By Deborah Bonello

He started growing marijuana as a teenager and for four decades earned a modest living from his tiny plot tucked at the base of these rugged mountains of western Mexico.

He proudly shows off his illegal plants, waist-high and fragrant, strategically hidden from view by rows of corn and nearly ready to be harvested.

"I've always liked this business, producing marijuana," the 50-year-old farmer said wistfully. He had decided that this season's crop would be his last.

The reason: free-market economics.

The loosening of marijuana laws across much of the United States has increased competition from growers north of the border, apparently enough to drive down prices paid to Mexican farmers. Small-scale growers here in the state of Sinaloa, one of the country's biggest production areas, said that over the last four years the amount they receive per kilogram has fallen from $100 to $30.

The price decline appears to have led to reduced marijuana production in Mexico and a drop in trafficking to the U.S., according to officials on both sides of the border and available data.

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Thumbnail CC Flickr Gavin White