Can Uruguay Kill Drug Cartels By Legalizing Marijuana?

Every day in Mexico, drug cartels claim dozens of lives in their ruthless defense of the illicit drug trade. The cartels’ gruesome acts have ranged from targeted assassinations to public beheadings. In a recent trial, a drug cartel hitman admitted to an appalling 800 murders.

When Uruguay became the first country to legalize pot last December, it hoped to avoid a fate similar to Mexico’s. Although it’s long been known as one of the safest countries in Latin America, a recent rise in organized crime led the middle-income nation of 3.4 million to take the bold step of ending marijuana prohibition.

Leaders “didn’t want Uruguay to even begin heading down the same path as other Latin American countries, where violence becomes endemic and linked to illicit drug markets,” says John Walsh, leading drug policy expert at the Washington Office on Latin America.

The government is so serious about this goal, in fact, that it won’t tax marijuana at all from the onset. That way, Uruguayan officials hope, legal pot will be far too cheap for the black market to seriously compete.

Drug policy experts in general agree that moving away from prohibition hurts the criminal element behind marijuana. But whether that will be enough to significantly cripple drug cartels remains to be seen.

– Read the entire article at Vox.