According to Donald Trump, “We’re also letting drugs pour through our southern border at a record clip. At a record clip. And it shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”
But the reality is somewhat different.
Rather than a record flow, the amount of drugs coming over the US border with Mexico, measured by seizures by Customs and Border Protection, has trended down over the last five years.
Marijuana seizures have declined the most, likely driven by changing regulations on the drug in the US.
The amount of cocaine seized at the US-Mexico border has also fallen, though the southern border may not be its principal entry point.
Seizures of heroin and methamphetamines have risen slightly over the past five years, a trend that reflects changing drug-consumption habits in the US.
Overall, as the charts below show, the flow of drugs into the US doesn’t match what Trump said, and the dynamics of US drug use have also changed markedly over the last 15 years.
Overall drug seizures decreased between 2011 and 2015; that decline has largely been driven by the drop in marijuana seizures over that time.
Source: The Washington Post
Marijuana seizures by weight have declined significantly since 2011.
The falling amount of marijuana intercepted at US borders “is most likely because of the legalization of marijuana for recreational or medicinal use in a growing number of American states – so Americans are buying more cannabis grown in the United States,” Ioan Grillo, a journalist in Mexico who has covered the drug war extensively, wrote in The New York Times after the debate.
“Two or three years ago, a kilogram [2.2 pounds] of marijuana was worth $60 to $90,” Nabor, a 24-year-old pot grower in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, told NPR at the end of 2014. “But now they’re paying us $30 to $40 a kilo. It’s a big difference. If the U.S. continues to legalize pot, they’ll run us into the ground.”
The number of marijuana seizures has also declined over the last five years.