Texas experts on Mexican gangs say the spreading legalization of marijuana in their biggest target market of the United States won't put the cartels out of business, and may actually make them more dangerous, 1200 WOAI news reports.


  "They diversify their activities," Guadalupe Correa, an expert on Mexican cartels at the University of Texas at Brownsville told 1200 WOAI's Michael Board.


  She says marijuana smuggling into the United States was indeed a major part of the cartels' business model.  But rather than being simply drug smuggling entities, the cartels are now sophisticated international criminal operations, much like the Mafia in its heyday in the fifties and sixties, and they now have their fingers in all sorts of potentially dangerous pies.


  "To include migrant smuggling, extortion, and kidnapping," she says.


  Mexican gangs have now become some of the world's leading weapons trafficking organizations, and cartels like Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel are know to have operatives in places like the Middle East and Africa where weapons are in demand.


  There has also been an uptick in gangs essentially 'taking over' Mexican ports, mining operations, and small towns, as they use their tactics of mass murder, terror, and extortion to continue to keep the profits flowing.  The cartels are heavily vested in sex trafficking, and will kidnap young girls from their homes in Mexico and threaten to murder their families unless they act as prostitutes in the United States.


  Experts say the cartels are also getting involved in more mundane, but equally profitable, forms of activity, following in the footsteps of the Mafia.  Things like cigarette smuggling, bookmaking, and even basic street crimes like robbery.