Officials are finding less and less weed at the U.S./Mexico border. The U.S. Border Patrol saw a 24% drop in marijuana seizures, from 2.5 million pounds in 2011 to 1.9 million in 2014. The Mexican army confiscated 664 tons of weed last year, 32% less than they found the preceding year.
This steep drop probably has less to do with effective border enforcement than it does with legalization, as pointed out by a recent Time article. Marijuana is now available for recreational or medical use in 23 states, plus D.C. That means weed is more accessible than ever in much of the country. And that is causing marijuana consumers to get more discerning tastes for their bud. The legal market can accommodate a preference for specific strains, cannabinoids, grow methods, and brands a lot more easily than mota shipped up by the brick. Not to mention concentrates, and nearly all extracts used in U.S. are made in the U.S.
“It is no surprise to me that marijuana consumers choose to buy their product from a legal tax-paying business as opposed to a black market product that is not tested or regulated,” Marijuana Majority chairman Tom Angell told Time. “When you go to a legal store, you know what you are getting, and that is not going to be contaminated.”
The ArcView cannabis research and investment agency reports that the marijuana industry grew 74% in 2014 to $2.7 billion. Some of that is money that used to go to Mexican drug cartels, money they could spend on weapons, bribes, and hired assassins. The Time article suggests that might have something to do with the recent decrease in Mexican murders, which dropped from 23,000 in 2011 to a reported 15,649 last year, though other factors likely play into this as well. Interestingly, the amounts of seized meth and heroin have actually gone up during the same period that marijuana confiscations went down, which might point to shifting priorities for border agents as much as anything else.
But none of this should suggest that Americans are done with Mexican weed in the long term. As legalization spreads and restrictions soften up, it’s very possible that we might start legally importing marijuana from other countries – especially countries that pay their workers less than we do, resulting in a cheaper product.
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox has given his support to ex-Microsoft executive Jamen Shively’s proposed $10 million venture to bring imported Mexican pot to the legal American market. As Sanho Tree, director of the Drug Policy Project at Washington’s Institute of Policy Studies, put it, “Cannabis is not unlike wine. I can buy a $200 bottle of wine, if that is what I am after. But many people will prefer the cheaper mass market product.”