Pubdate: Fri, 04 Mar 2016
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2016 The Denver Post Corp
Author: Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post


Agents of the U. S. Border Patrol are seizing fewer pounds of 
cannabis at the border.

Legal marijuana may be doing at least one thing that a decades-long 
drugwar couldn't: taking a bite out of Mexican drug cartels' profits.

The latest data from the U. S. Border Patrol show that last year 
marijuana seizures on the southwest border tumbled to their lowest 
level in at least a decade. Agents snagged about 1.5 million pounds 
of marijuana at the border, down from a peak of nearly 4 million 
pounds in 2009.

The data support the many stories about the difficulties marijuana 
growers in Mexico face in light of increased competition from the 
north. As domestic marijuana production has ramped up in places such 
as California, Colorado and Washington, marijuana prices have fallen- 
especially at the bulk level.

"Two or three years ago, a kilogram ( 2.2 pounds) of marijuana was 
worth $ 60 to $ 90," a Mexican marijuana grower told NPR news in 
December 2014. "But now they're paying us $ 30 to $ 40 a kilo. It's a 
big difference. If the U. S. continues to legalize pot, they'll run 
us into the ground."

And it's not just price - Mexican growers are facing pressure on quality too.

"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 in Canada," the DEA wrote last year 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 U. S. demand."

If the decline in border seizures is any indication, however, it 
appears that Mexican growers are having difficulty competing with 
domestic production.

Some federal authorities are beginning to believe this is the case. 
Noting the decline in border seizures, Michael Botticelli, director 
of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, told a Senate 
committee last year that "given the increase in marijuana use among 
the American population, this suggests that people using marijuana in 
the United States may be increasingly obtaining marijuana from 
domestic sources."

Experts caution, however, the recreational marijuana market in places 
such as Colorado and Washington is likely having a smaller impact 
than the much larger and older medical marijuana market in many 
states, primarily California.

"Those trying to understand what has happened with U. S. cannabis 
consumption and imports over the past decade need to pay close 
attention to licensed and unlicensed production in medical states, 
especially California," Beau Kilmer of the Rand Corp. wrote in an e- mail.
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