And the new competition from legal states has taken a big bite out of the entire illicit Mexican marijuana food chain. “Two or three years ago, a kilogram [2.2 pounds] of marijuana was worth $60 to $90,” a cannabis farmer in Mexico said in an interview with 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.”
Consumers are also starting to see the difference. Cheap low quality Mexican cannabis has become almost impossible to find in states that have legalized, while prices for high quality home-grown have steadily decreased.
This is good news for Mexico. A decreasing flow of cannabis trafficking throughout the country will likely lead to less cartel violence as revenues used to buy weapons dry up. Drug war-related violence in Mexico was responsible for an estimated 27,000 deaths in 2011 alone — outpacing the entire civilian death toll of the United States’ 15-year war in Afghanistan.
These developments reinforce criticism of the War on Drugs as a failed policy. Making substances like cannabis illegal simply drove the industry underground, helping make America the largest incarcerator in the world.
Legalizing cannabis will also save the United States a great deal of money. As Mint Press News reported:
“Since Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs in June 1971, the cost of that “war” had soared to over $1 trillion by 2010. Over $51 billion is spent annually to fight the drug war in the United States, according to Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting more humane drug policies.”
Early reports from Colorado’s cannabis tax scheme show that revenues that will ostensibly help schools and rehabilitation efforts by flooding the state with cash. In fact, Colorado became the first state to generate more tax revenue from cannabis than alcohol in one year — $70 million.
But why stop with cannabis legalization? As more and more drug propaganda is debunked thanks to the legal weed movement, it’s time to also advocate for drug legalization across the board. The drug war’s criminalization of substances has done nothing to stem their use, and has simply turned addicts into criminals, even though plenty of experts agree that addiction is a health issue, not a criminal one.
Maybe it’s time for the U.S., Mexico, and other countries to embrace the Portuguese and Irish model of treating addiction to drugs like an addiction to alcohol or cigarettes, using rehabilitation — rather than incarceration — to confront the problem.
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