Border States Legalizing Recreational Marijuana Could Crush The Cartel

A total of five states will vote on recreational marijuana on November 8, two of which border Mexico. Following the steady decrease in marijuana seizures along the southwest border in recent years, legalization advocates say the legal market in California and Arizona could crush the cartel.

For the first time, an area of the country that has long been a center for drug smuggling will have legal access to marijuana. If the legalization advocates are right, border cities once plagued drug-related crime could finally see some relief. In cities such as Nogales, Arizona, it could reduce violent crime as well.

“I can't tell you not a day goes by that we don't actually interdict somebody smuggling some sort of drug into the state,” said Col. Frank Milstead, head of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. In Nogales, where smugglers climbing the fence with a backpacks full of marijuana is a common sight, the cartel has a stronghold.

Law enforcement leaders are doubtful that legalization will work out the way marijuana advocates expect. They believe members of the cartels will infiltrate the legal market, or simply move on to harder drugs.

However, there is data to support the theory that the cartels are suffering and could be crushed by the legal market. Reports from the U.S. Border Patrol show that the number of marijuana seizures have been steadily decreasing since their peak in 2009.

The timing coincides with the onset of competition in the north, though it cannot be proven. However, the amount of marijuana crossing the border has been reduced by nearly two-thirds and 2.5 million pounds.

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