The Mexican government’s fight against the cultivation and sale of marijuana is increasingly a losing one. Mexico’s drug czar says that the country’s growing marijuana market is so lucrative that it’s becoming a challenge to stop.

The Mexican government is taking a hard look at the nation’s burgeoning marijuana industry, and the country’s drug laws are putting a strain on the country’s economy.

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The cannabis entering Mexico, not the weed leaving it, is now the most sought-after marijuana being smuggled over the US-Mexico border.

Cannabis grown lawfully in California is making its way south illegally, dominating a thriving boutique market in Mexico, where the substance is still illegal to purchase and sell. Mexican merchants brag about their American wares, writing “IMPORTADO” in big letters on menus given to select clientele.

Traffickers from California fill their bags with marijuana produced in the United States before flying to Mexico or crossing the Tijuana pedestrian border crossing. A vehicle carrying 5,600 jars of candies laced with THC, the primary component in marijuana, was recently stopped as it entered Tijuana. However, despite the fact that their contraband doubles or triples in value as soon as it reaches Mexico, few of the southbound traffickers are apprehended.

“Demand for American marijuana has skyrocketed here,” claimed one dealer in Mexico City, who estimates that 60 percent of the marijuana he sells now originates from California. For fear of being arrested, the dealer talked on the condition of anonymity. “Many of my customers want to be seen smoking the finest stuff, the stuff rappers boast about consuming,” she says.

The United States has spent billions of dollars fighting drug trafficking from Mexico for almost a century, and marijuana has been at the heart of that effort for many years. Acapulco Gold, Michoacan Cream, and Jarilla Sinaloa were among the strains smoked by American actors and rock stars.

In those days, marijuana was transported via speedboats, tunnels, and even slingshot. The “mules” who crossed the Rio Grande for marijuana were sometimes horses.

However, as some states, including California, legalized and professionalized cannabis production, the world’s most famous cannabis strains — with new names like Girl Scout Cookies and Bubba Kush — could be purchased just north of the US-Mexico border, including at outlet malls within walking distance of Mexican territory.

Owner Josh Bubeck believes that 55 percent of his clients are Mexican nationals at Urbn Leaf, a marijuana dispensary in San Ysidro, Calif., only a few hundred yards from the border into Mexico at Tijuana. His workers warn them that taking marijuana back to Mexico is against the law, but working at Urbn Leaf teaches you to see the big picture.

“It’s unlikely that anybody will ever produce cannabis better than California,” Bubeck added.

Back in Mexico, he added, the attraction is obvious, particularly for younger smokers: “You’re saying ‘This is who I am. I’m a hard ass. I got this from America.’”

For years, proponents of legalizing marijuana in Mexico have claimed that, given the nation’s long history of illegal production, the government might create a very lucrative business. According to reports, the Sinaloa Cartel is considering establishing its own legal cannabis business in Mexico.

However, legalization has progressed considerably more quickly in areas of the United States than in Mexico, providing regions like California a significant edge. Some weed farms in California have even recruited migrant laborers from Mexico to maintain their crops. In 2020, the state’s cannabis sector generated $4.4 billion in revenue.

Mexico’s highest court ruled in July that rules prohibiting personal cannabis growing were unconstitutional. However, legislators have failed to approve laws allowing for the commercialization of marijuana. It is still legally illegal to purchase or sell marijuana, and regulating the quality of Mexican cannabis products accessible on the black market is virtually difficult.

“Mexicans want to try what they see in music videos, movies, and media, and that’s typically American,” said another dealer in Mexico City who asked to remain anonymous for fear of being arrested. “We still believe that the finest goods originate from the United States.”

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