Marijuana legalisation in US dents drug cartel profits

Mexican drug cartels are looking for ways to offset marijuana losses.

The legalisation of marijuana in a small number of US states has had a bonus side-effect: hurting the pockets of the Mexican drug cartels who illegally supply much of the drug to the country.

The US Border Patrol reported a nearly 9 per cent decrease in marijuana seizures in 2015 from 2014. The agency conducted 12,535 marijuana seizures in 2015, down from 13,611 seizures in 2014, the data show.

Colorado, Oregon and Washington have all legalised recreational marijuana and 18 states have legalised medical marijuana, allowing people in those states access to safer alternative to buy than the black market, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

"Two or three years ago, a kilogram of marijuana was worth $60 to $90," a Mexican marijuana grower told NPR. "But now they're paying us $30 to $40 a kilo. It's a big difference. If the US continues to legalise pot, they'll run us into the ground."

The Drug Enforcement Administration said the cartels also struggle to match the quality of the pot grown in the US.

"The quality of marijuana produced in Mexico and the Caribbean is thought to be inferior to the marijuana produced domestically in the United States or Canada," the agency said in its 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment. "Law enforcement reporting indicates that Mexican cartels are attempting to produce higher-quality marijuana to keep up with US demand."

But while the cartels are struggling on the marijuana front, the loss of profits could also indicate that they are starting to focus on other drugs, like cocaine and heroin.

The US is in the throes of a full-blown heroin epidemic, with much of the supply coming from the cartels.

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