Since 2011, American marijuana consumers’ tastes have turned to the more potent, higher-quality domestic varieties. American made marijuana is quickly replacing Mexico’s cheap, seedy version harvested from the Sierra Madre Mountains, causing a slump in the Cartels’ marijuana trade’s profitably.
As a response, Mexican drug farmers planted more opium poppies. The sticky brown and black “tar” heroin they produce is channeled by traffickers into the U.S. communities hit hardest by prescription painkiller abuse, offering addicts a less expensive alternative oxycodone.
“Legalization of marijuana for recreational use has given U.S. consumers access to high-quality marijuana, with genetically improved strains, grown in greenhouses,” claims Raul Benitez-Manaut, a drug trade expert at Mexico’s National Autonomous University. “That’s why the Mexican cartels are switching to heroin and meth.”
“Criminal organizations are no longer going for bulk marijuana,” said Sidney Aki, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection port director of the post just south of San Diego. “Hard drugs are the growing trend, and they’re profitable in small amounts.”
According to Drug Enforcement Administration figures, 90 percent of the meth on U.S. streets is cooked in Mexico, where precursor chemicals are far easier to obtain.
Heroin and Meth can be cheaply produced in Mexico, unlike cocaine, which is far pricier, and therefore riskier, because it must be smuggled from South America. Furthermore, heroin and meth are far easier to transport and conceal than marijuana.
The United States has an estimated 600,000 heroin users, a threefold increase in the past five years. Those addicts are the prime target for the booming heroin business. A U.S. crackdown on prescription opiates has driven up the price for drugs such as OxyContin and Percocet, enticing desperate addicts to switch to cheap heroin to fend off withdrawal symptoms.