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Why drug legalization will not end the cartel

Associated Press

Associated Press

Marijuana is already legal in four states and voters in eight more will cast their ballot this November on whether their state will allow recreation pot. Supporters of legalizing cannabis, especially libertarians who support decriminalizing most drug use, have made the argument that their efforts will bankrupt the cartels and bring their dangerous regimes to an end.

That line of thinking is antiquated. Drug cartels will never allow their gravy train to end, and the current heroin epidemic proves it.

In the September issue of Esquire, best-selling writer Don Winslow credits the current heroin epidemic with the mass legalization of marijuana in the U.S.

Drug cartels in Mexico saw a rapid profit loss when states began to legalize pot; the Sinaloa Cartel lost 40 percent in sales in just a few years. Marijuana farms in Durango, Mexico became barren because the product became worthless to drug cartels which couldn’t compete with the American product because it was produced without the overhead of transportation and safety.

While that may sound like a good thing, Winslow wrote that they refused to give up on the $360 billion industry and moved to heroin production.

There was one drug lord, in particular, Joaquin Guzman Loera (El Chapo) of the Sinaloa Cartel who became a master of the industry. He increased production by 70 percent, made the drug more potent, it went from 46 percent pure to over 90 percent, to compete with heroin from Asia, and dropped the price significantly.

“A kilo of heroin went for as much as $200,000 in New York City a few years ago, cost $80,000 in 2013, and now has dropped to around $50,000,” wrote Winslow. “More of a better product: you can’t beat it.”

The new cheap, pure, and plentiful drug engulfed states and cities across America, ravaging families and killed more than 47,000 people in 2014 alone. There are as many fatalities from heroin every day as there was from AIDS epidemic’s peak during the 1990’s.

So the only logical way to bankrupt the cartel is to legalize heroin right? Wrong.

Drug cartels are already moving to the next big thing. Fentanyl is a drug that’s 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin and has a U.S. street value of $1.3 million, by comparison, heroin only has a street value of $275,000.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that was developed by American pharmaceutical companies in the 1960s to treat the excruciating pain caused by cancer when it is terminal. The drug is so powerful that someone can be injured by merely getting it on their skin, and Fentanyl-related deaths are surging across the country.

The drug is made in a lab, making it much more appealing to producers who don’t need to worry about their fields being seized or razed and creates a permanent consumer base once it’s mixed with heroin. Addicts can’t go back to just heroin once they’ve had the drug infused with Fentanyl.

No matter which drug is legalized in the U.S., the cartels will find new, more addictive and more dangerous methods to keep Americans hooked. For the same reason that the Italian and Irish mob didn’t pack and go home when alcohol became legal is why the Mexican drug cartels aren’t going anywhere.

While that may not be a sufficient reason to keep the War on Drugs going, especially in it’s current form, the hopes of bankrupting the Mexican drug cartels is a pipe dream and not enough of a reason to vote for drug legalization.


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