The Sons of Mexico's Drug Kingpin Show Why We Need Marijuana Legalization

October 6th 2015

Kyle Jaeger

The enormous wealth of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán is no secret. You can see it for yourself—from photos posted on the Twitter accounts of his sons, Ivan and Alfredo Guzmán, where they regularly flaunt their cash, cars, guns, and exotic pets.

For more than 10 years, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel has reigned over the country, using violence and intimidation to become one of the most powerful people in the world, as Forbes describes. But since he escaped from a maximum-security prison (for the second time) in July, concerns about the cartel's role in the War on Drugs are heightened.

RELATED: The Surprising Effect Legalized Marijuana Is Having On Ruthless Mexican Drug Cartels

For a long time, drug cartels relied heavily on money made trafficking marijuana from Mexico to the U.S., but as the legalization movement has spread, even the cartel's resources have been stretched somewhat thin, forcing them to expand their services and smuggle harder, more dangerous drugs such as heroin.

That's a problem for marijuana advocates in America because drug policy is often informed by domestic trends. Heroin from across the border is a growing problem, contributing to the increasing rates of addiction and fatal drug overdose.

"In the past, politicians have struggled to distinguish between heroin and marijuana policy, and parents have seen pot as a 'gateway' to heroin just because it often comes first in the sequence," MSNBC reported. "Both groups, meanwhile, have historically avoided talking much about drugs until right about the moment when heroin starts making junkies out of a whiter, more suburban population."

"You might assume that our drug politics are more sophisticated today, and that all drug deaths are treated equally,  but after living and researching the turbulent history of marijuana reform in this country, I wouldn’t assume anything of the sort."

That's exactly what is happening today, and with a steady stream of heroin coming out of Guzmán's operations, there's good reason to be weary about the implications this might have for legalization efforts in the U.S., however in states where people have access to legal marijuana, rates of opiate addiction are reduced. More pain patients opt for pot when they can obtain it from a dispensary.

Many argue that we could both curb heroin addiction in the U.S. and limit the influence of dangerous cartels by permitting people to access marijuana. If marijuana is legalized, then much of the money that Guzmán's group gets from trafficking drugs could be diverted and, instead, states could reap the profits by simply legalizing pot.