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Mexico’s current Congress is controlled in both houses by the Movimiento Regeneración Nacional—or National Regeneration Movement— (MORENA) party, a socially democratic party thatsupports “development through private and social business, promoting competition, but exercising State responsibility in the strategic activities which the Constitution states”. The party has plans and legislation on the table for the legalization of growing, selling, and using marijuana within the country.
Many see this as a positive change, as it would decrease the amount of funding needed to police non-violent drug crimes, ease the burden on the prison system, increase tax revenue, standardize quality control of the drug, and—crucial to Mexico’s war on drugs and crime—take money out of the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
Mexico’s Senator Olga Sánchez Cordero stated that the war on drugs has taken 235,000 lives since 2006. The Sinaloa Cartel, considered to be Mexico’s dominant drug trafficking cartel, is thought to receive half of its revenue from marijuana production. Cutting their main source of revenue has the potential to cripple them financially.
This does, however, spell trouble for the United States. With a loss in profits from legal marijuana in several states, drug cartels have started turning to heroin and other drugs as their source of income, sending larger quantities into America.
A drug raid in Denver in 2014 also uncovered the fact that the patchwork legality of marijuana in the United States has led to criminal organizations rooting themselves in states where cannabis production is legal and trafficking it into other states. Special Agent in Charge Barbra Roach of the Denver division of the Drug Enforcement Agency stated that, “Since 2014 there has been an influx of these organized criminal groups to Colorado for the sole purpose of producing marijuana to sell in other states. Many of these operations involve multiple, sometimes dozens, of homes that are converted into grow sites. Members of these organizations relocated to Colorado in organized cells that then orchestrated the numerous grow operations, producing tons of marijuana for out-of-state markets.”
Similar rings linked to Mexican drug cartels have been found in North California, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona. If the marijuana industry becomes legal in Mexico, the cartels would logically focus on supplying the highly profitable drug to their neighbors to the north and south, and profit from trafficking.
The marijuana legalization bill is expected to be ready early into the nascent presidency of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, as he takes office on December 1. Though Obrador has not fully come out in support of the bill, he has stated, “This is all part of democracy, I respect Congress’ initiatives,” and it is anticipated that Mexico will add its name to the list of countries where marijuana is legal.