You have probably heard by now that the state of Colorado harvested over five million dollars in the first five days of legal recreational marijuana sales. The 25% tax imposed on those sky-high sales figures will surely be welcomed by all as the funds begin to flow back into their communities.
The implementation of this much needed cannabis reform seems to have opened a lot of eyes, and gained a lot of support from everyone, it seems, except for out-of-touch politicians and “fat and lazy” pundits. Oh, and Mexican narcoterrorist drug cartels.
A 2010 study by the RAND research group, when overlaid with the findings of a 2012 study by the Mexican Competitiveness Institute, posit that marijuana exports from Mexico to the U.S. account for anywhere between 20-30% of the cartels’ total revenues.
David Shirk, a fellow with the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center and a professor at San Diego University, says that by our government’s own admission, the sum of their military-level multi-billion dollar drug war efforts might amount to somewhere between a 5-10% bite being taken out of cartel profits each year.
With Colorado (allegedly) selling weed faster than they can bag it, and Washington state hot on their heels, the next logical battleground state is California. Between the interstate trafficking of good ol’ American-made marijuana, and the ever-growing list of states allowing for medical use of ganja, the addition of these three major recreational markets might not be enough to completely squash the cartels financially, but it will surely have a much bigger impact than the traditional war games of decades past.
Though it may only be a quarter of the cartels’ war chests potentially going up in smoke, Jeff Piazza, a political scientist at Penn State, argues that every dollar stripped from them via American pot legalization is one less dollar that they have to spend on bribes, weapons, and power.
The RAND study mentioned above estimates that Colorado and Washington alone could cost the cartels over $1.4-billion annually. That’s a lot of blood money.
Many experts do agree, however, that the predicted backlash from the cartels as they search for alternative resources to plug the billion-dollar leak in their dam will be more violence and exhibitions of power south of the border.
The flexing of power and violence is nothing new for Jose Rodrigo Alechiga Gamboa, aka “El Chino Antrax”, a high-ranking lieutenant in the Sinoloa drug cartel, and founder of the ultra-violent protection wing of the group.
The Sinaloa Cartel is commonly considered to be the most ruthless of the countless crime syndicates south of the border, and by the age of 30, Gamboa had risen through its ranks by way of assassination, extortion, and brutality.
Despite being known for hanging three rivals from a bridge in 2011, the locals sing folk songs, called narcocorridos, which praise “El Chino Antrax” as a handsome hunk who likes fast cars, fancy boats and fine champagne.
Unlike the OGs of the cartel, Gamboa didn’t avoid the spotlight that can come with being a multimillionaire in a 3rd world country, instead posting scores of shots directly to his personal Instagram account, depicting the scenes of a lavish and luxurious life, one over-filtered photo at a time.
Golden AK-47 – check.
Blacked out Lambo – check.
Grenade launcher and photobomb with Paris Hilton – check and check.
And he is not alone. VICE recently did an expose on the new generation of Mexican cartel members, and their acquired taste for social media attention seeking. Unfortunately for Gamboa, his online activities allegedly led to investigators getting a jump on his contacts and movement patterns, and on January 3rd, Dutch police were tipped off by authorities in San Diego, California, and Gamboa was arrested when he landed in Amsterdam travelling under a false name.
Once his identity was confirmed and released, the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated him as a “Kingpin”, effectively freezing any U.S.-based assets and preventing anyone from providing him with any financial aid. They now seek his extradition to try him domestically in the United States on multiple counts of international drug trafficking, including conspiring to transport over 100 kilos of weed.
With quite literally billions of dollars in weed-related revenues up for grabs each year, some folks buy thrones and grenade launchers and bottles of Cristal. Colorado has decided to build schools with it instead.