Rand Report: Legalization of Marijuana in CA Would Hurt Mexican Cartels

There's a new Rand report, Reducing Drug Trafficking Revenues and Violence in Mexico that examines how Prop 19 and marijuana legalization in California might influence drug trafficking organization revenues and the violence in Mexico. The key findings:

  • Mexican DTOs' gross revenues from illegally exporting marijuana to wholesalers in the United States is likely less than $2 billion;
  • The claim that 60 percent of Mexican DTO gross drug export revenues come from marijuana should not be taken seriously;
  • If legalization only affects revenues from supplying marijuana to California, DTO drug export revenue losses would be very small, perhaps 2–4 percent; [More...]

  • The only way legalizing marijuana in California would significantly influence DTO revenues and the related violence is if California-produced marijuana is smuggled to other states at prices that outcompete current Mexican supplies. The extent of such smuggling will depend on a number of factors, including the response of the U.S. federal government.
  • If marijuana is smuggled from California to other states, it could undercut sales of Mexican marijuana in much of the U.S., cutting DTOs' marijuana export revenues by more than 65 percent and probably by 85 percent or more. In this scenario, the DTOs would lose approximately 20% of their total drug export revenues.

The report also finds the Government's figures of cartel involvement in marijuana in the U.S. greatly exaggerated:

The RAND study also finds that the often-cited claim that marijuana accounts for 60 percent of gross drug export revenues of Mexican drug trafficking organizations is not credible. RAND's exploratory analysis on this point suggests that 15 percent to 26 percent is a more credible range.

...."No publicly available source verifies or explains the mythical 60 percent figure and subsequent government analyses revealed great uncertainty about the estimate," said study co-author Jonathan P. Caulkins, the H. Guyford Stever Professor of Operations Research at Carnegie Mellon University's Heinz College and Qatar campus. "Our analyses suggest that smuggling marijuana across the Southwest border accounts for 15 to 26 percent of the export revenues generated by Mexican drug trafficking organizations."

Under Prop 19, people over the age of 21 awill be allowed to cultivate marijuana on a 5-foot-by-5-foot plot and possess, process, share or transport up to one ounce of marijuana.

In July, 2010, Rand issued a report called Altered States, that found legalization in California could drop marijuana prices to $38.00 an ounce.

The RAND Drug Policy Research Center is a joint project of RAND Health and the RAND Safety and Justice program within RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment.

The goal of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center is to provide a firm, empirical foundation upon which sound drug policies can be built.

A lot of law professors support Prop 19. For more on why legalization is the way to go, see Yes on 19, Drug Policy Alliance, NORML , Just Say Nowand Marijuana Policy Project, to name a few.

The war on drugs has failed. It's time to go in a different direction. If you live in California, please help get out the vote. Turnout is key.

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  • Display: Sort:
    proposition 19 (none / 0) (#1)
    by hairspray on Sat Oct 16, 2010 at 07:16:06 PM EST
    I support decriminalistion of most drugs primarily because criminalizing them is too much like prohbition of the 1920's. The secondary effects are enormous.  But I do so reservedly, because I saw my son strung out on Marijuana for a few years and it was an awful period.

    I believe education is the key (none / 0) (#4)
    by nyrias on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 10:46:27 AM EST
    Not only I voted for Prop 19, I have a discussion with both of my kids about it.

    Making something legal is NOT the same as advocating doing it. SMOKING is a good example. None of my kids smoke or will smoke and I don't have to advocate making it illegal to make sure my kids know the harm it will do to them.


    Good to hear... (none / 0) (#5)
    by kdog on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 11:07:39 AM EST
    two non-fans of the plant still see the err in prohibiton.

    Though the curiosity as to what constitutes "strung out" on reefer is killing me hairspray...all my years in the culture the only stoners I could describe as "strung out" where the ones I saw in the propaganda film "Reefer Madness"...aka fictional characters.


    My son was glassy and dopey (none / 0) (#6)
    by hairspray on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 07:10:45 PM EST
    alot of the time. He had no energy and drive. He was dreamy and had trouble focusing.     And he wasn't using anything else.  I get that you don't want to hear that because it doesn't fit your mind set, but I know what I saw.

    Didn't mean to be insensitive... (none / 0) (#8)
    by kdog on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 09:54:18 PM EST
    I got no problem hearing it...sh*t I've seen it too, there is definitely such a thing as smoking too much.  Just never heard "strung out" used to describe it.

    Too much of anything can be problematic...reefer, the internet, working.  All in moderation.  

    Just had my nephew over to pick up his birthday cash tonight...18 this year.  Had this very talk with him again, trying to nail the point home...as well as tips to avoid the chains and stay safe when he does have his good time.  I don't envy your job as a parent, believe you me.  

    One thing for sure, it's enough of a jungle out there for our 18 year olds to have to worry so much about the police and how they do these days too.  


    Last year I went to the funeral of an MD friend (none / 0) (#7)
    by hairspray on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 07:15:29 PM EST
    who was a leader in the fight for legalization of  marijuana.  He died of heart disease.  The people at his wake were pretty sad looking characters. They were a motley looking group. I didn't want to see them that way, but try as I might I couldn't make them into vibrant healthy looking people.

    I like my groups motley:)... (none / 0) (#9)
    by kdog on Mon Oct 18, 2010 at 10:02:35 PM EST
    Maybe because it was a funeral?

    I can't say I hear this, I like to think I'm a pretty vibrant happy guy, though definitely not the healthiest...all in moderation, even health conciousness.  I wanna make sure this vessel shows a little something for the wear and tear before I go...but to each their own pal.


    Market forces (none / 0) (#2)
    by Ben Masel on Sat Oct 16, 2010 at 09:35:46 PM EST
    The declining wholesale price of California outdoor bud has already put a significant dent in Mexican shipments to Wisconsin.

    Just a year ago, mexican made up perhaps 60% of consumption here, now, as Cali buds arrivre at $3,000 a pound, down from $4,000, Mex gets more like 20% of Madison's weed $.

    An excellent growing seson combined with a bad economy pushing more folks to plant means we'll have the biggest local crop in quite a while, so both should be displaced for a few months.

    Backbone of the Mexican Drug Trade (none / 0) (#3)
    by SteppingRazor on Sun Oct 17, 2010 at 06:06:43 PM EST
    The Marijuana Trade is the Backbone of the drug trade. EVERYTHING rides on it's back. Heroin, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, etc. do not have the usage levels and widespread appeal to maintain consistent levels of usage and demand in the long term. Heroin is very much a niche market. It may have long term users but the number will always be small. Cocaine and Methamphetamine are used for relatively short terms by it's users and they either die or quit(some become snitches attacking the market in their special way). Only marijuana has long term appeal and new users introduced to cocaine and heroin are introduced to these drugs through dealers offering these drugs as a side line to their marijuana operations.