California is this close to legalizing marijuana. Voters will likely decide the issue in November, and all signs point to success.
If it happens, cannabis will be legal along the Pacific Coast from the Canadian to the Mexican border. The fact that it’s already legal in neighboring Oregon and in Washington State increases the likelihood voters will say yes.
But California has another neighbor whose decisions could be just as important to the future of local reform: Mexico.
Mexico takes first steps towards legalization
It’s unlikely the Mexican government will fully legalize cannabis anytime this year, but the door has already been opened. The Mexican Supreme Court ruled last year that a small group of citizens may grow and use marijuana for recreation. The decision only applies to those people, but it could prod the government toward real reform.
The prospects are strong enough that many experts have turned their attention south of the border. Whether it comes in a couple years or in a decade, the odds are increasingly good that it will happen. But what would that mean for California?
Mexico and California have a close, symbiotic relationship when it comes to marijuana. Both places produce a significant share of the pot supply in the United States, and even cheap Mexican brick destined for other parts of the country frequently crosses the border into California. So, occasionally, does the drug violence.
A legal industry in Mexico wouldn’t necessarily cut off the flow of brick into the United States. Many parts of the country have poor access to good, affordable marijuana, and many young users know little about the poor quality of brick, so there will likely continue to be a market for it. But legalization could cut into the ability of illegal cartels to do business, and that would at least reduce the amount of Mexican product that crosses the border.
California legalization would dry up illegal industry
Of course, if California legalizes, there will be no market for brick there. When Mendocino County growers can produce a better product in bulk – and sell it at a reasonable markup – there is little reason to score cheap Mexican pot on the black market. Teenagers might still try, but that’s not enough to support an illegal drug industry.
And if both places legalize, the results could be profound. Though cocaine, heroin, and other hard drugs would continue to seep into the United States, there would be no need to import or export weed, legally or otherwise. This would take a huge hit out of the cartels, and could help reduce the violence that sometimes flares along the border.
It looks likely that California will reach the finish line before Mexico. But any legalization south of the border could have important implications for the Golden State. For the time being, all California can do is wait – and legalize itself.