With marijuana becoming legal in many states, traffickers have been shifting their business model towards heroin and crack.
The illegal drug trade is taking a major hit with the ongoing decriminalization of marijuana in the United States. The drop in sales has forced the Mexican trafficking organizations to replace wholesale marijuana with heroin. Because of the shift in the cartels’ business model, U.S. authorities are now experiencing a major outbreak of cheap heroin across North America.
Heroin has been in the midst of a major comeback since 2007. The National Drug Intelligence Center, which was shut down in 2012 and its functions transferred to the Drug Enforcement Administration, reported that between 2007-2012 heroin use was up 79 percent with four out of five users reported to have used prescription drugs like Oxycontin.
There has been a major crackdown on the abuse of prescription drugs, pushing users to the more inexpensive and easily portable drug heroin. Attorney General Eric Holder reported that about 80 percent of heroin users have previously taken pain medication without a prescription. Because of the seamless transition from prescription pills, street heroin has been “moving all over the country and popping up in areas you didn’t see before,” said Carl Pike, a senior official in the Special Operations Division of the DEA.
Pike and other DEA officials believe the spread to be a result of a clever marketing plan developed by Mexican traffickers. The dealers did their research and found areas that have historically had the worst prescription drug abuse like Maine, St. Louis, and Oklahoma City. One agent said that the traffickers sent street dealers to “set up right outside the methadone clinics.”
New heroin typically users begin by snorting the drug until eventually working their way up to intravenous use for a more powerful high. The cheaper price tag of the heroin aids the transition from pills, which can go for up to $80 a pop with effects that last four-to-six hours.
Just weeks into the Colorado law that legalized cannabis for recreational use for anyone over the age of 21, the new law already has caused ripples that are good, bad, and some are just plain ugly.
The sheer ugly that the new law has brought are that some experts are expecting drug cartels to start targeting some of the legal pot dealers. When the new law was passed it essentially put all the illegal cartels out of business in Colorado. It is not only robbery of the retail cannabis shops that have the experts worried, it is the anxiety around possible extortion attempts that have them the most worried.
Mexican cartels are notorious for their brutal and immoral and inhumane way of dealing with the competition. Juarez and Sinaloa are two Mexican cartels that currently operate in Colorado. The cartels were probably not too happy to learn that sales from cannabis were estimated to be $1 million for the first legal day of sales in Colorado. They are expected to lose $1.425 billion over the legalization in Colorado; however that amount doesn’t include the drop of 20 to 50 percent in trafficking revenue the cartels will also be losing. Denver police and DEA continue to monitor the situation watching intently for any cartels to make moves in attempts to extort money from the legal shops.
One of the bad things that the legalization has brought is the stealing of government property. Last week the Colorado government had to replace the 420 mile-marker on Interstate 70 to discourage theft. For those that don’t know, 420 is a number in cannabis culture where marijuana smoking was promoted on the 4th month, 20th day (April 20) and promoted as being smoked daily at 4:20p.m., or 4:20a.m. For those reasons 420 has been adopted as a number meaning cannabis, marijuana, weed, or pot. The Colorado government replaced the 420 mile-marker with a sign that marks the distance at 419.99 to discourage any cannabis fans from stealing the sign. Whether this will work will remain to be seen as the 419.99 sign may have now become a new target for passersby to grab a memento when leaving the state.
Another bit of bad the Colorado law has brought is the price of cannabis. The demand for cannabis product has become so enormous that the supplies have dwindled and prices have started to climb. Retail prices for cannabis jumped from $2,500 per pound to around $6,000 per pound just around the time of the first day of legalization.
The ugly and bad aside, there are some areas that are split between the good and the bad in the exploration the effect of the Colorado law legalizing cannabis.
The first of the good and bad situations balancing the scale is the local and state taxes on cannabis being between 20-25 percent. While it’s bad for the consumer it is good for local and state governments. Without the tax revenue being generated there would be no benefit to the government legalizing cannabis for recreational use. It is estimated that the new taxes would generate $130 million per year for the Colorado government if the industry generates $600 million from the legalization. Many think the industry may generate up to double that amount.
The other good and bad scenario is that experts are worried what kind of message the legalization of cannabis for recreational use sends to the children of Colorado about drugs. It is bad to send the message to children that getting stoned is an acceptable activity. However it is a good thing this is being addressed by government and groups that will have funding generated from the cannabis taxes to help educate the youth on marijuana use. Well educated children are definitely a good thing.
Part of the good effects of the new marijuana laws are arrests are down by 77 percent on one law last year and possession charges fell by 81 percent in the first nine month of 2012. Freedom is another good thing linked to the number of arrests dropping, but freedom is always good in any scenario.
Another good aspect of the law is now consumers know exactly what they are getting when they purchase cannabis in Colorado. Before the law was passed a consumer never could be really sure what they were ingesting. Buying marijuana from a licensed shop guarantees the quality and monitors the safety of the cannabis strains.
The retail legal cannabis stores are good for those that are seeking marijuana for medical purposes. Some that may have struggled in the past to find a source for their organic medicine will have an endless choice at any of the many legal cannabis shops across the state.
The cannabis craze in Colorado has also caused a lot of good in the number of cannabis-related jobs it has generated. To keep up with the demand many of the cannabis-related businesses have had to hire many more employees. Job creation is good for any economy whether it be on any local or state-wide level.
With Colorado under the microscope of the world, other states and countries are watching intently to see how things in Colorado unfold. Since the government and law enforcement officials seem to have a good grasp of keeping things in order, the legalization law for recreational use is expected to overflow into other states. These states anxiously want to score all the good points that Colorado is taking advantage of since January 1. Freedom to choose whether to ingest marijuana or not in other states and locations are a good thing.
Colorado has done a good job in launching a smooth transition in the new legal recreational use law. This also may attract other states to follow and in 2014, Rhode Island, Oregon, California, Arizona, and Alaska are looking to pass a similar law to Colorado’s.
In measuring the effect of the Colorado cannabis law and considering that the good/bad scenarios cancel each other out, the tally stands at the legalization of marijuana in Colorado at: 10 percent ugly, 20 percent bad, and 70 percent all good.
Weed Commercials Will Be Obnoxious
By a wide margin, the most annoying thing about marijuana is the people who smoke it. Not all of u-them, of course, but you know the kind. I’m talking about the weed smoker who doesn’t just take to it as a means to catch a buzz, but instead adopts marijuana culture as a lifestyle. They grow white person dreadlocks and hang Jamaican flags in their dorm rooms and shit.
“Chant down Babylon!”
They are, in short, stereotypical stoners, and being associated with their shenanigans is one of the unfortunate downsides of smoking weed, much like anyone who drinks Budweiser is presumed to be racist.
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Or a professional driver.
When across the board legalization finally clears the way for corporate America to start peddling pot, is there any reason to expect that they’ll hit on anything but the most stereotypical and embarrassing aspects of weed culture when it comes time to advertise their brands to the public?
There’s already an early frontrunner for the title of most annoying marijuana ad of all time, courtesy of Seattle-based company Prohibition Brands. Watching this past the one-minute mark with the sound turned on should be enough to make even the staunchest of marijuana activists consider giving tequila another try:
Even with the sound off, the images that unfold in this Ca$h 4 Gold-style plea for funding sets any progress toward making marijuana seem like anything other than the drug of choice for the emotionally stunted back by about 20 years. It starts off with this fucking guy:
Ha! Sheriff Roach, right?!?!? He’s in the desert, because weed grows best when there’s as little water around as possible. Also, chicks!
Kitty and Galore! Get it? When you put their names together, it’s like “Pussy Galore” from the James Bond movies, except “Ms. Pussy” would be crass, so now it’s “Kitty Galore” and the reference doesn’t make a goddamn lick of sense anymore. Four-twenty stay high all day y’all! Speaking of that, there’s also a stuffed horse named Blazer, because you’re too stoned to give a shit.
The rest of the commercial is an alternating nightmare of this guy …
… screeching at the camera with all of the eardrum-splitting shrillness that the look on his face in that picture implies, and this woman …
… reading her lines so awkwardly, I can only hope she’s just doing a spot-on impression of a terrible actress in a marijuana commercial.
This is where we are already with marijuana advertising, and the shit isn’t even completely legal yet. Just imagine what it’s going to be like when the real corporations set their advertising teams to work.
That’s not the only thing about marijuana that corporations will ruin, either …
The Profits Will Only Work Their Way Up
I used to joke that I didn’t want drugs to be legalized because I wanted to always have the option to sell them myself if my financial situation ever called for it. I don’t really mean that, according to the legal department, but it does speak to my biggest concern when it comes to legalizing marijuana. At its heart, medical marijuana is a farming business. Legalization at the federal level means there’s no longer anything stopping corporate America from entering that market and running all of the little people right out of business.
If for some reason you think this would never happen with marijuana, I’d ask you to consider the fact that it already has to some degree. Northern California has been a mecca of marijuana farms since well before California Proposition 215 took effect.
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The only farmer Willie Nelson really cares about.
In the days before storefront dispensaries, a lot of that delicious weed made its way to San Francisco, where the last remnants of the hippie movement would sell it at premium prices in places like Golden Gate Park.
Legalization brought an influx of new farms to the area. Increased competition meant lower prices, which is good times for smokers, but bad times for those idealistic dealers who never thought their utopian weed communes would be competing with “medical clinics” for customers. Suddenly, the pot trade that kept dusty street kids in all the hacky sacks and acoustic guitars they could ever need was a lot less profitable. You wouldn’t expect it to be the case, but as this article points out, marijuana legalization will likely be the final nail in the patchouli-scented coffin of the movement that started way back in 1967 during the Summer of Love.
Of course, plenty of pot advocates would point to this as one of the benefits of marijuana reform. Putting illegal drug dealers out of business is a major part of the point. The problem is, it wasn’t questions of legality that put those hippie drug pushers under. It was nothing more than business, a larger competitor taking out a smaller competitor. When weed is legal at the federal level and Big Tobacco and other assorted corporate evildoers are free to cash in, those same dispensaries that took out the flower children will be cannibalized themselves by whatever entity emerges as the “Walmart of Weed.”
This is what Target will look like in 10 years.
Sure, there will still be a smattering of independent dealers and growers and such, just like there are currently people who still show up at the local farmer’s market to sell their homegrown foodstuffs. Keeping profits up when a big box department store comes to town is a challenge that proves to be insurmountable for most mom-and-pop operations, though. If you’re currently running one that involves medical marijuana, federal-level legalization is the last thing you should be hoping for. The legal gray area you’re currently operating in is probably the only thing keeping The Man from crushing you.
It Won’t Be “Medicine” Anymore
Well, duh, of course it won’t be medicine anymore, that’s the point, right? Making it easier to buy and all that good stuff? While that’s true, what will it mean for people who do actually reap some benefits from using marijuana regularly? If you’re the type who smokes several times a day because it “helps your depression,” is labeling marijuana the “new beer” really an initiative you want to get behind? That’s definitely where things are headed, as evidenced by this marijuana ad that premiered at a NASCAR event recently
Once that happens, you’re no longer that person who treats their depression with medical marijuana, you’re that person who treats their depression with beer. Lots of people do that now — we call them alcoholics. Do you think the label society will place on the habitual weed smokers of the world once Blue Dream becomes the new Coors Light will be any more flattering?
Of course it won’t. People barely buy into claims of marijuana’s health benefits as it is right now. Putting it on store shelves next to the Colt 45 and implying it’s the same thing is definitely not going to alleviate any of those people’s concerns. Even worse, that “New Beer” ad isn’t the work of some misguided lone wolf marijuana activist with too much production money on his hands; it comes directly from the Marijuana Policy Project, which, according to its Wikipedia page (the only source I trust), is the “largest organization working solely on marijuana policy reform in the United States in terms of its budget, number of members, and staff.”
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This is all of them!
With more and more states inching closer to allowing marijuana for medical use, the biggest pot lobby in all the land is pushing a slogan that most people will assume means there’s essentially no difference between smoking weed and getting drunk. Smart!
Despite all this, one question remains. How damn great will it be when weed really is the new beer? Won’t it be the best when you can just stand around at a bar or sporting event with a lit joint in your hand, just as so many others do now with an open beer?
Sure, but you’re out of your damn mind if you think it will ever come to that, because …