Marijuana grown legally in the US is flooding into Mexico at unprecedented rates amid skyrocketing demand for trendy American strains like ‘Girl Scout Cookies’ and ‘Alaskan Thunderf***’ that are sold for massive premiums south of the border.
Buying and selling marijuana is illegal in Mexico – though the country remains one of the highest producers of cannabis worldwide and for decades been America’s biggest supplier – but not anymore.
Mexican lawmakers decriminalized smoking and approved licenses for the cultivation and sale of the plant back in March, but the bill still hasn’t passed the Senate.
In the meantime, US traffickers are filling the demand for high-quality, regulated strains that can be sold for more than 300 percent above market value in Mexico, dealers told the Washington Post.
The shift in flow of cannabis poses a daunting problem for border patrol agents in both countries who have for decades been focused on drugs entering the US, not leaving it.
‘The demand here for American weed has exploded,’ one dealer in Mexico City told the Post.
‘It’s aspirational for many of my clients. They want to be seen smoking the best stuff, the stuff rappers brag about smoking.’
Customs and Border Patrol have seen an uptick in legal cannabis being smuggled to Mexico
American marijuana products, brightly packaged and more heavily regulated, are popular for their funny names and association with American rappers and entertainers
The 2016 Migos song Bad and Boujee, which featured the lyric, ‘Smokin’ on Cookie in the hotbox,’ sent the price of products from the Maywood, California dispensary Cookie up by 200 to 300 percent.
The growing interest in legal marijuana is buoyed by California’s huge weed market, which hit sales of $4.4billion in 2020, up 57 percent from the year before, according to Forbes.
The surge of American product is cutting into the aspirations of Mexican businesses that hope to enter a soon-to-come legal market.
‘All these years we’ve had marijuana come from Mexico to the US, and now it’s the opposite,’ said Raul Elizalde Garza, CEO of HempMeds in Monterrey, Mexico, which sells CBD products.
‘Companies like us that want to produce legally, who want to invest – we have to wait for complete regulation,’ he said.
‘Marijuana from California has a huge advantage on us.’
The owner of Urbn Leaf is San Ysidro, a few hundred yards from Mexico, says some of his Mexican customers like to show off their American weed as a status symbol
Marijuana is fully legal in 18 states and Washington, D.C., including California, which shares a 140-mile border with Mexico and features legal shops a stone’s throw from Mexican checkpoints.
‘Nobody is going to grow cannabis better than California probably ever,’ said Josh Bubeck, who owns the Urbn Leaf dispensary in San Ysidro, California, a few hundred yards from Tijuana, Mexico.
He estimates that 55 percent of his customers are Mexican.
‘You’re showing, ‘This is what I’m about. I’m a bad ass. I got this from America.”
The possession and sale of marijuana is still illegal at the federal level in America, and US Customs and Border Protection warns that any contraband and associated paraphernalia – pipes, bongs, etc. – will be confiscated.
Violators also face penalties of $1,000 and possible referrals to local law enforcement for prosecution.
‘Processing these cases also has a negative impact on our ability to manage the flow of legitimate traffic,’ said acting CBP El Paso port Director Greta Campos in a statement in April that focused on cases of travelers possessing ‘just a few grams or ounces.’
‘When we encounter a case like this a CBP officer is taken off the line for several hours and that lane will be closed until the process is completed.’
CBP has also confiscated large amounts of American product in Mexico.
Earlier this month, agents reported confiscating 619 cartridges of cannabis oil, worth approximately $30,000, in Mexico, according to the Post.
Drugs coming into the US, especially heavier ones like fentanyl, remain a bigger problem. Above, an agent and a drug-sniffing German Shepherd near a checkpoint in Arizona
But drugs coming from Mexico the US are still the more pressing issue.
On August 2, agents near Donna, Texas seized 393 pounds of marijuana worth 314,000 from smugglers who escaped while trying to enter the US.
On July 21, agents seized 440 pounds of weed from smugglers who ‘swiftly absconded back to Mexico.’
Mexico, the United States and Canada are among the world’s biggest marijuana suppliers, according to the 2021 World Drug Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The report stresses that it’s difficult for countries to assess how much marijuana is grown within their borders.
‘Whereas outdoor cannabis production is found around the globe, most reported indoor cultivation of cannabis continues to be concentrated in countries of Europe and North America (most notably the United States, followed by Canada),’ the report states.