely detached, Pro'L Dib.

    Oh, would you mind dropping me a line, please?

  • shamalam||

    Says the guy who delights in operating on gangrenous hemorrhoids.

  • ||

    I can't read the article as viewing the photo makes me want to vomit.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Just like a bunch of drugheads, laying around doing nothing.

  • ||

    Cleanup on aisle 7!

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Man, they'll sell *anything* at Whole Foods.

  • A Secret Band of Robbers||

    Yes, those mules are grass-fed, but are they grass-finished?

  • UnionBuiltOhioRoads||

    Damn. I didnt expect this

  • DanD||

    Jesus Christ

  • seguin||

    Not to go Moral Orel on everyone, but JEEBUS, unless it's fake, those were people once. Some respect for the murdered might be in order.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    You have been head... er, heard.

  • ||

    Then dont. Ha.
    Besides, they were long dead when they were decapitated. Notice the locked jaws....rigor mortis.

  • Sudden||

    They need to watch that Nicholas Berg video again to learn how it's supposed to be done.

    Man, the cartels are a buncha pussies.

  • ||

    Don't lose your head over it, Sudden. Keep your chin up.

  • Ice Nine||

    Yeah, they're fake, seg. There, all better?

  • ||

    Yeah, I would hate to be (say) the wife or mother of one of those guys, and accidentally stumble across this article.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Is that one dude's head munching on that other dude's forehead?

  • ||

    Get over yourselves people, they are dead. They don't care any more.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yeah, but I'm still alive, and I was thinking about going out for a late lunch.

  • ||

    Yeah people, get your heads on straight.

  • BoscoH||

    We would like to receive.

  • BoscoH||

    "Duh, everybody knows that tails never fails. "

  • Sudden||

    Winner.

  • Sudden||

    BREAKING NEWS: Barack Obama's campaign has changed their motto from "Forward" to "A Head"

  • Drunk Jamie||

    Sullum, how did you get a photo from my family's last Christmas gathering?

  • ||

    If we must vote on best joke about the tasteless morally impaired photo selection ...

    This gets my vote.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    League night at Cartel Lanes.

  • Aresen||

    That kinda looks like a recent staff meeting in my office.

  • Zeb||

    I've always thought that the 60% figure was high. I bet it was invented in some attempt to say "see how bad marijuana is, those nasty cartels are making money off of it!".

  • R C Dean||

    To summarize: There's no question legalization will cost the cartels a lot of money. We're only quibbling over whether it will be a truckload, or a shitload.

  • tagtann||

    Whoa, talking about off with their heads! Thats amazing dude.
    www.privacy-ua.tk

  • ||

    DON'T GIVE ANONBOT IDEAS

  • Sudden||

    The anonbot is becoming self aware.

  • ||

    Oh God... We're approaching the Singularity much faster than I anticipated.

  • ||

    "See, this is why we can't give in, and must divert more money into the drug war. We can't let animals like these win. If you legalize now, you're just giving in to their terrorism."

    /my father

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Another 100 years should do it. Think of the great-great-great-great-grandchildren!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Heady stuff! Anyone use that yet?

  • BoscoH||

    Head, shoulders, knees, and toes.
    Shit where are those?
    Head, shoulders, kneed, and toes.
    This kinda blows.
    Still got my eyes and my ears and my mouth and my nose.
    Head, but no shoulders, knees, or toes.
    So it goes.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Whoa, Barney?

  • BoscoH||

    "No, that's not quite what I had in mind. I wanted a blow job."

  • shamalam||

    So, legalization of cannabis in Colorado and Washington is gonna be a real headache for the cartel. I think the cartel ought to branch out to other profitable venues just to get ahead of this looming revenue crunch.

  • ||

    "I think it is appropriate. It is important to remind people who are all in for the drug war what they really are supporting."-

    i may (or more likely may not have) convinced at least one or two in a roomful of mormons the other day on why legalized MJ in WA state is something they should vote for. I wish I had the cartel argument in my sleeve at the time. at least a couple seemed receptive to the idea that it was smart to legalize AND TAX, and that legalizing it didn't necessarily mean that we would see usage of MJ go up. i think the tax argument pales when compared to the dead bodies argument - legalize MJ means we decrease the power, scope and funds that the deadly mexican cartels have. that's a POWERFUL argument

  • shamalam||

    Yeah, but look at the heads in that picture, it's all beaners. Who cares?

  • Proprietist||

    At least whoever took the photo took the time to Instagram it to bring out the subtle color nuances.

  • Mr Whipple||

    You'll be gettin' some head tonight, for sure.

  • Lyle||

    Beautiful photo of decapitated heads.

  • Rawrface||

    I think it's time we start legalizing Marijuana everywhere. Stop living in fear and start thinking about how great the future will be! LEGALIZE IT!

    Why don't we just start legalizing it everywhere? Why are so many people still stuck in this FEAR stage...? Stop worrying, start hoping. LEGALIZE IT!

    If you live in a state where Marijuana isn't legal yet and still want the same type of highs, I suggest checking out uIntoxicate.com. It has amazingly detailed legal highs reviews and where to get them without getting ripped off!
    Also! I'm starting up a new forum dedicated to my fellows stoners. Come on over and join the high conversations! We're quite new, but VERY welcoming.

    CHECK IT: http://uintoxicate.com/
    STONER FORUMS: http://www.stonersofthestates.com/forum/

  • sohbet||

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