If Californians vote to legalize marijuana on Nov. 2, Mexico's drug cartels would feel the pinch, but the impact wouldn’t be overwhelming, says a RAND Corp. study reported by McClatchy Newspapers. RAND asserted that the U.S. government routinely overestimates Mexican criminal gangs’ earnings from marijuana. An accurate estimate would be $1.5 billion to $2 billion a year, a small fraction of their overall earnings from narcotics smuggling and other criminal activity, it says.
The RAND study casts doubt on an argument from supporters of California's Proposition 19 that the measure would help quell violence from Mexican drug gangs. In the short run, it says, legalization could increase violence in Mexico as cartels fire workers and battle for dwindling business. “We've figured out that you can't solve Mexico's violence problems in the United States, at least not without legalizing substances that are not on the table now,” said Jonathan Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon University, a co-author of the report. The authors of the study said they sought to inform rather than to sway the outcome of the initiative in California, a state that consumes an estimated one-seventh of the marijuana used in the U.S.