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How This Election Could Deliver a Blow to Mexican Drug Cartels

A study by the Mexican think tank Mexican Competitiveness Institute predicts that legalization in three states would cut cartel profits by thirty percent.
 
 
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It's not just the presidential election that holds the potential to completely alter federal -- and international -- policy. Ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon could be the first big blow to federal marijuana prohibition. And with that, a blow to the Mexican cartels. A study by the Mexican think tank Mexican Competitiveness Institute predicts that legalization in three states would cut cartel profits by thirty percent. Assuming Mexican cartels earn more than a $6 billion a year from drug smuggling to the US, the study concluded that post-legalization marijuana prices would be lower than the Mexican pot sold under prohibition. Weed grown cheaply in legal state(s) would flow to other states, where it would be sold cheaper and at higher quality than Mexican pot, the study said.  Legalization in Colorado would cost the cartels an estimated $1.425 billion, compared to $1.372 billion in Washington and $1.839 billion in Oregon, according to the study. Of course, this study hinges on the large assumption that the federal government would just shut up and accept state-by-state legalization.  

Legalizing marijuana in Colorado could also help stop decades of oppressive policing.  A recent study by Queens sociologist Dr. Harry Levine found that more than 210,000 people have ben arrested for pot in the past 25 years in Colorado. What's more, "Although young African Americans and Latinos us emarijuana at lower rates than young whites, in the last ten years police in Colorado arrested Latinos at 1.5 times the rate of whites and arrested blacks at 1.3 times the rate of whites," the study said. 

Regardless of who wins the White House, this election is gearing up to be historic. A recent Public Policy Polling survey found that 53 percent of WA voters say they support Initiative 502, compared to 44 percent against it.  According to PPP, 52 percent of voters support Colorado's voters support Amendment 64 while only 44 percent are opposed. Oregon is less likely to pass, and the most recent polls (in October) found the legalization Measure 80 losing 49-42.

Kristen Gwynne is an associate editor and drug policy reporter at AlterNet.  Follow her on Twitter: @KristenGwynne