BY ALEJANDRO HOPE
Since Jan. 1, Colorado has had a legal marijuana market. The same will soon be true in Washington State, once retail licenses are issued. Other states, such as California and Oregon, will likely follow suit over the next three years.
So does this creeping legalization of marijuana in the U.S. spell doom for the Mexican drug cartels? Not quite. The illegal marijuana trade provides Mexican organized crime with about $1.5 billion to $2 billion a year. That’s not chump change, but according to a number of estimates, it represents no more than a third of gross drug export revenue. Cocaine is still the cartels’ biggest money-maker and the revenue accruing from heroin and methamphetamine aren’t trivial. Moreover, Mexican gangs also obtain income from extortion, kidnapping, theft and various other types of illegal trafficking. Losing the marijuana trade would be a blow to their finances, but it certainly wouldn’t put them out of business.