A marijuana dealer in Juárez has a new product for sale. It’s connoisseur-grade American pot. Instead of traveling from Mexico into the United States, it’s traveled the other direction. Bloomberg Business Week reported last month that legal pot in the United States is having an irreversible effect on Mexican cartels. The flow of illegal marijuana from Mexico into the United States has slowed and in some cases, reversed. The fall of marijuana prices plus the fall of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán have transformed illegal marijuana into a business that’s no longer profitable.
Sinaloa has long been a hub of illegal marijuana trafficking. The town of Badiraguato, El Chapo’s headquarters, has been undergoing transformation. Badiraguato’s mayor says “In our town, [marijuana production has] dropped because it’s no longer a profitable business.” Human drug mule seizures have dropped half since 2014, as reported by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Matt Karnes, a market analyst by way of GreenWave Advisors, predicts marijuana sales in the United States will reach $38.5 billion by 2020. Traditionally, only one-sixth of pot was grown locally in the United States, but that number has already doubled with legalization.
GreenWave Advisors’ last report on June 16 pegs the global marijuana economy higher than previously expected at $850 million by 2020. GreenWave Advisors are suggesting preparatory measures for investors, such as standardized lab testing for marijuana quality.
Drug cartels aren’t going to disappear anytime soon, but the drop in illegal marijuana will help drug enforcement in Mexico focus on heroin and methamphetamine. Peter Robison and Benjamin Bain’s report concludes with “Decades of prohibition never slowed the flow of pot from Mexico; legalization did. The choice is now who controls that flow: an unnamed dealer in Juárez or a legalized cross-border industry.”