Adam Yamaguchi is executive producer and correspondent for Vanguard.
Here in California, as we approach election day, chatter about marijuana legalization is reaching a fever pitch. Proposition 19 -- which would legalize individuals to grow small amounts of marijuana for personal consumption -- has fluctuated up and down in opinion polls, and is very much in play in Tuesday's vote.
When Vanguard first began exploring an episode on marijuana in California, our intention was not to highlight the legalization issue. Our focus instead was on the massive business of marijuana -- demanded by America, supplied by Mexico. Whenever I speak to people about our story, I’m peppered with questions about legalization and whether that would stop the violence in Mexico. And the answer is, no one knows.
But here’s what we do know.
Marijuana is a multibillion dollar business, run almost exclusively by Mexican drug trafficking organizations operating both south of the border -- but increasingly, here in California’s state and national parks as well. Marijuana cultivation, often associated with NorCal hippies on small gardens, is in fact an industrial practice.
So much so that, while Mexico has historically been deemed the leading "source country" for marijuana, California may now hold that esteemed crown. You might even say marijuana growth has been "outsourced" by the Mexicans to the great state of California, where land is plenty and the labor is cheap. And as long as the demand for pot continues here in the US, someone will supply it in massive, massive amounts.
I hope this doesn’t sound like a PSA, because it’s not. But let me manage any expectations that a vote for Prop 19 would suddenly quell any violence in Mexico. Voting yes on pot won’t win you credit for stopping a war.
I’ll quote my colleague Mitch Koss, whose op-ed appeared in today’s Los Angeles Times:
Whatever might happen to the price of marijuana in California if Proposition 19 passes — and regulations allowing mass production of the drug would have to be enacted in order for the price to really drop — the traffickers are likely to keep growing pot here for export out of state. The supply lines are already well established. Drug officials say that California has become, like Mexico, a "source country." Trafficking across state lines won't become legal even if some of our revenue-hungry cities and counties authorize the production and sale of marijuana in order to tax it...
You may tell yourself that making pot legal in California would help end Mexico's violence. But you'd have to be high to really believe it.
Watch a sneak peek from Adam's investigation into the Mexican drug trafficking organizations:
Vanguard's three-part series, "War On the Border," premieres November 15 on Current TV. Watch a trailer below: