Pubdate: Mon, 28 Jul 2014
Source: Daily Times, The (TN)
Copyright: 2014 Horvitz Newspapers
Author: Steve Wildsmith


The only time I ever thought about where the illegal drugs I was
purchasing might have come from was when I lucked up in the purchase
of some particularly potent cocaine.

I didn't ask about the urgency to move such product at such cheap
prices, but when we got the eight ball back to our dinghy hotel room
and started to break it up, we saw it: a mysterious-looking stamp
pressed in the smooth side of the lump of coke, a skull and some words
in Spanish prominent in the indention. The sight of it filled me with
a little bit of unease, because it was further proof that we were
indulging in a game that could have had potentially deadly
consequences. It was obviously from someplace south of the border, and
rather than contemplate the violence that had accompanied it north to
the streets of Myrtle Beach, S.C., we busted it up and proceeded to
get high and not think of it again.

Most drug users, I'd venture to guess - from needle junkies like I
used to be to the casual pot smokers who buy an ounce here and there -
seldom think about where their money is going for the product that
they're purchasing. It's something that needs to be considered,
however, given the current migrant crisis along the Mexican border.

Since last October, more than 50,000 kids and adolescents have been
detained trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United
States, most of them children fleeing countries in Central and South
America. In a recent Washington Post editorial, international affairs
expert Ted Galen Carpenter writes, "The refugees are fleeing not only
grinding poverty but widespread carnage, inflicted mostly by powerful
Mexican-based drug cartels and other criminal gang," and Daily Beast
columnist Caitlin Dickson recently opined that drug traffickers and
the violence they inflict to control the trade have made those nations
"virtually unlivable for its poorest citizens."

Granted, most "hard" drugs sold in the United States - specifically
cocaine and heroin - can be traced directly back to that violence.
There aren't exactly fields of blooming poppies up in the Smoky
Mountains, so those who buy heroin made from those flowers know that
their money is either being funneled back to Mexican drug cartels or
to narco-terrorists in Middle Eastern countries like Afghanistan.
Addicts aren't the sort to take into account such international
dilemmas, however, nor do they have the luxury of shopping around for
"domestic" versions of the product they so desperately crave.

But what about those who make pot? In the past few years, we've seen
more and more states legalize it, and I can't help but think that
Tennessee won't be too far behind. Legalization certainly opens the
door for domestic production, which in turn cuts into the
supply-and-demand of cartel-based economics, but we've got a long way
to go before the overwhelming desire by Americans to smoke up is
abated by homegrown weed.

Consider this, from the website Dollars & Sense: "There are about 7.6 
million frequent marijuana smokers in the United States, according to 
the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Nearly 23.9 million 
Americans use the drug semi-regularly.

"Marijuana is sold widely on the black market, and is readily
available on street corners, in bars and nightclubs, and in
high-school hallways (as 80 percent of students reported to the
National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2012). Except for the relatively
small number of people who have purchased medical marijuana through
licensed dispensaries, the vast majority of these users buy their weed
on this black market - either directly from dealers or from friends
with access to a dealer."

And so where do those dealers get it? To answer that question, you've
got to understand the nature of American pot consumption - and like
many things in this country, pot is a commodity that the majority of
users like to buy on a commercial level, meaning that high-end weed by
domestic growers makes up only a small percentage of the marijuana
black market. In fact, Beau Kilmer, the co-director of the Drug Policy
Research Center at the public policy think tank Rand Corporation,
estimates that 80 percent of the weed smoked in this country is
"commercial grade," meaning is the "Walmart brand" of pot ... less
potent, but a heck of a lot cheaper than weed grown here in the United

So where does it come from? According to a 2011 article on the website
Fronteras, "Kilmer says a large chunk is imported from Mexico.
Purchasing that smuggled pot would benefit the Mexican cartels who are
engaged in violent turf battles south of the border." Granted, a lot
of local residents who buy and smoke weed probably do so from a good
ol' boy (or girl) who has a patch on his back 40, or knows a place to
grow back in the mountains and cultivates a nice crop there. And if
you're one of those smokers who buys from such a grower, then you're
in the minority.

Because the fact is that drugs sold illegally don't come with any sort
of labeling or "Made in the USA" sticker. If you don't know where your
dealer gets it from - and experienced buyers know it's better not to
ask - then you might as well be flipping a coin and picking a country
south of the border. And the next time you blaze up, ask yourself if
the smoke you're inhaling is the end result of a some dark tale of
trafficking and violence that sent a family's children on a long
journey to a U.S. detention center in Arizona.

It's not such a far-fetched thing to imagine, and it's something
consumers of all drugs should be aware of. The role their illicit
substances plays on the world stage is a hell of a lot bigger than any
of us want to imagine.
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