The image of the U.S. mafia shunning drugs is pure Hollywood. Lucky Luciano and Arnold Rothstein built America's narco network.
Let's go further back to 1898 when the drug company Bayer was promoting heroin as the new miracle cure for all kinds of ailments for adults and children! Even Sears Roebuck sold the Bayer's "miracle drug". By 1924 there were over 200,000 heroin addicts in the United States alone. Maybe you can call the pharmaceutical industry the first real drug cartel and still continuing that fine tradition today.
I always heard, from reliable sources who were around in the 1970s (+ even 1960s) that the reason the Italian/Sicilian outfit lost its hold on crime was not because the Feds broke it up, but because the bosses stopped "making" new soldati; preferring instead to send their sons to college and into legitimate, less brutal businesses. The sons with no other options were a pretty poor lot, for many reasons; and had less of an exclusively "ethnic" community to extort and live off. They got into drug trade heavy, but were bad at it; and wound up busted, addicted, or dead in disputes with outside competitors and their own suppliers. The other, newer, hungrier ethnic outfits supplanted them easily. It's my belief that "Mafias" in America are a stage in the development of immigrant cultures; formed first for community self-defense, then expanding into lucrative "rackets" where their tools of force are useful. The prosperity they generate springboards their second or third generation into American upper-middle-class identity, and they leave the rackets behind where the next group takes up. It worked for the Irish, Jewish, and Italians; and the Russians, Albanians, and various Latinx ethnicities have it now.
Another great, informative one. Very interested in the time bracket 50s to 70s (also Acapulco's "Golden Age") Thanks for the pause for thought ... and "stratospheric infamy" makes my day!
My extensive studies have shown a common link beyond the ethnicities of criminal cartels (the ones that are truly "organized" and not just local crews), that factor being a deeply held Catholicism whether rooted in Sicily, Ireland, Italy, or elsewhere. Always included are enough shylocks of Jewish ancestry to prop up Rome's favorite diversion of blaming Jewry for all ills, and Europe has always had a deep pool of Jews from which to recruit, most with a lineage on that heavily catholicised continent going back generations if not centuries. Ex-Jesuit priest Alberto Rivera wrote in 1985 that he personally organized and handled both criminal groups and shamanic cults, selling them holy water for occult rituals. He also noted that then-Pope John Paul II condoned those very cults (predecessors to the Santa Muerte-worshipping Mexican drug cartels of today).
Romanism had overt power in Latin America since the conquest, replete with a title-holding, noble ruling elite that did not have to conceal itself. Independence movements damaged that from 1806, but it wasn't until the Spanish-American war 100 years later that this power structure was truly shattered in the Americas. In the USA, prohibition arrived just in time, providing a product and market for a new generation of secret and subversive mobs to pander to. As you have demonstrated, the sophistication and financial clout wielded by these syndicates has increased exponentially through various iterations. I would add that, in the USA, Indian gaming has been a major outgrowth of organized crime with proven affiliations to both Mafia and Latino cartels. This is logical, since heavily "evangelized" (that is, catholicised) native tribes were the foot soldiers against protestant Americans through a century of French & Indian wars prior to the 1776 revolution. Every believer of Apocalipsis knows there is a criminal underground that spans the whole world, has been active for twenty or more centuries, and ruled openly for many of them. Today her tentacles include the vast network of financially inexhaustible NGOs trafficking migrants up through the Americas, many governments wholesale (Red China especially), and huge sectors of the US government. That is why so many US agencies have been kicked out of Mexico!
There is a persistent "legend" that Lucky Luciano personally visited Culiacán to arrange "alternate" sources of opium after Turkish opium was no longer available in WWII. Supposedly, he did so with knowledge of US government officials. Many are convinced Luciano hoped that if he could find a replacement source of opium (heroin) the FBI and the US would grant a blanket pardon for other crimes. I this actually happened as told in the legend, it would have been a futile since he was ultimately deported and reputedly furious about the government "betrayal".
Rumour and legends about his Culiacan visit to "little Chicago- Culiacan" has been repeated many times in several books and in local legends circulating in Sinaloa. Luis Astorga could find absolutely no evidence of any "agreement to provide heroin" between Luciano and the US government in his extensive analysis of US archives. Astorga remains skeptical that Luciano was ever in Culiacán and is convinced that he never the 1940's generation of drug capos in Sinaloa. Nevertheless, the legends persist.
I briefly mentioned this period and these events in my own book Drug Wars and Covert Netherworlds and provide the references to Astorga's research.