Marijuana: Is Colorado pot so good that it's making Mexican cartels want to take over?
Others indicted along with Diaz insist that none of the targeted transactions had any connection with foreign drug gangs. But a longtime investigator says he's been hearing plenty about Mexican cartels attempting to force their way into the Colorado biz, partly due to the much higher quality of pot grown and sold here.
"From what we're hearing, Colorado marijuana is a lot more desirable than the Mexican marijuana," says Tom Gormon, director of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area organization, RMHIDTA has sponsored studies about the dangers of home cannabis grows and the negative impacts of the state's pot experiment, among other things. "So for the cartels to compete, they have to upgrade their marijuana, get out of the business or try to get involved in the business in Colorado."
Of these three options, the first would be time-consuming and the second is improbable -- but Gorman thinks the third is a very real possibility.
"Our concern -- and we've had some indication of this -- is that the Mexican cartels would see this as a very lucrative business," he notes.
Hector Diaz, who's also facing weapons-related charges.
How would Mexican cartels go about gaining a foothold in Colorado? "One of their primary moneymaking opportunities besides drug dealing is extortion," Gorman points out, referencing a cartel attack on a casino in Monterrey, Mexico circa 2011 in which 52 people were killed. "That was not a dope deal: That was an extortion deal. They were extorting money and apparently the casino didn't want to pay -- but they paid a price for that in the end."
He sees similar dynamics at play in Colorado.
"If you're a cartel member and you see ways to make money in a trade you're used to, it's a perfect storm," he allows. "Say you're a retail cultivator or a store owner. Someone from a cartel comes in and shows you a picture of your kids going to school -- and they tell you, 'I want 40 percent of your profits or you're not going to see your kids anymore.'
Continue for more of our interview with Tom Gorman about possible Mexican drug cartels forcing their way into the Colorado marijuana business.