The confiscation of 382 tons of marijuana in 2013 indicates a rise of marijuana trafficking in Colombia as it is the highest amount seized since the 1990s, newspaper El Tiempo reported on Monday.
Contrary to the results of the fight against cocaine trafficking and production, which are on their lowest level since the mid-nineties, the amount of marijuana confiscated in 2013 was the highest since 1993. The increasing trend started in 2008 since when the amount has grown 350% up until 2013, according to El Tiempo.
“This does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that the marijuana production has grown, but it is indisputable that the trafficking scheme of that substance has been strengthened and crops have been technically modified,” the general of anti-narcotics police, Ricardo Restrepo, was quoted saying in El Tiempo.
A large part of the marijuana still comes from the traditional growing zones in the Caribbean department of Magdalena, especially in the famous Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, also a popular touristic destination. The marijuana is distributed from the cultivation sites to urban centers and ports by criminal groups like the Urabeños, according to El Tiempo.
The Sierra Nevada has been the center of marijuana cultivation since the 1920s and foremost during the so called “Bonanza Marimbera” a kind of marijuana gold-rush in the 1960-70s that is considered the beginning of the drug economy in Colombia.
But according to police general Restrepo, 50% of the marijuana cultivation today is located in the pacific region of Cauca, southwestern Colombia, where the country’s oldest rebel group FARC is in control of the business.
Not only the location of marijuana cultivation has changed, but also the crops: According to El Tiempo, new hydroponic crops in the Cauca region are now containing up to double the amount of hallucinogenic substances compared to weed plants of the 1970s and also allow for an increase in harvest.
Unlike cocaine, marijuana is largely produced for the domestic market – only three out of ten kilos are destined for foreign markets. This does not make it less of a profitable business though, given the fact that a kilo of marijuana which is sold for $10 in the Cauca region can generate up to 500$ in the streets of Bogota once divided up and sold in joints worth half a dollar.
According to El Tiempo, Marijuana is distributed through a network of criminal groups, involving rebel groups in the south-west and criminal gangs in the north, before hitting the streets of Colombia’s cities where it is sold by smaller local gangs at known market places in poorer neighborhoods, or via a delivery service that brings the drugs to high- and middle-class homes.
The Ministry of Interior claimed that the domestic consumption of marijuana has risen up to 700 tons annually, which is in line with the mentioned rise of seized marijuana; a development which experts have labelled as a “second marijuana gold-rush” referring to the “Bonanza Marimbera” of the 1970s.
Marijuana seizures in Colombia
The growth of domestic drug markets is a shared trend in most of South America’s states, according to crime analysis website InSight Crime, which reported about the growing numbers of drug consumers in all parts of societies throughout the continent which are “getting their drugs from the local criminal groups who are servicing the larger ones, like the Urabeños, throughout the distribution chain.”
- Cifras de marihuana, campanazo en lucha contra narcotráfico (El Tiempo)
- Narcos dejan una de cada 5 toneladas de coca para consumo en el país (El Tiempo)
- InSight Crime’s Game Changers: 2013 (InSight Crime)
- Mafia y narcotráfico en Colombia : elementos para un estudio comparado (Carlos Medina Gallego)