The seizure in Mexico of an advanced marijuana growing operation that used foreign expertise may indicate local growers are seeking to produce a higher-quality product in response to shifts in US drug policy.
On July 26, Mexico’s National Security Commission (CNS) announced the seizure of three greenhouses in the state of Jalisco where “genetically modified” marijuana was being grown, reported EFE.
Two of the greenhouses had an approximate floor space of 2,200 meters squared, with the third around 1,800 meters squared (see video below). There, authorities found “genetically enhanced” marijuana plants.
Around 7,000 plants of differing sizes were seized and 25 people arrested. Among those detained were three Mexicans and 22 Colombians, who had apparently been brought to Mexico due to their expertise in growing improved strains of marijuana. One of the Colombians was identified as responsible for teaching the operation how to successfully clone the plants. This is a cheaper and faster way than growing marijuana from seed, and also allows cultivators to stick with a preferred strain.
On July 25, a second police operation in the state of Nayarit resulted in the seizure of five marijuana plantations, a total of 15,000 square meters. According to EFE, authorities destroyed around 149 tons of marijuana.
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Mexico is a major marijuana producer, and has long been one of the largest suppliers of marijuana for the US market. Yet marijuana from Mexico has earned a reputation for being inferior in quality, especially when compared with that grown in the United States and Canada.
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However, the existence of large greenhouses using foregin “expertise” to grow what appears to be improved marijuana strains has little precedent in Mexico. Such a discovery may be an indication Mexican marijuana growers are seeking to become more sophisticated in order to remain competitive amid shifting dynamics in the US market.
These shifts have been driven by marijuana decriminalization and legalization in a number of US states. This has given rise to advanced, industrial-scale grow-ops in places like Colorado that can now legally develop, produce, and sell high-quality marijuana — some of which appears to be making its way to neighboring states.
This is potentially undercutting US demand for Mexican-produced marijuana. While evidence suggests Mexican drug traffickers have increased heroin and methamphetamine production to offset this lost revenue, it is also possible that Mexican traffickers may be attempting to increase the quality of their marijuana strains, in order to more effectively compete in the US market.