Legalizing marijuana won’t kill the drug cartels

Sylvia Longmire in the New York Times.

Marijuana makes up 60 percent of the cartels’ profits, that still leaves another 40 percent, which includes the sale of methamphetamine, cocaine, and brown-powder and black-tar heroin. If marijuana were legalized, the cartels would still make huge profits from the sale of these other drugs.

Plus, there’s no reason the cartels couldn’t enter the legal market for the sale of marijuana, as organized crime groups did in the United States after the repeal of Prohibition.

The cartels are diversifying into other forms of crime like kidnapping, protection rackets, oil theft, and pirated goods, she says, and while decriminalizing marijuana and not treating casual users as criminals will help, it won’t stop the violence in Mexico or its inevitable spillover into this country.


  1. This is an idiotic, yet not infrequently heard argument. Marijuana is not the cartels only revenue stream. Therefore, legalizing marijuana will have no effect on them. This is akin to claiming that Microsoft would be unaffected by the loss of their software patents because they’d still have revenue from X-Box sales.

    The fact is that whatever percentage of cartel profits are currently derived from marijuana trafficking will disappear with the advent of legalization.

    Cartels competing in the legal marijuana market? Well, maybe, but with the loss of the risk premium, the price of legal pot will be much closer to the cost of production and far less profitable.

    Cartels making up for the lost revenue with pirate DVD sales and kidnapping? Get real. If these activities were anywhere near as lucrative as drug trafficking, they would already be a primary focus of cartel activities.

    Marijuana legalization won’t kill the cartels but it will weaken them by reducing their revenue streams. And that’s a good thing.

    • Good point. Marijuana legalization would certainly cripple them, but since so many powerful interests in the US (like money laundering banks) benefit from it being illegal, we probably won’t have legalization any time soon.

    • This comment is absolutely correct. The revenue that the drug cartels would lose due to marijuana legalization would astronomical and it would certainly put a large dent in their criminal operations. The sale of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine in no way shape or form could support these cartels; these drugs are much more difficult to sell and manufacture due to their lethality, addictive properties and the increased attention they draw from law enforcement officials. The other things the Mexican gangs use to supplement their income such as pirating and kidnapping are nowhere near profitable enough to keep the gangs afloat, and with marijuana gone they will either have to find new ways to make obscene amounts of money or break apart.

      • I have relatives that owned slaves, killed indians, were indians being killed….etc. Does the stain of past moral trangressions pass through to our progeny? What’s the meaning in your flippant comment?

        • Some opine that those past transgressions were never actually past when JFK and Bobby were in politics, that the corruption was still there. Harry Truman once said, Joe Kennedy is about as big a crook as this country has seen. You think all that magically disappeared in a couple of decades?

          In ‘The Money and the Power’, a book about Vegas by respected investigative journalists, they talk about this and more. Joe Kennedy asked Sam Giancana to help get JFK elected, especially in Chicago. Giancana did so, then Bobby went after the mob with a vengeance. More than a few of the connected mobsters they interviewed thought this was a factor in both assassinations.

          Shortly after JFK was killed Bobby said “I found out something I never knew, I found out my world was not the real world.”

        • As Bob points out, though fails to elaborate, if the Kennedy clan – and to a much more recent state of affairs the descendents of Hitler’s financeers Bush I & II – are morally absolved of their anscestors’ crimes then the answer to your question is no, the stain of past moral transgressions does not pass on to our protegy.

          This is a tough question of we Metis`, we of mixed ancestry, of ancestors who both owned slaves and were slaves, killed natives and were native killed, do we hold the descendents of those who transgressed against us responsible, or do we turn the other cheek? Most agree to turn the other cheek, if only because our AIM (American Indian Movement) experience of the sixties and early seventies led us to understand that to do otherwise results in if not our deaths and the deaths of our loved ones but the imprisonment for life on what later are proven to be false charges of those who would speak out. See Leonard Peltier.

          There is/was nothing flippant about Bob’s comment – if we as we have elect(ed) the descendents of rum runners (Kennedy), child-slave drivers (Roosevelte) and Hitler’s financeers (Bush) then there is nothing preventing a member of the Medalin Cartel from becoming “President”.

          • The book also said that some government / military official who worked with RFK was relieved when he was assassinated because that meant we wouldn’t get a mobster president..

            Joe Kennedy’s bootleggers had armed shootouts with Lanksy’s bootleggers resulting in deaths.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.