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Originally published August 1 2011

Legalizing marijuana would hinder the multi-billion dollar empire of Mexican drug cartels, say some

by Jonathan Benson, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The prohibition of marijuana in the US has led to an "underground" cannabis industry in Mexico run primarily by violent gangster cartels like the ones wreaking havoc at the southern borders of Texas, Arizona, and California.

These cartels reap anywhere from $1 to $20 billion a year illegally selling marijuana to Americans, but advocates of reform and legalization say the crime and terror associated with the illicit drug trade would largely end if marijuana was simply decriminalized.

Just a few weeks ago, Mexican soldiers burned a 300-acre field of marijuana some 200 miles south of San Diego, Calif., near Tijuana, Mex. Operated by drug cartels, the field contained a potential yield of around 120 tons of marijuana, which is worth about $160 million, according to reports. And back in October, soldiers performed another burning on 134 metric tons of vacuum-packed marijuana discovered in the same region.

The constant pursuit of cartels that grow and sell marijuana, as well as raids and burnings of marijuana fields, have led to massive cartel backlash. After the Tijuana raid and burning in October, for instance, cartels murdered 13 recovering drug addicts at a rehabilitation center.

Each victim represented ten tons of the burned marijuana, and was considered payback for it. In other words, the end result of the war on marijuana is increased violence, which reform advocates say could end with marijuana's legalization.

"There is no doubt that marijuana legalization would hurt Mexican gangsters in their pocketbooks," said Tom Angell, spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an anti-war on drugs group, to TIME in a recent report.

Angell also believes that individual states that legalize marijuana would inspire others to do the same, which would eventually cause sweeping changes to marijuana policies everywhere.

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox also told TIME recently that he supports marijuana decriminalization on the basis that it would "take all the production chain out of the hands of criminals and into the hands of producers," all by establishing freedom for non-criminals to grow, process, distribute, and sell marijuana instead.

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