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US, Mexican Authorities Say Prop. 19 Won't Squelch Drug Cartel Violence

Supporters of Proposition 19, that would legalize marijuana in California, argue that regulating the drug will end violence associated with Mexican drug cartels. Officials on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border doubt that because marijuana is just one of many drugs that cartels smuggle.

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Mexican police investigate a violent drug-related crime scene on March 21, 2010 in Juarez, Mexico.

The Marijuana State

Joe Garcia, a special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement says regardless, pot isn’t cartels’ meal ticket anymore. “They diversified, there’s a larger increase in manufacturing of meth in Mexico. Eighty percent of what U..S authorities seize comes from Mexico,” says Garcia. Besides, he says Proposition 19 wouldn’t touch cartels’ profits from their other illegal activities, “Heroin, cocaine, extortion, gun running, bulk cash smuggling, whatever. They’re going to find a way to do it.” And the violence that comes with smuggling those drugs, cash and guns will continue.

South of the border, Mexican President Felipe Calderon opposes Prop 19. He says it represents inconsistency. He asks, how can US drug policy demand Mexico crack down on drug trafficking and also encourage consumption, like he says Prop 19 does?

The Mayor of Tijuana, Jorge Ramos, fears Prop 19 means smugglers would pump even more pot through his city to feed California’s demand. “And that’s costs us a lot of lives and peace here in Tijuana,” laments Ramos.

On the flip side, Baja California Attorney General Rommel Moreno fears cartels will forgo smuggling marijuana to California and sell it in Tijuana instead. Why go through the rigmarole of smuggling if there’s little profit?

Moreno says whatever happens with Proposition 19 in November, Mexico and California should make decisions about marijuana together. “Making decisions in isolation would be suicide,” cautions Moreno.

Meanwhile, Mexican drug organizations are already growing hundreds of tons of marijuana in California, mostly on public lands.

Authorities have arrested dozens of Mexican nationals tending these fields throughout California. However, they haven’t been able to tie them to major Mexican cartels.

Some authorities fear Proposition 19 opens a new legal market for this marijuana and Mexican drug groups will cash in.

One recent report by the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement indicates that the amount of pot grown in the state last year was three times greater than the amount seized along the entire U.S. Mexico border.