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April 14th, 2009
11:32 AM ET

The big business of marijuana

Which drug is the cash cow of the Mexican drug war - cocaine or marijuana? Jeanne Meserve takes a look.
Which drug is the cash cow of the Mexican drug war - cocaine or marijuana? Jeanne Meserve takes a look.

From CNN's Jeanne Meserve

And all this week we're breaking down America's drug addiction and examining how it's helping fuel the violence spilling over the border.

Today we're looking at the 8.5 billion dollar business being made off marijuana. How do you stop the supply when there's such a massive demand?


What do you think? Is marijuana a victimless drug or is it fueling the violence in Mexico?

Vote! Should drugs be legal in the U.S.?

Filed under: Crime • Drugs
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Paul J. von Hartmann

    Problems are profitable.
    Hemp isn't illegal - it's essential.
    Drugs don't make seeds, herbs do.
    Freedom to farm "every herb bearing seed" is the first test of religious freedom.

    February 16, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  2. my name is (not telling)

    Why wont the government get there sorry head out of you know were and listen to us for once, legalize in the states its like multi-billion dollar industry, that the government doesnt want money? i dont think so they do want it so much, but thats politics for you. ITS A VERY SAFE NATURAL SUBSTANCE that can indeed greatly reduce ALL symptoms to the point. The alcohol, and tobacco industries have actually funded no joke a partnership for a drugfree america, WRONG. Prohibition has NOT worked, and possibly never will.

    So if you found this comment interesting, please comment even if its only 1 word.

    Tell me once, that when you were a kid, you got yourself alot of stuff.

    Well Please comment, even 1 word. Thanks so much.

    January 6, 2010 at 9:43 am |
  3. Mike

    My side effects to smoking marijuana are the following: happier, hungrier, relaxation, laughter. Those are the positive. Here are the negative, but is not directly related to the actual smoking of the weed: I get paranoid that somehow I would get caught be the police, parents, anybody who would disagree with smoking. Its true that sometimes my short term memory gets bad but thats when I smoke for too long. My health is fine, I dont smoke ciggs but on an occasion like after a blunt or a bowl. I don't drink but on an occasion as well. After a year of college I've seen a lot, heavy drinkers who are so much more destructive than anybody smoking the herb could ever be. People say its a 'gateway" drug, well, I havent done anything else. I believe if it grows from the ground and its unaltered, then man should be allowed to do whatever he wants with it. In the end, you still have the ultimate decision to move on to other drugs (even though I dont consider weed a drug). Some say weed makes you lazy, that may be true to a degree for me but thats when Im just in the act of smoking, Im always on the move and in full control. I can literally keep going on this but my main points would be is that if weed is a gateway drug then I would say tobacco is as well if not more. Alcohol is far more "mind altering" than weed could ever dream of being. And I have had some of favorite times just chillin with my friends smoking a bowl at midnight then going to get a milkshake and a burger. I know, that is soo destructive and sooo bad. Anywho, the government should not govern what you do with your body, if so, then high calorie, fat, carb food would be outlawed because of America's obsession with food. Oh, by the way, Im a Christian who thinks its alright to smoke alittle green as long as its appropriate.

    June 19, 2009 at 1:36 am |
  4. todd

    It's to hard to find this article. It's been out for 2 days and I finally saw it today. No wonder why there is so little comments.

    April 15, 2009 at 11:18 am |
  5. todd

    Have we not already been through this discussion already? Legalize Weed!! enough already. We need CNN to start calling out Senators to really debate this. We don't need anymore small blogs dedicated to this discussion. We need CNN to call out the senators on TV in opposition of Legalization so we know who they are. Then we can vote them out and be done with it.

    April 15, 2009 at 10:33 am |
  6. Stephen

    Dirk – you need to read up on growing before posting ignorant statements.

    April 15, 2009 at 10:19 am |
  7. Donnie Brasco

    Americans need to do their research- people are spending MORE time in prison for posession of pot than murderers. this is unjust. I strongly believe that the only reason the U.S. has yet to decriminalize or legalize is because the federal govt. is scared of change. they do not want to give the american people what they want- and if you actually look at the history of marijuana in the U.S, you will find that it was banned solely on RACISM. White people did not want their children associated with any "colored folks".

    This is a very touchy subject for me. As an American soldier working in D.C., the son of law enforcement agents, and a previous smoker myself, I find that the govt plays a role of segregation and keeps those that actually need marijuana out of the picture, yet at the same time are making MONEY putting them in prison.

    i do not condone the use of hard drugs in full effect, though I do agree with LEAP and NORML. I do agree that pot should be decriminalized, as it is in CA, OR, CO, and others. There is a vast amount of resources and edcational awareness that needs to be brought into the public eye. once these conservative, OLD, racist, WHITE people pass on can we move on towards change. Obama's on the right track- just you watch

    April 15, 2009 at 8:11 am |
  8. Escher

    our government needs to stop thinking it is our parents. How we choose to experience our short time in existence, is not our neighbors decision in anything but a fascist state. witch burning, book burning, and a war on drugs. enough already.

    April 15, 2009 at 8:05 am |

    April 15th, 2009 7:50 am ET
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    April 15, 2009 at 7:55 am |
  10. David Tampa, Florida

    If we are going to use 'victimless' as a criteria then how come alcohol is still legal? How many people get killed or injured each year due to drunk drivers?

    April 15, 2009 at 7:50 am |
  11. Nic A

    i think that they should legalize marijuana, nothing else.. yeah what the senator was saying is true!! it is a kind of medicine and its is better than alcohol and ciggarettes,

    April 15, 2009 at 7:47 am |
  12. John

    Marijuana has been proven to be a mind altering drug. If it gets legalized then insurance rates will surely rise to cover what the insurance companies pay out for accidents. I thought America was getting smarter – there is something to be said about the wisdom of elders. We didn't need it to function and did a great job getting through WW-II and getting the groundwork laid for some of todays products.
    Wake up America! Close the borders, deport illegals and get God back in the lives of Americans.

    April 15, 2009 at 7:45 am |
  13. brandon maul

    the problem is, nobody cares about marijuana. people don't get killed over pot. its the cocaine and heroin that's the problem. legalizing marijuana will not stop the violence at the border. yes it will hurt the cartels, but that's peanuts compared to the money they make off of cocaine and heroin.

    April 15, 2009 at 6:40 am |
  14. Mark

    The numbers CNN regularly presents are most certainly far off. I would say the majorty of people in the United States (roughly around 80%) between the ages of 18-30 smoke cannabis on a regular or even daily basis. Prohibition does not work it only creates fillers for our nations private prisons and wastes tax dollars. High school student polling does not work. Not many who are high or even sober in school would like to hand their schools administration a document admitting usage. Stop covering up the cannabis issue with a larger debate concerning the legalization of all drugs.

    April 15, 2009 at 2:19 am |
  15. Deborah AKA The Vocal Citizen

    Drug dealers in schoolyards do not I.D. their customers and they take the opportunity to introduce fatal illicit drugs to the cannabis customer. When one adds unscrupulous selling practices to the young judgment skills of our children, that is where one discovers the gateway theory.

    I've started a petition to call for a national vote on cannabis legalization.

    Since Pres. Obama wants to avoid (or laugh off) this issue, let's have a national vote on the issue, allowing the White House to simply uphold the results of that vote. No political suicide for them; fair access to a non-lethal substance for liberty!

    April 15, 2009 at 12:10 am |
  16. Dave W

    It is not marijuana use that is sending money to drug lords, it is the prohibition of the plant that is responsible! Taxing and regulating it would easily fix the problem. This story is very irresponsible reporting by not mentioning this fact.

    April 14, 2009 at 6:51 pm |
  17. Sweetpoison

    Imagine stimulant drugs like cofffee and chocolate being illegal, Millions of us clamouring for our daily fix. Coffee and chocolate cartels forming across South America, Illegal chocolate factories popping up across the country, Coffee speakeasies set in inconspicuous basements and hundreds of thousands of chocoholics and caffeine fiends imprisioned along with the other drug abusers. Let’s stop the war and return to common sense laws .

    April 14, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  18. just an American

    .....oh and one more thing i dont think 21 should be the age to regulate it at..i believe that if i can choose to smoke a cigarrette then i definately have the right to smoke a blunt at 18..if anyone disagrees please tell me why

    April 14, 2009 at 4:01 pm |
  19. just an American

    yes weed does fuel mexican violence but its only because ignorant political views have kept it illegal and in the control of the wrong people instead of just letting it grow in your back yard the way its supposed to do because get this..ITS A WEED..

    April 14, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
  20. Karl

    Legalize It ! I've been smoking pot for 25 years since college. I have a PHd. and earn well over six figures. I would not have achieved half of what I have had it not been that I discovered it keeps my ADD/ADHD in check.

    April 14, 2009 at 3:22 pm |
  21. Paul J. von Hartmann

    There's such a HUGE demand for 'marijuana' in the U.S. that the tall herb is coming in (easily) from Canada, AND from Mexico.

    Want to know what an even greater harm of marijuana prohibition is, than the horrid and senseless melt-down of Mexico?

    The world's most useful and nutritious crop also is our best bet for food security and for addressing climate change. Currently, more than 950 million people in the world are starving and/or malnourished.

    Until drug policy and food security are discussed in the same conversation, prohibition of Cannabis may never end.

    April 14, 2009 at 2:05 pm |
  22. S

    The low grade canabis is mainly available in areas that are more restrictive in the growth of quality US grown canabis. Come to CA, there is lots of good greenery and very little Mexican shwag. Let people grow their own supply and demand from Mexico will cease. Wow, supply and demand, such a difficult concept for our elected officials. Maybe someone in Congress/Senate should read Milton Friedmans' body of work......or borrow an Econ 101 book from the local community college.

    April 14, 2009 at 2:04 pm |
  23. dirk

    Oh yeah, I forgot to add- I'm from Humboldt. One of the leaders of energy research and developement, and one of the largest wasters of energy from growing weed.

    April 14, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  24. dirk

    Most of the growers I know do nothing all day but plan vacations and talk about illeagal dumping of their chemicals. Most are useless as citizens aside from growing pot for the occasional medicinal user, which by the way is a crock. I know a couple of old ladies who grow for the medical requirements, but the rest of the medicinal growers I know just sell it so they dont have to have a job.

    Marijuana grown indoors is not a "natural herb". It is a seriously energy wasting pastime and causes incredible amounts of waste chemicals when grown hydro. The lamps run about 1000 watts each and run for 12 to 16 hours a day. That's 16 KW a day per lamp. How much oil is being used to grow that "weed"?

    The chemicals used to keep the bugs from thriving are some terrible neuro toxins and people raise their kids in these homes. They are also teaching the kids how to not work for a living and pay taxes.

    April 14, 2009 at 1:59 pm |
  25. Reefer


    You must not be a marijuana smoker, or at least not familiar with it. There is a lot of low quality grade marijuana in the United States – most, if not almost all of it is coming from Mexico. We are definitely fueling Mexico's drug tade.

    April 14, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
  26. John

    The benefits of decriminalization vastly outweigh any PERCIEVED detriments, enough said. Hemp can be used in place of trees! Hello world!!! Wake up! To be honest Im not far from believing a conspiracy theory that leads toward big corporations whos quarterly incomes would be lowered due to spread marijuana use. ie Big Tobacco & Pharmaceutical Drugs. Someone please assure me that when billions of profit are involved that there isnt strong resistance from the losing side!

    April 14, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  27. Sharon

    Marijuana is NOT fueling Mexican drug violence because most marijuana is homegrown in grow rooms throughout the USA.

    April 14, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  28. 4changeNow

    Is the grape a victimless fruit ????

    Come on now. Automobiles kill more people than pot ever has. Actually, NO ONE has ever died from smoking pot. Dealing pot
    under repressive circumstances, yes, you will get victims of gun
    violence. Do no blame the marijuana. Should we outlaw the car
    since it kills more people than pot? Let's be sensible folks.

    We can CHOOSE to decriminalize this HARMLESS herb so those
    adults who wish to reap its benefits can do so with dignity and we
    can stop filling up our jails with non-violent offenders.

    If we keep the "medical necessity" thing that's going on in California,
    remember, your good health depends on robust laughter. Pot can
    deliver. Needing more laughter in one's life ought to qualify, no?

    Silly silly silly what we've done to ourselves all over a WEED. We can
    regulate it responsibly (like wine) and tax it. Taxes from pot sales alone could finance universal healthcare. It is America's most valuable cash crop. Stop blaming the Mexican drug cartels. You are
    not crediting all the U.S. highly skilled growers!!!

    April 14, 2009 at 12:38 pm |
  29. Stephen

    The biggest problem with cannabis is that it is illegal. It is a safe substance that can be used recreationaly or medicinally. The WoDs has made the United States a much more dangerous place to live. Legalizing cannabis would have beneficial effects across all 50 states. More than 800,000 people are arrested each year, with roughly 80% being charged with possession only. Countries like Portugal and Holland have seen use go down when decriminalization occurred, it is likely the US would see such a benefit as well.

    Nixon created a hand picked group of experts to study cannabis and decide whether or not the federal government should outlaw it. The study overwhelming recommended that there should be no federal prohibition of it.

    The evidence in support of legalization is everywhere. Once you have done even a few hours of research you can only come to one conclusion – legalization is a must.

    The worst things about studying the War on Drugs are that you realize how big of a failure it is, how many negative effects it has had, and how ridiculous our politicians have been in promoting this. It makes you question the intelligence of our elected officials.

    April 14, 2009 at 12:24 pm |