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Opiate of the asses

14 January 2010

I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for a Mexican version of the Bolivian approach to their coca export problem — legitimizing the agricultural product through alternative  internal markets while tightly controlling the small legitimate export trade, simply buying up excess production and subsidizing small farmers… all to keep the gangsters out of the trade and allow the government to focus on more important issues.

But yesterday’s  silly POTMEX post was  a response to a more serious and chronic problem faced by Latin America in general, Mexico in particular.  A problem for which drugs, or rather, in this case, marijuana are only a symptom of a much more chronic problem affecting Mexico.

A poster on a tourist message board had a naive — but not atypical — query about Mexican travel:

Hi, I am on my way to Mexico (Oaxaca, mostly) and am curious about the curent climate concerning pot. Are there random searches? are they thorough? do they stop buses to search gringos? are the locals offended by it?

Of course, as another poster (whom I thought worth quoting in here) could have pointed out, most of the “locals” are put off by narcotics use, even marijuana use.  Though naturally the kind of “locals” who are going to respond to a post on an English language tourist forum are hardly representative (no one posted in Zapotec or Mixtec, let alone Spanish) respondents gave the standard Mexican warning that random searches for pot are a very real possibility, and that the consequences for carrying pot around the country can be rather severe.

While some observers say that marijuana use is widespread in Mexico, and others — like myself — move in social circles where marijuana smoking is considered  “naco” at best — no one argues with the contention that marijuana itself is probably not that harmful a substance, and may have some benefits.

Not that the arguments for legalizing narcotics possession  has anything to do with whether or not a person might be searched in Oaxaca in the next few weeks.  One person, after speaking of the benefits of marijuana, added:

Having said that [marijuana is less harmfull than alchohol], the problem right now is hemp is illegal, and it does involve major criminal activity, period, end of debate. You CAN get really messed up if the cops find you with it in Mexico.

The bottom line among Mexican “locals” seems to be that the marijuana traders are NOT NICE PEOPLE.  And, a person very well could end up in legal trouble if they are caught carrying marijuana.

The person who asked the original question seemed to think they could meet that mythical nice little old farmer who grows a couple of plants… supposedly to sell nice wannabe hippy tourists, apparently.  The farmer is either selling to the cartels, or if he’s not, he’s likely to be murdered.  As are those “nice mellow dealers” some people mentioned.  Of course, they’re dealing with gangsters, or people working for gangsters or — by engaging in commerce with foreign buyers — likely to make them the target of gangsters. Or worse.  Noting that here in Sinaloa, farmworkers have been kidnapped and press-ganged into harvesting marijuana (and often killed afterwords), frankly I think U.S. marijuana buyers are aiding and abetting slavery and murder.

That is the real state of the Mexican marijuana industry.  What’s more than a little scary is that one respondent (and his remarks were echoed by others) said “I’m not going to stop doing what makes me feel good and be a better person, so all of your ranting and waving is futile on me.

Perhaps marijuana smoking make the poster feel good… but a “better person”?  In that the person says his personal needs (assuming marijuana is a need, and not a “want”) justify his contempt for the social norms and laws in Mexico, there’s not much difference between him and mining company that pays assassins to take care of pesky locals who object to their search for personal fulfillment, or the homeowner who absolutely “needs” some tropical wood stolen out of Mexican forests by gangsters for his kitchen cabinets.  Or for that matter, the guys who come here to have sex with minors.

It is not “ranting and waving” to point out that a particular action is objectionable, and — whether one agrees or not — the “locals” have the right to their resources, and a right to decide how they wish them to be used.  That Mexicans would prefer not to have a marijuana business may be an unwise move, but it’s theirs to make, the same as it’s up to Mexicans to decide they don’t want protect their forests or control the environmental damage caused by gold mining.  It is no different than the United States insisting Mexico buy Montsanto genetically altered corn seed, because there’s Montsanto “needs” to sell it.

The outsider may “need” marijuana or gold or tropical woods or a market for seeds, and perhaps may have a justification of why they “need” them.  But they are pleading “greater necessity” to  buy or sell or use resources aren’t theirs in the first place, and the pleas of “greater necessity” come down to simply this:

We want it, we’ll steal it, or kill you to get it, or hire someone to kill to get it, and ignore any of your social norms that interfere with us… because… we want it, so it’s ours.

The real problem isn’t with some joker smoking marijuana in Oaxaca, or naively believing his actions aren’t seen as harmful by Mexicans.  It’s his  sense of entitlement and the pervasiveness of that sense of entitlement (even among so-called “liberals”)  accepted unthinkingly by the citizens of the rich countries that is the root of too many of our problems here.

There is nothing wrong with having things or wanting things, even marijuana.  It’s not the opiates that should concern Mexico or most of the planet … it’s the rich and clueless of the world’s addiction to a sense of entitlement to stuff that isn’t theirs in the first place.

Ah well, the road to recovery isn’t easy, but the first step is.  Admit there is a problem.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 14 January 2010 2:17 pm

    Great post. I agree 100%. Someone’s ‘need’ for pot in the US has created and sustained a violent and barbarous situation for Mexicans and foreigners who reside here. Isn’t there enough being grow in Northern California and Kentucky to satisfy your needs? And when you travel, carrying a US passport doesn’t give you the right to be an asshole in another country.

  2. 14 January 2010 7:38 pm

    I’ve always been really annoyed with tourists who are ‘recreational’ drug users when I am in places like Guatemala, where people get killed everyday by the gangs. Tourists think they are playing around in a situation similar to the US or Canada or Europe, where the drug may be ‘illegal’ but they do not have to think about the consequences of who they are buying the drugs from (in itself often stupid but another debate).

    It can be very dangerous in the first place to find and use drugs throughout Latin America, and very costly to deal with the cops. But more importantly, there is little to no thought given by these type of tourists to what the drug trade means in a country like Guatemala or Mexico. It’s just fun to smoke up at Lago Atitlan, no consequences or thought to the people who live in the country. It frustrates me, this type of insensitivity, all the more because the justification is often their sense of entitlement to a ‘good time’.

  3. 15 January 2010 7:07 pm

    Of course there’s a problem – a big one.

    For every sell there’s a customer and my fellow Americans, Canadians and Europeans, are big time in Mexico when going there for the whole “Mexican experience”, which is by far unrealistic if pot is included.

    I grew up in several regions of the country – far from living terrified. None of my friend smoke pot because indeed that’s was considered for “cheap gringos” who needed to shake their depression life crisis problems, or for “nacos”.

    Good post and ENOUGH of the non-sense that every Mexican needs a ‘joint’. To know the real Mexico YOU have to live there. That’s the trick.


  1. “Ya digo cualquier tontería…” | The Mex Files

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