Advocates may think their recent initiatives have set Mexican traffickers back, but the cartels have already moved on.
Over the course of two days in late March, a coalition of U.S. law enforcement groups rounded up more than 40 people accused of supplying the greater Seattle area with illegal weapons and drugs. It was the culmination of nearly a year of painstaking interagency investigative work that traced a smuggling route stretching from Sinaloa, Mexico, through California and Arizona, and into the Pacific Northwest. These were not local gangsters with tenuous ties to the narcos wreaking havoc south of the border. One of the men reportedly confessed to DEA agents that he came to Seattle from Mexico as a 16-year-old. "They brought me here and showed me how to sell drugs," he said.
The bust netted an impressive haul, including 20 pounds of heroin, 30 pounds of methamphetamine, $190,000 in cash, and 31 guns, including 10 assault rifles. One illicit substance was notably absent from the evidence locker: marijuana.
The notion that legalizing marijuana will cripple Mexico's brutal drug cartels has gained steam in recent years, and finally boiled over last month when Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Adults 21 and over in both states will be allowed to possess up to an ounce of processed pot, reversing a prohibition policy that stood for the better part of a century. It's unclear whether the federal government will tolerate the repeal, but if legal pot remains the law of the land, it is widely assumed that Mexican drug cartels will be out several billion dollars in annual revenue.