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Marijuana growers in Mexico use U.S. techniques to improve plants

December 15, 2010

Marijuana Plant being grown in an internationa...
Image via Wikipedia
New technology causes plants to grow faster, increasing potency and value.

Melissa Vogrin

As many states across the nation debate the merits of legalizing medical marijuana, Mexico may be throwing another wrench into the argument. Mexican marijuana farmers have begun using United Stated-pioneered techniques in remote mountain communities to produce marijuana that is both of higher quality and higher cost. This is likely to have an effect on the deadly drug war currently raging in Mexico.

Reuters reports that Mexican soldiers have found “60 acres of covered greenhouses equipped with sophisticated irrigation and fertilization systems growing seemingly endless rows of marijuana plants. … [And,] the army recently busted a marijuana lab with potted plants heated day and night by lamps, a change from traditional outdoor cultivation of the crop and a sign drug cartels are using more savvy production methods.”

These plants were found in Sinaloa, located in northwestern Mexico and the central location of Mexican drug trafficking. One soldier explained, “This is new. They now have technology so the plant will grow faster; we think the techniques are coming from (the United States).”

The greenhouses and other indoor facilities tend to increase the THC content of marijuana, which is the active ingredient, thus raising the value of the drug. According to the U.S. State Department, United States-grown marijuana has a THC content that has increased almost 250 percent over the past twenty years.

The Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy-funded National Marijuana Initiative, Tommy Lanier, said that some U.S. types of marijuana have nearly 30 percent THC, but Mexican varieties average between 3 and 4 percent.

Currently, both U.S. and Mexico law enforcement officials believe that Mexican drug gangs are making revenue on cheap and low-quality marijuana. However, if the drug gangs successfully grow higher-quality marijuana, they will be able to sell the new plants for as much as five times the current price. According to U.S. law enforcement officials, top-grade U.S. marijuana currently sells for approximately $2,500 per pound, while Mexican-grown pot typically sell for less than $500.

Hundreds of troops have been sent by Mexican President Felipe Calderón to destroy the marijuana plants, but each time the fields are destroyed and the soldiers move on to a new location, the drug cartels simply replant and start again. It is an ongoing battle and more than 33,000 people in Mexico have been killed in the last four years as a result of the drug wars.

Soldiers explain that “the new greenhouses are harder for the army to detect with fly-overs since they resemble tomato plots common in Sinaloa.”

A possible reason why Mexican marijuana farmers are improving their cultivation techniques is market competition. Medical marijuana is now legal in 15 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, and sales have inevitably increased in those states, especially in California. In fact, seizure of marijuana plants in California has increased by almost 300 percent since 2006. Mexican growers from Michoacan, the state from which the notorious drug cartel La Familia hails, are cultivating many of outdoor marijuana fields in the U.S. that have recently appeared.

Police officer Bill Ruzzamenti, who specializes in the marijuana trade in California’s Central Valley, believes that “Mexican growers working in the United States are taking knowledge learned from experienced marijuana botanists cultivating new strains with names like ‘train wreck’ and ‘California dream’ back home to Mexico.”

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