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Study: Legalizing marijuana in California would not make a big dent in Mexican cartels' profits

October 12, 2010 |  2:45 pm

Marijuana grower california latimes

A ballot initiative in California that would permit possession, production and taxation of small amounts of marijuana for personal use would do little to curtail the profits of violent drug-trafficking cartels in Mexico, according to a new study released by non-partisan Rand Corp.

Proposition 19, which goes before California voters on Nov. 2, has been criticized by Mexican President Felipe Calderon. "Drugs kill in production. Drugs kill in distribution, as is the case in the violence in Mexico, and drugs kill in consumption," Calderon told The Times' Richard Marosi last week in an interview in Tijuana.

The Rand study, released Tuesday, estimates that Mexican cartels earn $1 billion to $2 billion yearly from moving pot into the United States -- a much lower figure than cited in previous estimates by the U.S. government and other groups -- and says legalizing marijuana in California probably would cut their overall drug-export revenues by just 2% to 4%.

"The only scenario where legalization in California could substantially reduce the revenue of the drug trafficking organizations is if high-potency, California-produced marijuana is smuggled to other U.S. states at prices that are lower than those of current Mexican supplies," said the Rand  news release.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Prop. 19 supporter Richard Lee, founder of California's first marijuana trade school. Credit: Peter DaSilva, for The Los Angeles Times