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Demand for Mexican Cartel Weed Has Decreased Thanks to the U.S. Legal Market

But problems persist with other drugs.

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Legalized marijuana is not just having a big impact on the U.S. economy. It's also being felt by Mexican drug cartels, although in a very different way. While it's boosting the economy in the U.S., it's taking a huge bite out of cartel profits.


A recent report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the research arm of the U.S. Congress, found that demand in the U.S. for illegal weed shipped over the border has dropped with the wave of medical and recreational weed legalization across the U.S.

A total of 19 states and the District of Columbia have legalized adult-use cannabis, while 39 states have legalized medical cannabis. It's apparently led to a drop in demand for Mexican marijuana. The CRS quotes the U.S. State Department's findings that seizures of marijuana imported from Mexico dropped significantly since 2019.

RELATED: Marijuana Legalization Has a Surprising Effect On Crime

The decline of illegal Mexican weed expected to continue

The CRS states that federal authorities expect the decline in marijuana trafficking across the border to continue in the coming years. "This is partially due to legalized medical and nonmedical/recreational cannabis in many U.S. states and Canada, reducing its value as part of Mexican trafficking organizations' portfolio," the report states.

Mexico's Congress also is considering making recreational cannabis legal nationwide, as the Canadian government did in 2018. Mexico's Supreme Court has made rulings that adult-use weed is legal in the country. However, state and national laws penalizing marijuana possession and use remain in place, and there is no legal system set up yet for selling cannabis in Mexico.

Any blow against the cartels is seen as a step in the right direction. Mexican transnational criminal organizations have a significant influence on drug trafficking in the United States, as well as human smuggling, arms trafficking, oil theft and other crimes. They've also caused homicide rates to increase sharply in Mexico, according to the report.

RELATED: Why Mexico and Germany Will Drive International Growth For Cannabis Industry

Problems persist with other drugs

While the cartels apparently have shifted away from plant-based drugs such as cannabis, they've moved in a bigger way into synthetic drugs. In addition to less cannabis, the CRS reported that cartels seem to have lowered production of heroin and cocaine in favor of synthetic drugs.

For example, the amount of fentanyl and methamphetamines seized at the border has steadily increased from 2016 to 2021. Along with the increased smuggling of synthetic drugs, cartel-related violence has also increased, according to the report, including the use of improvised explosive devices to destroy Mexican army vehicles and drones used to bomb police infrastructure and rivals.

Even in the area of cannabis, all the news is not positive. In late 2021, authorities in California found cartel-related growing operations in Northern California. And the Republican Party in Texas recently adopted a platform that opposes cannabis legalization. The party controls the governor's mansion, attorney general and both chambers of the state legislature. The Lone Star State has the longest border with Mexico among all the states at more than 1,200 miles.

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