Mexican traffickers are sending a flood of cheap heroin and methamphetamine across the U.S. border, in a new sign that marijuana decriminalization in the U.S. is upending the North American narcotics trade, the Washington Post reports. The amount of cannabis seized by U.S. federal, state and local officers along the boundary with Mexico has fallen 37 percent since 2011, a period during which U.S. marijuana consumers have increasingly turned to the more potent, higher-grade domestic varieties cultivated under legal and quasi-legal protections in more than two dozen U.S. states. Made-in-the-USA pot is quickly displacing the cheap, seedy, hard-packed version harvested by the bushel in Mexico's Sierra Madre mountains.
That has prompted Mexican drug farmers to plant more opium poppies. The sticky brown and black “tar” heroin they produce is sent by traffickers into U.S. communities hit hardest by prescription painkiller abuse, offering addicts a $10 alternative to $80-a-pill oxycodone. “Legalization of marijuana for recreational use has given U.S. consumers access to high-quality marijuana, with genetically improved strains, grown in greenhouses,” said Raul Benitez-Manaut of Mexico's National Autonomous University. “That's why the Mexican cartels are switching to heroin and meth.” U.S. law enforcement seized 2,181 kilograms of heroin last year coming from Mexico, nearly three times the amount confiscated in 2009. Methamphetamine, too, has surged, mocking the image of backwoods bayou labs and “Breaking Bad” chemists. The reality is that 90 percent of the meth on U.S. streets is cooked in Mexico, where precursor chemicals are far easier to obtain.