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Border & Immigration

How Does Obama's New Pot Stance Affect The Border?

President Barack Obama told ABC News' Barbara Walters that recreational pot users in Colorado and Washington were not a “top priority” for federal officials in the War on Drugs. Their conversation will be aired Friday night, but 20/20 shared a preview:

"It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it's legal," he said, invoking the same approach taken toward users of medicinal marijuana in 18 states where it's legal.

So, Feds might not bust recreational users in Colorado and Washington State. How does that translate across the border?

Financially Impact The Cartels?

One of the ongoing arguments for pot legalization is combating the cartels. To be clear, Obama's statement is a long way from full legalization in either state. But what's interesting is how legalization would affect cartels through competition. Mexico’s drug cartels make around $2 billion a year from the American marijuana market. In comparison they make $2.4 billion from cocaine. What might hurt the cartels’ wallets most is a homegrown black market. The Economist recently broke it down:

Once you adjust for quality, Washington pot would be about half the price of the Mexican stuff, even after it had made its expensive illegal journey to New York. IMCO reckons that home-grown marijuana from Colorado, Oregon or Washington would be cheaper than the Mexican stuff virtually everywhere in the country, with the exception of a few border states where the Mexican variety would still come in a bit cheaper

As a result, IMCO estimates that Mexico’s traffickers would lose about $1.4 billion of their $2 billion revenues from marijuana

Different From Medical Pot?

Obama can say anything, but how the action of the DOJ is what we'll be watching. In 2008, Presidential candidate Barack Obama stated about medical marijuana: "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.” However, he’s since been criticized for the Justice Department’s crack down on dispensaries.

One ongoing federal lawsuit filed against the nation’s largest dispensary, pits the City of Oakland against in federal government, revealing the complicated tug and pull of state and federal law.

Just because President Obama said recreational users in Colorado and Washington are a not top priority for the DOJ, doesn’t mean marijuana is not a priority. Regardless of Washington and Colorado, marijuana is still classified a schedule I controlled substance, grouped in the same bundle as LSD and heroin.

South Of The Border?

Across the border, it’s more opaque. Last month, Latin American leaders expressed a desire for the United Nations to hold a special session to evaluate current policies designed to combat international drug trafficking and production.

Mexico’s newly elected president Enrique Peña Nieto’s recently stated that regardless of legalization in two U.S. states, Mexico’s Drug War will still be combating the sale pot. For now, via AP:

"The short answer is no," said Pena Nieto, who said he maintains a personal opposition to legalization. "My government will continue mounting a real fight against the trafficking of marijuana and all other drugs."

Legalization "is a theme postulated in the absence of results in the question of public safety," Pena Nieto said. "I will put special attention on prevention, ways we can avoid generating fertile ground that allows violence and insecurity to continue to grow."
The Federal Government is still evaluating its options in light of legalization. In other words, Obama's words are a hint of what direction they are going in, but not authoritative. One subject that was not mentioned was his stance on commercial production. The Oregonian:
The bigger question is what the federal government will do about the new Washington and Colorado laws that would allow commercial production and retail sales of marijuana. Washington is beginning a year-long process to set up a regulatory framework for sales overseen by the Washington State Liquor Control Board.