The good news is that efforts to legalize and regulate marijuana in the United States appear to be reducing the income of Mexican drug cartels. The bad news is that the trend of prescription drug abusers turning to heroin as a cheaper, stronger high has also lead to marijuana growers switching their cash crops to opium.
According to a Washington Post investigation, many marijuana farmers in Mexico have switched to the more lucrative opium poppy. This is partially due to pot legalization in Colorado and Washington, and decreased restrictions on the drug in other states, causing the market value of marijuana to plummet in Mexico over the past five years from $100 per kilogram to under $25.
Stopping The Spread Of Heroin
U.S. officials are struggling to stop the spread of heroin. Drug cartels are growing increasingly more aggressive as they try to take advantage of heroin’s popularity, even as their marijuana business is steadily decreasing.
Intravenous drug use in the United States has increased by nearly 80 percent in the past seven years. This growth is responsible for a surge in overdose fatalities Attorney General Eric Holder calls an “urgent health crisis.”
Once considered an urban problem, heroin use is now widespread. Thanks to being cheap and lightweight, U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency officials report rural areas of New England, Appalachia and the Midwest as being especially hard hit, and they even suspect Mexican drug cartels are advising low level pushers to target those seeking help for their addiction at methadone clinics.
Mexican officials constantly survey the country in order to destroy large poppy farms that produce heroin. In 2013, the Mexican military destroyed 36,000 acres of poppy plants. However, policing farms has become increasingly dangerous as farmers patrol their land with automatic weapons themselves.
But heroin can be easily transported to the U.S., and because it’s worth so much, drug traffickers are highly motivated to make the sale. According to authorities, just one kilo of heroin can be worth $60,000 once it arrives in the United States.