by David Downs
Violent Mexican drug cartels might as well go into selling lettuce and carrots if Prop 19 passes, the independent RAND Corporation said today. Cannabis' price drop from passing Prop 19 would make profiting from the drug highly unlikely, RAND researchers said during a conference call, offering more ammo to the Yes on 19 campaign in the closing weeks of the election. “We think [drug gangs] would make about as much money as they make from growing carrots and lettuce. It will be much more like convention agricultural products than an expensive illegal drug. There wouldn't be large revenues from growing things that are legal,” said the authors of “Reducing Drug Trafficking Revenues and Violence in Mexico: Would Legalizing Marijuana in California Help?” The study was crafted by RAND drug policy expert Beau Kilmer, along with Jonathan P. Caulkins, Brittany M. Bond, Peter H. Reuter.
Critics of Prop 19 say violent Mexican drug gangs would move into domestic pot production if Prop 19 passes, but the idea is bogus, the researchers found. Cartels wouldn't be able to compete with legitimate producers on quality, cost, distribution, or sales.
“After legalization, will marijuana production be the sort of thing that criminals are unusually good at? It's maybe hard to think about, but the whole logistics and technology and approach to producing a legal plant are not one that criminals have any special skill at," researchers said.
“We're also expecting a pretty dramatic decline in price. The idea that criminals would be able to reap great revenues from growing something that anybody can get into the business of doing and is legal to do - it's hard to tell a story about why they would be able to generate great revenues from that."
“It's also hard to compete against all those enthusiast marijuana growers that can grow for themselves," researchers said. "Under Prop 19, every 21 year-old is allowed 25 square-feet. Very few people are going to to do it, but there will still be enough of that on its own. Growing marijuana is a beloved activity for those people. It' a serious competition for [cartels].”
A previously RAND study found that the price of a pound of high-grade cannabis would drop from over $4,000 to under $1,000 if Prop 19 passes. Even if foreign cartels started making high-grade pot to compete with California homegrown, RAND found cartels can't compete on price. A pound of pot goes up $450 dollars for every thousand miles it is trafficked.
RAND also found cannabis to be an incredibly space-conscious plant, compared to lettuce or carrots. All of the pot consumed by California, and even America could be grown within a city the size of Oakland, RAND found.