Conflict & Justice

State Ballot Initiatives Legalizing Marijuana May Cut Into Profits of Mexican Drug Cartels

Residents of Colorado and Washington voted yesterday to legalize marijuana for recreational use.

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

That move might eventually squeeze the profit margins of Mexican drug cartels.

The cross-border trafficking of marijuana is big business for drug cartels based in Mexico, earning them as much as $2 billion every year.

Those revenues are likely to remain strong, at least in the short-term.

And, the US Justice Department could sue Colorado and Washington and block the laws entirely, protecting the drug cartels' US markets.

Beau Kilmer has looked into how marijuana legalization in the US might affect drug trafficking revenues in Mexico.

He co-directs the Drug Policy Research Center at the Rand Corporation.

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