The neighborhood I grew up in, and still reside in, is mostly comprised of people from Latin American descent. For the record I’m Caucasian for those that didn’t know. The grade school that I attended from kindergarten through sixth grade was 75-80% Latino. A lot of my closest friends and cousins are Latino, and I have always loved their cultures. Most of my friends and family that are Latino are descended from Mexico, Guatemala, and El Salvador. There are people in my neighborhood that are from South America too, but a majority of my friends are descendants of those three countries.
A lot of my friends were born in Mexico, and either visit there often, or have moved back there since growing up in Oregon. I have traveled to Mexico myself many times, back when I was a younger adult (I’m 35 now). When I was a teenager and through the first half of my twenties, I would go down each summer to an area a bit past Tijuana called El Florido. I don’t know exactly how town citations work in Mexico, so I apologize if I butchered it.
Going on those missions had a very profound impact on my life. By that point I already considered myself to be an activist, albeit not in the same form that I am now. My first trip was in 1999, so that was back in the AOL days, way before blogging as we know it today. Back in those days I was hitting up chat groups trying to get people to spread the word of marijuana reform! But I still had an understanding of the War on Drugs, and how harmful prohibition was, as I had seen it play out in my own family and experiences.
But when I went to Mexico to where people were living in landfills, and saw the misery first hand that people lived with every day…it’s something that still drives me every day to try to make the world a better place and to be thankful for what I have. I don’t come from means in any way, but compared to how other people live in some countries, in this instance Mexico, I have basically won the life lottery. Chances are if you are reading this, statistically speaking, you have too.
Now I know that not all parts of Mexico are like the border towns, as I have seen many, many pictures from friends’ visits and residences there. Mexico has some truly beautiful parts, and I imagine at one time the border area was beautiful too. But prohibition ruined that. Prohibition brought the cartels and gangs, and with it the violence and misery. At some point cities and towns along the United States border (on the Mexico side) became essentially war zones and places where innocent people are taken advantage of by criminals in ways that make my heart hurt in ways that I can’t express in words.
Every time I have gone to Mexico (it’s been awhile, admittedly) I have talked with people via a translator, and heard horrific stories about loved ones that had been killed by gangs or cartels, or had been forced to do things that they would struggle with the rest of their lives. At the root of almost all of it was drug cartels. The cartels need people to mule drugs across the border, and they force very, very desperate people to do it with the threat of violence, often including death. Opponents of marijuana want to try to hype up false fears of ‘big marijuana’ meanwhile innocent people are getting their heads chopped off in broad daylight in Mexico so that criminals can protect the profits they make from prohibition.
Mexico’s economy is not great. In fact it sucks, which is a big reason why the population along the border is poor. Not being able to find a job or being overworked for little pay is terrible. But having to live in fear of what may happen to you and/or your loved ones because of cartel violence on top of it is even more horrific. Recently news broke that Mexico’s President asked about California’s legalization initiative that will appear on the ballot in November. The inquiry came during talks with a group of California Democrats.
For reasons I kind of touched on earlier in this article, that news really hit a cord with me. People rarely think about 2016 marijuana legalization efforts from the perspective of people in Latin American countries. Whenever I read articles, it usually only touches on cartels in Latin America, and how their profits are taking a hit because less Americans are buying marijuana from south of the border as marijuana reform continues to spread in America. But that’s not the same as looking through the lens of the citizens of Mexico and other Latin American countries that are not profiting from the War on Drugs, but are instead suffering greatly as a result of it.
There are five states voting on recreational marijuana in November, with three of them being of particular significance to Mexico if for any reason because of geography. California, Nevada, and Arizona will all be voting on recreational marijuana in November, and a clean sweep of the three would make almost the entire western part of the United States legal. The Southwest in particular would have a huge impact on Mexico because it’s on (California and Arizona) or near (Nevada) the border. Maine and Massachusetts are significant too, because I guarantee cartel marijuana makes its way there in some fashion.
“Ending marijuana prohibition in more places — especially in the Southwest — will continue to bring more of the market above ground and out of the hands of violent drug cartels. Beyond that economic impact, and its positive resulting effects, legalization happening just over the border will also surely do a lot to propel the growing political and policy debate on legalization in Mexico.” said Tom Angell, Chairman of Marijuana Majority and writer for Marijuana.com.
Every state that legalizes marijuana in America adds to the momentum of repealing marijuana prohibition at the federal level in America. If America legalizes, I agree with Tom, I would assume Mexico would take a serious look at following suit. What that would look like, and what marijuana policy would look like between the two countries? That’s anyone’s guess. But United States Congressman Earl Blumenauer feels that legalization in America would create opportunities to work together with surrounding countries to figure out what those policies would be, since Canada has been working towards legalization (albeit slowly) and there have been rumblings of reform in Mexico.
“Our failed prohibition of marijuana has had a terrible destabilizing effect on Mexico and Central America. It’s encouraging that there are positive signs coming from both Mexico and Canada for reform that are coinciding with the reform movement cresting in the United States. Hopefully, these efforts will reinforce one another, so we can solve some of these problems rather than create new ones.” Congressman Earl Blumenauer told WeedNews.co.
American consumers do not want to buy cartel marijuana. The only reason why anyone buys such low grade marijuana from the unregulated market is because there’s nowhere else to purchase it. I live in Oregon where marijuana is legal, and I see more and more tourists visiting marijuana stores, events, and social settings. Almost without exception, the conversation always turns to how nice it is to go to a regulated store and buy marijuana and know exactly what you are getting, and not having to risk your freedom to do it all.
“Responsible cannabis consumers want to have their hard earned dollars go towards supporting small families, schools, and other things that benefit their community and the people that live in their community.” Acting Executive Director of NORML Randy Quast told WeedNews.co. “Responsible cannabis consumers do not want to support violent cartels and gangs via their cannabis purchases.”
Marijuana legalization is already hurting cartels, and there are currently only four states that have legalized (and D.C.). Imagine when prohibition is gone altogether? Obviously, marijuana sales are but one source of revenue for cartels. But they are a big source, and every dollar that goes to a regulated system instead of going into the unregulated market hurts cartel’s profits. The same profits that they use to victimize innocent people.
In Oregon, where I live, I don’t see cartel marijuana for sale here ever. There are stories every once in awhile of a cartel grow being found, but not nearly like it used to be. I’m sure there is still some cartel activity here, because the West Coast has always been a hotbed for cartel activity, but it has dwindled from what I can tell. Bammer, brick weed, whatever you want to call it, it used to be every where in the 90’s. But as medical spread during the 2000’s, and patients didn’t have to go that route as much, the presence of cartel weed faded. Now that legal marijuana is spreading across the state, I doubt I’ll ever be shown cartel weed again.
Anthony Johnson, Chief Petitioner of Oregon Measure 91 and co-founder of this website, points out that more could be done even in legal states to fight cartels. Over regulation leaves room for cartels to still operate. But, Anthony has also seen the reduction in cartel marijuana in Oregon.
“While the underground market is hard to eliminate completely when there are states that haven’t legalized cannabis and over-burdensome regulations artificially inflate prices, legalization has certainly curbed the illicit market, particularly from Mexican drug cartels. As more and more states legalize cannabis, we’ll see the illicit, unregulated market shrink more and more.” Anthony Johnson said.
There is so much going on in this election cycle in regards to marijuana policy. As I said previously, five states are going to be voting on recreational legalization. Four states are going to be voting on medical marijuana, with Montana essentially voting to re-institute its gutted medical marijuana program. A hypothetical sweep of all states would result in the number of recreational states more than doubling in America (9 and D.C.) and the number of medical states going from 25-29 (Montana is already a medical state). That’s substantial, as the victories would reverberate through the halls of Congress and make their way to Mexico and beyond.
There is constant arguing between marijuana opponents and supporters as to whether an initiative is good enough, or what parts of it they hate, but I think it’s safe to assume that those same debates are not going on among the citizens of Latin America. I think it’s a safe bet that they are hoping beyond hope that every state in the election cycle passes legalization, as that means less industry control for the cartels.
I don’t want to downplay people’s political views, because people’s votes are theirs to do with as they please. But in addition to what legalization would mean for industry profits, for state tax revenues, and for jobs, I think that needs to be balanced against what legalization would mean for countries in Latin America and beyond that have been ripped apart because of prohibition. To the voters in states with reform on the ballot, your decision is about much more than just being able to get high in America. It’s about not only saving lives and improving the conditions in America, it’s also about saving lives and improving conditions outside of this country as well.
image via NBC