But for its problematic pedigree, Mexico's marijuana might be hailed as a marketing miracle.
The much-maligned weed has suffered decades of punishment — burned, poisoned, ripped from the earth by its roots. Customers have been jailed, suppliers battered by literally cutthroat competition. Better products from Colombia, California and countless suburban back-rooms have somewhat eroded its popularity. Governments refuse to make it honest.
Yet, this pot has persevered. Production grows, quality improves and exports northward hum along. Despite decades of U.S. officials' efforts against it, Mexican marijuana remains widely available, frequently used and commonly disregarded as a danger.
"They are never going to stop it," said Dan Webb, a recently retired anti-narcotics lieutenant with the Texas Department of Public Safety, who now teaches drug enforcement at Sam Houston State University.
"It is just like Prohibition," Webb said, comparing Mexico's cannabis trade to the boom in liquor smuggling after the U.S. government outlawed alcohol sales decades ago. "As long as there is a demand, somebody is going to come up with a supply."
Then again, there's that dark legacy. Marijuana sales to American consumers largely finance the gangster warfare that's killed upwards of 40,000 Mexicans in less than five years.
Though its slice of the gangs' income may be shrinking — the thugs long have profited from cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, as well as kidnapping, extortion and piracy — marijuana remains a solid bet. Call it the money market fund of the Mexican mob.
"Marijuana remains the constant commodity of choice for the drug cartels because of end user demand and the ease of production," said Tony Garcia, South Texas director of an intergovernmental police alliance that keeps tabs on the illicit drug trade. ...
Cheap to grow and relatively easy to bring to market, Mexico's marijuana provides sustenance for entire mountain communities and wide profit margins for the gangsters. One widely challenged U.S. government study five years ago estimated that cannabis exports provided some 60 percent of the gangs' revenues. Other estimates range from 15 to 40 percent.
Prohibition of alcohol too, of course, had a "dark legacy" to overcome, and if marijuana were ever legalized I suspect it would overcome its own disreputable past as quickly as did beer, wine and spirits. And though change will be slow in coming, even in Texas opposition to pot legalization is slowly dissipating. Earlier this year when the Texas Tribune asked voters about potential revenue sources, legalizing and taxing pot, while opposed by 59% of the public, was more still popular than more traditional revenue sources like raising the sales, business or gas taxes. According to the Chron, "surveys suggest at least 11 percent of Americans over age 12 regularly puff from a joint, pipe or bong." That's a whole lot of folks.