U.S. Marijuana Legalization Weakens Mexican Cartels

By: Rachel Blevins
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According to the FBI’s crime statistics from the last 20 years, half of the drug arrests in the United States have been Marijuana-related. The U.S. Department of Justice reported that a “large portion of the U.S. illegal drug market is controlled directly by Mexican cartels.”

Last week, The Washington Post reported that Marijuana farmers in the Sinaloa region of Mexico have “stopped planting due to a massive drop in wholesale prices, from $100 per kilo down to only $25,” with one farmer saying, “It’s not worth it anymore. I wish the Americans would stop with this legalization.

Sean Dunagan, a former DEA Senior Intelligence Specialist, compared the effect of legalizing marijuana to the effect of legalizing alcohol.

Anything to establish a regulated legal market will necessarily cut into those profits,” said Dunagan. “It won’t be a viable business for the Mexican cartels — the same way bootleggers disappeared after prohibition fell.”

Dunagan spent two years in Mexico, working for DEA Operations, and he claimed there was a “temptation sometimes to prioritize a certain cartel or informant.” He said cartels were aware of this, and that they “exploit the relationship to provide information on their competitors. It creates these perverse incentives — you are investigating what your informant is telling you, not what they are doing.

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, told VICE News. “They aren’t able to move as much cannabis inside the US now.


Although Marijuana is legalized in Colorado and Washington, it is still on the federal list of high-priority illegal drugs, and according to Dunagan, even in a state that has legalized marijuana, it is still illegal under federal law.

Dunagan pointed out that, “Technically, a DEA agent could still walk into any marijuana dispensary in Colorado and seize the money, and arrest everyone.” However, instead of doing that, the DEA uses other tactics.

While some doctors in states like Massachusetts have been threatened and told that prescribing medical marijuana will cause them to lose their license to prescribe other drugs, banks have been instructed not work with marijuana facilities.

The DEA doesn’t want the drug war to end,” said Nelson. “If it ends, they don’t get their toys and their budgets. Once it ends, they aren’t going to have the kind of influence in foreign government.

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Rachel Blevins

Rachel Blevins is a student in the College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University. She aspires to break the left/right paradigm in media and politics by pursuing truth and questioning authority as she establishes her Journalism career.

  • George Reichel

    Weakens drug cartels and decreases bribery payments to our legal system.

  • dtownprof

    Sounds like the cartels aren’t weakening, they are just changing their product to heroin.

    • Contrarianthefirst

      Due to heroin still being illegal and thus profitable.

  • Don’tYouGetItYet?

    The last over sized paragraph sums it all up. It’s all about control and job security for the entire system they built upon “the drug war”. People in this country think they are free, but look how many laws we have between federal and state. It’s almost a crime to do anything. Weed? Schedule 1 drug? In 2014? Pathetic.

  • Rook King

    Surprise surprise! Nobody ever saw that coming! Right?

  • Contrarianthefirst

    Merely backs our argument for legalization.

  • Pat Enery

    Media fodder for the sheeple. The real dagger will be when all 50 states legalize. Then there will be no justification for the federal alphabet soup agencies & the militarization of all our police departments. Fear not, cartels, Eric Holder will not let this happen.

  • Computer User

    The only way to break the black market is to legalize personal cultivation. The over regulation of even a legal market like Washington States will still face retail shortages and the illegal variety is always going to be profitable. Legalize and deregulate all natural substances now.