Whilst Americans in more than half of the U.S’s fifty-states are celebrating the legalisation of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes, not everyone is happy about America’s progressive approach.
Research shows that the price of marijuana grown in the United States is undercutting the price of Mexican-grown weed, with a devastating impact on the operations of Mexican drug cartels and growers.
Previously, the majority of cannabis consumed in the United States came from illegal Mexican sources.
But over the past few years, more and more states have legalised cannabis for medicinal purposes.
And earlier this year, the states of Washington and Colorado made the radical decision to legalise cannabis for recreational purposes – meaning that adults aged 21 and over can now purchase cannabis for personal consumption in these states.
Cannabis can also be grown legally in these states.
Alaska and Oregon also plan to follow this lead in coming years.
Mexican growers say that prior to legalisation, they were able to sell a kilogram of marijuana for $60 to $90 US dollars.
Now, they are only able to charge between $30 and $40 US dollars per kilo.
Growers, who already risk being criminally prosecuted if they are discovered by police, say that if the price drops any further, they will not be able to sustain operations.
But the legalisation of marijuana has had a more far-reaching impact, affecting the notoriously powerful Mexican drug cartels.
Mexican cannabis plantations generate $47.6 million dollars per square kilometre for the cartels – making cannabis crops worth even more than cocaine.
As legalisation spreads and Americans increasingly rely on home-grown sources of cannabis, it’s expected that cartel profits will be hit hard.
The findings that legalisation is having a negative impact on drug cartels supports earlier predictions.
It was forecasted back in 2010 that if American cannabis undercut its Mexican counterpart, profits earned by cartels from marijuana could fall by up to 85%.
For those concerned about the detrimental social impact of organised drug rings, these statistics indicate that legalisation and regulation of marijuana is effective in curbing the activities of drug cartels.
It is a positive outcome given the fact that cartels are responsible for killing almost 13,000 people every year, and perpetrating countless other violent crimes.
High levels of corruption in Mexico are also attributed to the strength of drug cartels – in 2014, Mexico ranked 103rd on the Corruptions Perceptions Index.
As the move towards legalisation gains momentum and the activities of drug cartels are dismantled, it is likely that corruption and violent crime will decrease.
This provides yet another compelling reason to allow legalisation.
Other arguments in favour of legalisation are the huge costs expended in fighting the war on drugs – it’s estimated that the United States alone spends $51 billion per year enforcing drug laws.
On top of this, there are the social problems associated with enforcing those laws.
These people face the prospect of a criminal record – or in some cases, imprisonment – if they are found guilty.
A raft of evidence suggests that this is not the correct approach in tackling crime.
People convicted of minor drug offences such as possession or minor supply are often young, with little exposure to the criminal justice system.
Having a criminal record can have a substantial impact on a person’s future – leading to stigmatisation and affecting their ability to gain employment.
Decriminalising cannabis, or legalising it, means that many young people avoid a run in with the justice system.
And legalisation presents governments with the opportunity to tax marijuana profits – which should interest many politicians.
For example, the U.S. state of Colorado collects around $6.5 million in cannabis tax revenue each month.
On top of this, many studies have suggested the benefits of using marijuana to treat a variety of health problems; including chronic pain.
As the use of cannabis becomes more socially accepted and the law adapts, the full benefits of legalisation might be realised.
Whether the activities of powerful drug cartels will be eliminated altogether remains to be seen, but for now, the evidence suggests that legalisation is a step in the right direction.