WBEZ | mexican cartel http://www.wbez.org/tags/mexican-cartel Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Would legal pot hit Chicago gangs’ pocketbooks? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/would-legal-pot-hit-chicago-gangs%E2%80%99-pocketbooks-106938 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F90506668&amp;color=00e9ff&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Elmhurst resident Siva Iyer read Sudhir Venkatesh&rsquo;s pop academic book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Gang-Leader-Day-Sociologist-Streets/dp/B004E3XDFI">Gang Leader for a Day</a>, which got him thinking about the economics and industrial side of marijuana.</p><p>The culture around weed has changed over the years, enough that Colorado and Washington have legalized the drug. Is Illinois on the verge of putting legalization to a test? Not likely, but it&rsquo;s worth contemplating. Earlier this year the Illinois House passed a medical marijuana act. And the city of Chicago has decriminalized possession, a policy designed to free up police hours. Officers can now <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/has-idea-ticketing-pot-gone-smoke-104861">ticket</a> for possession of fewer than 15 grams.</p><p>Iyer, who works in the pharmaceutical industry, wondered how gangs would make up for any lost income if &mdash; one day &mdash; weed were sold on store shelves.</p><p>So Iyer asked Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>If Illinois legalizes marijuana, how could that affect the economics&nbsp;</em><em>of the drug trade among gangs?</em></p><p>The short answer is: not much.</p><p>Iyer and I went to visit Midwest drug czar Jack Riley in a downtown federal building. Riley is Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Field Division for the Drug Enforcement Agency. The blunt-speaking agent described &nbsp;a &ldquo;very toxic&rdquo; and &ldquo;profitable&rdquo; relationship between Chicago street organizations and the Mexican cartels, but it doesn&rsquo;t revolve around weed.</p><p>&ldquo;If marijuana were to be legalized here,&rdquo; Riley said, &ldquo;it would in my opinion have virtually little or no effect on the income of gangs.&rdquo;</p><p>Frankly, marijuana can be a logistical nightmare, Riley explained. It smells. It&rsquo;s bulky. It&rsquo;s hard to store. And it&rsquo;s got a short shelf-life. That is, it&rsquo;s the exact opposite of Chicago gangs&rsquo; &nbsp;and cartels&rsquo; actual drug of choice: heroin.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SIVA%20FOR%20WEB_0.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: right; height: 246px; width: 150px;" title="Siva Iyer got us started on this question." />Here are the economics, according to Riley: A pound of decent-grade marijuana can run between $1,400-1,500. A kilo of cocaine sells for about $40,000. The real cash maker, Riley said, is the more compact heroin, which goes for $60,000 a kilo. He said it arrives from Mexico 90 percent pure and is sold at a purity of nine &nbsp;to 12 percent on the street after being cut and pumped with additives.</p><p>Riley said in the local drug trade, rival gangs collaborate these days over the dealing of heroin.</p><p>&ldquo;They very seldom interacted with other gangs other than to fight. So their business relationships were siloed. If someone in that particular gang &mdash; we&rsquo;ll talk about the Gangster Disciples &mdash; if somewhere in the GDs, [if] they didn&rsquo;t have a connection to a Mexican source or supply, they simply couldn&rsquo;t get the drugs,&rdquo; Riley said. &ldquo;Well now, as long as everyone&rsquo;s making money from business, we do begin to see, for instance, the Gangster Disciples, the Latin Kings and other criminal organizations begin to work together.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/DRUG CZAR GUIDE.jpg" style="width: 350px; float: left; height: 245px;" title="Data courtesy of Special Agent Jack Riley (Graphic by Logan Jaffe)" />The <a href="http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2013/apr/01/ap-impact-cartels-dispatch-agents-deep-inside-us/">Sinaloa Cartel</a> uses Chicago as a hub to distribute throughout the Midwest. The cartel&rsquo;s equivalent of a CEO is <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/magazine/how-a-mexican-drug-cartel-makes-its-billions.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=1&amp;">El Chapo Guzman</a> and he&rsquo;s Chicago&rsquo;s Public Enemy No. 1. The last criminal bestowed with that title was Al Capone.</p><p>Riley said Mexican cartels still do the majority of trafficking of marijuana, but higher grades of marijuana arrive from the Pacific Northwest and Canada. At this point there&rsquo;s reason to suspect that &mdash; even if Illinois tokers could buy legal weed from corner stores &mdash; these folks would still stay in business.</p><p>&ldquo;Regardless of what we did on the legalization side, it would never eliminate the black market,&rdquo; Riley said.</p><p>I interviewed a guy who sells weed in the Chicago area. (For obvious legal reasons, he didn&rsquo;t want me to use his name.) He agrees with Riley and added, &ldquo;If they legalize it, I feel they gonna take all the good sh*t off the market and make it super expensive and sell all the bad sh*t for the legal consumption. I like it the way it is now.&rdquo;</p><p>He calls Mexican weed &ldquo;regular weed,&rdquo; lacking the potency of domestic marijuana. He said his weed comes from California and is known on the street as &ldquo;loud,&rdquo; which is a pun on the loud smell and signals that it was grown via hydroponics.</p><p>If Illinois legalizes marijuana, he said, the government would certainly tax the drug. But he explained that dealers already deal with a drug hierarchy and a tax of sorts: The weed connect sells to a middleman, who is charged a tax. That middleman might want to make $200 on the package, so he&rsquo;ll &ldquo;tax&rdquo; the next dealer.</p><p>But as the marijuana dealer I interviewed said, &ldquo;I can kind of deal with that than the government.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Natalie Moore is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">@natalieymoore</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 01 May 2013 14:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/would-legal-pot-hit-chicago-gangs%E2%80%99-pocketbooks-106938