We Need to Chill Out About Categorizing ‘Medical’ Versus ‘Recreational’

I used to wake up in the middle of the night, every night, with a nightmare. In it, my body was frozen, and trigger warning: In the nightmare, I was fading in and out of unconscious, but someone was raping me. They were textbook PTSD nightmares, and I had no idea what to do about them.

I was raised in the Caribbean, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, surrounded by ganja culture. While millennial “statesiders” my age I’d meet later when I moved to the South for school and then New York for my forever home, I realized that my childhood was different. Far from the “Just Say No” and D.A.R.E rhetoric my contemporaries experienced, many of my friend’s parents were Rastafarians. I grew up understanding that cannabis was a sacrament. So I spent high school, during the Bush era, on the debate team arguing for its legalization, and college majoring in journalism, reporting on cannabis. I’ve always been vehemently pro-legalization. But the reason cannabis didn’t become a big part of my personal life until a decade ago, in 2013, was because I was a total boozehound. 

But alcohol made my PTSD stemming from my assault worse. Sometimes, back in the day, to be perfectly honest, it made me downright nasty or even suicidal. So my ambition kicked in, having seen what alcoholism can do to others (it runs in my family), and I quit. I haven’t had a drink in 10 years. I’ve been Cali Sober since before the term existed, baby. 

So, a few years into sobriety, when a stoner close to my heart told me that people used cannabis to treat anxiety, PTSD and that THC could even suppress nightmares, at first, I was skeptical. Sure, it should be legal, just like alcohol, and the government is full of shit, but would it affect me like liquor did? Personally, 12-Step programs did more harm than good. I’m a big believer that a one-size-fits-all model is not suitable for recovery, something society finally seems ready to talk about.

Especially in the first few years after my assault, I needed to be shaken and reminded of my power — which had been robbed from me — instead of admitting I was powerless, which is, in so many words, the first step of AA. I’m glad the program works for many, including people I love, and I won’t even get into the fact that its founder, Bill W., fully embraced psychedelics at the end of his life, adamant that they could treat alcoholism. Because this story is about why recreational use and medical use have more overlap than the establishment makes them out to.

When I first quit drinking shortly after my assault, I was a shell of my former self. I’d accept invitations to parties only to turn around at the door, back to the safety of my apartment, as my social anxiety was so bad even small talk was terrifying. I should add that I was prescribed a very high level of benzodiazepines, which I’m not against on principle, they have their time and place, but as anyone who’s weaned off them knows, they also have their downfalls (quite serious, benzo withdrawal can cause seizure or even death). So after doing my research and realizing that cannabis could not only quell nightmares, help me better inhabit my body, and treat social anxiety, but had a lower side effect profile than benzos, and was less physically addicting, I decided (after talking with my psychiatrist and therapist) to give cannabis a shot. It worked. It stopped my nightmares. My dissociation got better. I could socialize again; I could even goddamn do karaoke without a sip of booze or flutter of nerves. I didn’t need all that Klonopin. I was sold, even if those I knew in recovery circles at the time were not. 

So when New York legalized medical marijuana for PTSD in 2017, even though I was already using it under doctor supervision, I jumped at the opportunity and got a medical card, hitting up a dispensary right away. I was a little bummed to learn that they sold lower-dose products for much more than my dealer (I prefer the term “florist”) could offer, so like so many others in this economy, I returned to the black market and honestly eventually just let my medical card expire. 

But something else had happened by 2017. I healed. Sure, I still had anxiety, some trust issues, and enough reasons to have a therapist, but I no longer woke up every night with flashbacks. I was my outgoing, extroverted, optimistic self again. Cannabis still helped me be present, dial down any social anxiety, and only need a Klonopin if having one of those panic attacks that feel like a heart attack. Still, I started to wonder: Was I “bad” for continuing to use cannabis, not primarily for PTSD, but simply because it felt good and made life easier? And, no, to this day, it’s never made me blackout, it’s never made me say something nasty to a friend I don’t remember the next day, it’s never given me a hangover with a side of suicidal thoughts. My friends, doctors, and partner actually sometimes need to remind me to take it when I get a little bitchy now and then. 

Then I realized something even more horrifying — I was thinking like a Reagan supporter. Is it wrong to enjoy the euphoric side effects of a substance? Taking this a step further, is it morally worse to enjoy the euphoric side effects of a substance such as cannabis that’s federally illegal instead of many FDA-approved anxiety or pain treatments that also make you feel high? What was this hypocritical bullshit? I’m a Virgin Islander, goddamnit, not some regressive conservative clinging onto the bullshit the Moral Majority spent so many years spewing. 

Of course, legalization has upsides, such as fewer people in prison and more research on the plant’s benefits. But by 2017, and absolutely by the present day, I don’t just fit the bill for a medical patient; I’m a recreational (make that adult-use, a term I greatly appreciate) user. Yes, it helps my anxiety and PTSD. Yes, it plays a role in harm reduction, just like dear old Bill W. eventually supported, and it makes it easier not to drink. I never even think about alcohol. But cannabis is also just fun. Plenty of people who use cannabis recreationally also receive medical benefits as a nice side effect, such as lowered social anxiety or better sleep. Conversely, people with medical cards who use it for an ailment enjoy the pleasant side effect of euphoria. Is either team wrong? I think not. Does one need a stamp of government approval (since when do we trust them on this subject?) to use cannabis guilt-free? Dear god, I hope not. 

We live in a culture that moralizes euphoria. From a government-approved recovery program POV, if it makes you feel good, it’s bad. Any substance use should involve honesty about its effects. For instance, while I used to use cannabis to help with nightmares, as I got older, THC started giving me insomnia. So now, unless I’m at a concert or late-night dance party, I don’t take any after a certain hour, sticking with a low dose during the day. But that’s just me. We’re all different, and everyone’s reaction to substances is different and will likely change throughout their lifetime. But in this beautiful life on this wicked world, filled with violent crimes, people in prison for non-violent crimes, pandemics, homophobes, hurricanes, cancer drug shortages, but also love, community, science, the spiritual experience of playing with a dog — I’ll take all the euphoria I can get as long as it continues to offer a positive impact on my life. Binary thinking is so Bush-era and so over. May the adult-use cannabis consumers also enjoy lowered anxiety or pain, and may the medical patients guilt-free pop an edible before a concert and dance up a sweat while enjoying a heightened sensory experience. 

Euphorically yours, 
Sophie Saint Thomas

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Black Market Thrives in Morocco’s Rif Mountains

Cannabis resin world capital Morocco is struggling to reconcile its historical but illegal cannabis production region with the emerging legal market.

According to the United Nations (UN) Office on Drugs and Crime, the northern Rif Mountains region is the world’s top producer of cannabis resin. Cannabis has been tolerated in Morocco’s kingdom for hundreds of years, however it has been illegal in all forms since the county’s independence in 1956.

In 2021, with a goal to improve poverty-stricken regions in Morocco, the kingdom’s ruling party decided to officially approve Law 13-21, a bill legalizing the production of cannabis for industrial, medicinal, and cosmetic purposes in the three provinces of the Rif while also creating a National Regulation Agency for Cannabis Activities (ANRAC) to monitor the production of cannabis.

Morocco launched its cannabis industry last October by issuing the country’s first 10 permits to businesses to produce cannabis. 

Under the law, farmers in Morocco’s northern mountainous areas who organize into collectives will gradually be permitted to cultivate cannabis to fill the needs of the legal market. Abdeluafi Laftit, the Interior Minister of the Alaouite kingdom, Morocco’s reigning monarchy, said the legalization of cannabis is part of the government’s plan to create new “development opportunities,” according to a report.

Al Jazeera reports that black market cannabis production in the Rif mountains is thriving more than ever before, and tourists continue to flock to the area because of it. The mountainous and fertile area borders Tangier to the west, and runs along the Mediterranean to the north. Hippies have been traveling there for generations to get their hands on Moroccan hash.

“After the independence of Morocco, the hippies came to the mountains and taught us how to harvest the cannabis plants into cannabis resin [hashish],” Mourad, a father of six, told Al Jazeera. “Personally, I learned from my family and from my friends.”

But despite efforts to loosen laws in the area surrounding cannabis production, old habits die hard, and locals say illegal cannabis is more profitable.

“Official representatives came to the village in March to discuss the new bill with us and take the names of the people who might be interested,” Mourad said. “For my part, I do not really know what I am going to do. If I am forced to switch to legal production, I will, but if most of my neighbours continue to produce cannabis illegally, I will do like them.”

“Of course, I don’t like living in fear, and I would rather have a legal activity. At the same time, I honestly don’t think most farmers are going to follow the bill because we don’t feel like it will benefit us. But I am aware this might be my last year producing cannabis illegally. For my own sake, I will probably have to switch to legal production soon,” he added.

According to data from the Ministry of Interior given to the Agence France-Presse news in 2013, at least 700,000 people—including 90,000 families—lived off the production of cannabis in Morocco.

Al Jazeera reports that the Republic of the Rif was established by Abdelkrim Khattabi in 1921. For about 100 years, the Rif people are reported to be hostile towards the Moroccan state, saying they are left out of Morocco’s economic development.

“Switching to a legal production of cannabis would make us lose money because it is the government that is going to set the prices,” Anouar, a local in Bab Taza told Al Jazeera.

“Producing illegally is not that dangerous when you have a trustworthy network of buyers. For our part, we sell the cannabis to four family friends only, whom we have known for years, and they deal with bringing it to other cities in the country and to Europe,” Anouar says.

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Recent Report Finds Cannabis as Most Used Substance in Europe

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction’s (EMCDDA) report, entitled “Cannabis—the current situation in Europe (European Drug Report 2023),” describes cannabis as “by far the most commonly consumed illicit drug in Europe.”

The report cites national surveys which show that 8% of European adults (out of approximately 22.6 million people between 15 and 64 years of age) have used cannabis within the last year. An estimated 1.3% of adults (approximately 3.7 million people) are described as “daily” or “almost daily” consumers.

With the popularity of cannabis continuing to grow, the report notes that this often leads to consumer “problems.” “There remains, however, a need to understand better the kinds of problems experienced by cannabis users, as well as the referral pathways and treatment options available for those with cannabis-related problems,” the report stated.

The report adds that in data featured in the 2021 European Web Survey on Drugs, 95% of participants who use cannabis within the last 12 months, 32% chose to consume “resin,” 25% chose edibles, and 17% preferred extracts. In the European Union (EU), tested resin contained 20% THC, whereas flower was tested at 9.5% THC. 

The EMCDDA claims that 97,000 people entered drug treatment programs for “problems related to cannabis use” in 2021, with 55,000 of those people doing so for the first time.

Additionally, records of cannabis product seizures in 2021 also reached its highest point in more than 10 years. The report cites Spain as the country with the highest percent of cannabis product seizures at 66%.

Overall, the EU reportedly seized more than 202,000 cannabis resin products (equating the seizures to 816 tonnes, or 1,798,972 pounds) in 2021. Cannabis flower seizures were recorded at 256 tonnes (or 564,383 pounds). In the country of Turkey alone, 9,800 seizures for cannabis resin products yielded 33 tonnes (or 72,752 pounds) and 31 tonnes (or 68,343 pounds) of cannabis flower.

“There is an increasing diversity of cannabis products available in Europe. This is true both for the illicit drug market and for consumer markets, where products are appearing that contain low levels of THC but also other substances derived from the cannabis plant such as CBD,” the EMCDDA wrote. “On the illicit drug market, the availability of high-potency extracts and edibles is a particular concern and has been linked to acute toxicity presentations in hospital emergency departments.” 

The report also cited concerns for the synthetic cannabinoid hexahydrocannabinol that has recently become available in certain EU countries.

The EU is made up of 27 countries, some of which have enacted medical or recreational cannabis legalization to help prevent the black market from thriving.

In December 2021, Malta was the first EU country to legalize recreational cannabis. The country’s approach to regulating possession, cultivation, and sales, Malta allows for residents to possess seven grams of cannabis in public (or up to 50 grams at their personal residence), as well as up to four plants cultivated at home.

More recently, German officials have been hard at work developing a regulatory framework for cannabis legalization. In April 2023, the newest draft reflects the use of state-controlled non-profit social clubs. If passed, it would allow residents at least 18 years or older to purchase up to 25 grams of cannabis per day (or up to 50 grams per month). Those who are 18-21 years old would be limited to just 30 grams per month.

Other EU countries are also currently working on their own versions of legalization, including Luxembourg, Czech Republic, and the Netherlands

Switzerland on the other hand is currently allowing numerous cannabis research trial pilot programs in certain parts of the country. The SCRIPT study, which is conducted by the University of Bern, doesn’t legalize cannabis but was created to examine the “health and social effects” of regulated cannabis at local pharmacies. “Our study therefore does not aim to legalize cannabis in the free market—but to be able to address the problems caused by prohibition and the black market and to test possible harm reduction approaches, as well as a strict control of supply and distribution use demand for cannabis,” said head of SCRIPT researcher Reto Auer.

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Pushing Enforcement Before Real Access is Garbage Policy

One of the stupidest continuing trends in cannabis is the idea of pushing enforcement before access. 

Much of the time this trend falls on the heels of shitty regulatory rollouts or subpar companies selling mids to the masses coming to terms with the reality of the moment. When it’s time for someone to blame, it’s usually the traditional market that takes most of the hate. 

Frequently people speak as if the 50-year-old marketplace mostly forced to exist in the shadows due to the continuing prohibition of cannabis came out of nowhere. The buster would have you think it appeared just to ruin their dreams of world domination. 

Regulators have been screwing up legal cannabis rollouts state by state for a decade now. Just like the dudes with bad pot, they’ve been quick to blame the underground economy for why their master plan went off the rails. With cannabis laws in the country currently the sworn enemy of those who like a dash of homogeneity in their public policy, there is always something new to blame the black market for. 

But New York might be the most fascinating case in all of this yet as they work to push unlicensed sellers back underground to the delivery networks that fed NYC’s thirst for cannabis for many years. What makes it nuts is the grand total of eight storefronts. That works out to roughly one dispensary for every 2.5 million people. Those lines are going to suck. And I think it’s fair to say this can in no way, shape, or form be considered real access, especially given how many people want to smoke pot. This is more of a pandering approach. At the very least there should be 50 equity shops in the city right now, snowballing well down the mountain for other operators hoping to get in the mix in the not too distant future following the effective execution of the equity program. 

But officials think enforcement is the answer. 

“New York is proud to have undertaken the most equitable legal cannabis roll-out in the nation and the State will not stand idle as unlicensed operators break the law and sell untested products to underage New Yorkers,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said last week. “These enforcement actions are critical steps to protect and help those individuals who were promised a shot to start a legal business and be successful. Additionally, these unlicensed operators undermine the State’s efforts to generate substantial funds for a social equity fund that will go into the communities that have been hardest hit by over-prosecution of the cannabis laws in the past.”

The most important thing to note here is these storefronts are just the recent physical manifestation above the water of the iceberg that is the New York trap scene. The retail element is a hyper fraction of the dudes still flipping sacks from Long Island to Canada. The state chipping a few cubes off into a glass is a joke. These eight stores currently open as of this Tuesday have access and first dibs on all the legal marijuana in the state right now. If they can’t find some heaters in the mix that make them commercially viable while they have a monopoly on the marketplace they are absolutely fucking hopeless. 

The handful of trap shops that got hit across NYC last week will just serve as figureheads of a pandering enforcement. Even if the Trap NYC-retail experience is temporary, the cloud of that marketplace over the legal market isn’t the problem, it is the lack of development within the regulated market itself. Worst case scenario, the city uses the underground economy as an excuse to go back to being one of the most prolific arresters of misdemeanor cannabis crimes in history. 

And again it’s not just the regulators spouting this nonsense but the people trying to dip their toes into legal cannabis after they made their exit from whatever space they’d previously looted and pillaged. It’s a lot easier to tell their dads (or wherever they found their funding) the real problem they’re running into is some guy with a four-lighter in Queens and not their business plans. 

And most importantly, the current access levels in New York shouldn’t prove to be a talking point in the damnation of Social Equity programs. The whole rollout was the problem, not the idea of giving the communities that were hit the hardest by the war on drugs the best shot possible in the industry. 

Another problem with enforcement without access is the vacuum of violence it creates. I’ll explain. A lot of enforcement on the trap side of things is focused on warehouse grows that have a bigger demand than ever across America. When a warehouse gets hit, its customers don’t magically disappear. This type of situation has certainly led to at least some of the waves of violence we’ve seen at legal dispensaries, distributors and cultivation sites, as people looked to replenish their wares at the cost of the legal market. Sure there are plenty of for-profit people to rob, but I would be hard pressed to believe with the thousands of crimes that have targeted the legal cannabis industry over the last decade that none of them were a direct result of enforcement. 

Officials should be focusing on opening doors to dispensaries instead of prison cells. The real solution is normalizing dispensaries everywhere. People don’t buy cannabis off the street because they want to, they buy it because it’s probably better with no taxes and easily accessible. While it will be tough for rec shops to match the lack of taxes and overhead the streets have to offer, they have a shot at accessible heat. That’s a much better plan than trying to pin your problems on some OG that’s been selling overpriced hydro in Brooklyn since the mid 1990s.

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Denmark’s Open Hash Trade Under Threat on ‘Pusher Street’

While open drug trade of cannabis, hash, and soft drugs is tolerated in Christiania, an autonomous region in Copenhagen, Denmark, that all could end if the area can’t clean up its act, the capital city’s mayor warned.

Copenhagen, Denmark Lord Mayor Sophie Hæstorp Andersen told local paper Ekstra Bladet that growing violence has to end or she will shut down cannabis and drug trade in Christiania.

The Guardian reports that Andersen threatened to close Pusher Street’s drug trade if the 1,000 or so people living in the Christiania commune comply with her plan.

Since the 1970s, Christiania or Freetown Christiania in the Christianshavn borough in Copenhagen has been the nation’s “Green Light” district. Think of it as mini Amsterdam, complete with comparable canals and architecture and open tolerance of soft drugs and cannabis. 

Bådsmandsstræde military base on the island of Amager was transformed into a commune in 1973 with an autonomous government. Hippies and anarchists established a Social Democratic government structure and made the area a permanent “social experiment.” The first thing you see when you enter Christiania is a mural of a fan leaf, as well as a fist smashing a hypodermic needle, signifying the area’s rule of no hard drugs. 

Since around 1980 or so, hash—Europe’s popular form of cannabis—has openly been sold on Pusher Street, which is why the area enforced a strict no photo rule. But organized crime sours the picture, and it’s not the utopia it used to be.

“The violence and crime around Pusher Street has now reached a level we neither can nor want to deal with,” Andersen told Ekstra Bladet. “In Copenhagen, I believe we must have room for Christiania. It is both skewed and alternative. It’s creative. But this harsh, organised violence must be written out of the future around Christiania.”

A 23-year-old man was shot and killed in Christiania on October 26, as a rash of violence was reported in the area. It reminds some about a grenade attack in 2009.  “We are afraid that the situation will develop into a gang war in Christiania,” the area’s spokeswoman Hulda Mader said. But keep in mind that Copenhagen at large is one of the safest cities in the world, and that crime is comparably lower than other parts of the world, adding to the reason they don’t want crime entering the picture.

Andersen warned that she’s not playing games anymore. “That is why my message is also that if the Christianites make it clear that they are ready to close Pusher Street and replace it with something else then we in the municipality of Copenhagen are ready to support putting together a plan to find out what should happen to the street.”

After the incident last October, Christiania’s hash trade moved from its original spot on Pusher Street up to near the area’s main entrance. “Enough is enough,” Mader said. “We have disclaimed responsibility for what goes on in Pusher Street. It is not something that we, as private individuals, can oppose. Now there have been repeated episodes of violence, and we simply think that it has become too dangerous for us.”

Christiania is currently run by the Foundation Fristaden Christiania, while the Housing and Social Affairs Agency owns the ramparts and runs the state’s Christiania Secretariat.

A joint dialogue will soon take place between the Foundation Fristaden Christiania, Copenhagen Municipality, Copenhagen Police, the Housing and Social Affairs Agency, and the Castles and Culture Agency. All groups meet regularly. The Technical and Environmental Management in the Municipality of Copenhagen will also work together with the Foundation Fristaden Christiania on the future public housing in Christiania.

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New York Governor Signs Legislation To Reign In Illicit Weed Market

New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday signed legislation to reign in the state’s illicit marijuana market that includes penalties for unlicensed cannabis retailers of up to $20,000 per day. The legislation, which increases civil and tax penalties for the illicit sale of cannabis in New York, was signed into law as part of the state budget for the 2024 fiscal year.

Hochul first proposed the new measures to address New York’s underground cannabis market in March as a way to prop up the emerging industry for recreational marijuana, which was legalized by state lawmakers in 2021. Regulated sales of adult-use cannabis began in the closing days of 2022, but so far, only a handful of licensed dispensaries have opened statewide. Meanwhile, free from the threat of criminal penalties, unlicensed dispensaries have proliferated, with a law enforcement task force study conducted earlier this year identifying at least 1,200 illicit pot shops in New York City.

“As New York State continues to roll out a nation-leading model to establish its cannabis industry, these critical enforcement measures will protect New Yorkers from illicit, unregulated sales,” Hochul said in a statement on May 3. “Unlicensed dispensaries violate our laws, put public health at risk, and undermine the legal cannabis market. With these enforcement tools, we’re paving the way for safer products, reinvestment in communities that endured years of disproportionate enforcement, and greater opportunities for New Yorkers.”

Law Gives New Enforcement Powers

The new legislation provides additional enforcement power to the New York Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) and the state Department of Taxation and Finance (DTF) to enforce regulatory requirements and close stores engaged in the illegal sale of cannabis. The new law allows the OCM to assess civil penalties against unlicensed cannabis businesses, with the “most egregious” illicit operators facing fines of up to $20,000 per day. The law also makes it a crime to sell cannabis or cannabis products without a license.

The legislation also gives the OCM new powers to conduct regulatory inspections of businesses selling cannabis and cannabis products, including so-called gifting shops that provide cannabis in return for inconsequential merchandise. The agency will have the power to seize untested cannabis products from unlicensed businesses and will seek court orders to close unlicensed shops and evict commercial tenants engaged in selling cannabis without a license.

Additionally, the DTF is now empowered to conduct regulatory inspections of businesses selling cannabis to determine if the appropriate taxes have been paid and levy civil penalties on businesses not paying taxes. The legislation also establishes a new tax fraud crime for businesses that willfully fail to collect or remit required cannabis taxes, or knowingly possess for sale any cannabis on which tax was required to be paid but was not.

“Strengthening tax laws as they pertain to the cannabis industry and providing for robust and fair enforcement will help the industry to be successful over the long term,” said New York State Acting Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Amanda Hiller.

Elliot Choi, counsel and chief knowledge officer at the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente LLP, said that while the new measures passed into law are good news for the regulated cannabis industry, some of the governor’s measures will likely not have an immediate effect on illicit operators.

“Illegal dispensaries continue to proliferate in New York, especially in the City, so any movement on enforcement is welcome,” Choi wrote in an email to High Times. “The enforcement legislation in the state’s budget includes the ability for the Department of Tax and Finance to levy some hefty fines. We suspect those fines will have a deterrent effect on new illegal dispensaries. However, the tax department is going to need time to staff up and the Office of Cannabis Management will need to draft some regulations before there is a crackdown on existing ones.”

Hochul’s efforts to protect licensed cannabis retailers also include measures to lessen the demand for illicit marijuana. Last month, she unveiled a consumer ad campaign to encourage consumers to purchase cannabis from licensed dispensaries.

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What is a Drug Cartel?

In the world of illegal substances, drug cartels are the kingpins. If you’ve ever heard of Pablo Escobar and his Medellin Cartel in Colombia, then you’ll have heard of these organizations. But that was then and this is now. Who are the current drug cartels to look out for? But not only that, what actually are they? We’re going to be explaining how drug cartels work, how they thrive and how they do or don’t get caught.

We will also take a look into the effects that drug cartels have on normal people. In a world run by strict law, many wonder how these organizations manage to fruitfully exist. As always, strap yourselves in, and let’s delve deep.

Drug Cartels: What are they? 

A cartel, of any sort, is a group of participants in an industry who have made it their aim to stop competition in their sector. They want to be the complete monopoly. This is done through price fixing, regulating the output of the entire industry, rigging bids and many other methods. This is already illegal, but of course when you add drugs to the mix it does become that even bit more exciting. A drug cartel is a criminal organization that is involved in the production, distribution, and sale of illegal drugs.

These organizations often have a hierarchical structure and use violence, corruption, and intimidation to maintain control and protect their interests. These groups will have exclusive relationships with their suppliers, which allows them to buy it at the cheapest price, and sell it at a rate that they can choose. When any company has a monopoly – like if you’ve ever played the board game – they have the power. Does this sound familiar to you? 

Goals of Drugs Cartels

The primary goal of a drug cartel is to make a profit by producing and selling illegal drugs. To achieve this goal, they engage in a variety of illegal activities, including drug production and distribution, money laundering, and bribery. Cartels also seek to maintain their power and control over the drug trade, using violence and corruption to eliminate competitors and law enforcement threats. The Washington Post writes:

“The underground economy for drugs is huge. The United Nations estimated in a 2011 report that worldwide proceeds from drug trafficking and other transnational organized crime were equivalent to 1.5 percent of global GDP, or $870 billion in 2009.”

It is also believed that Mexican drug cartels make around 500 billion dollars a year. This is more than Walmart or any large business in the world. However, it’s obviously hard to pin down an exact number – these are all projections. Nonetheless, you can see clearly that the goals are clear: make money, maintain a monopoly on the industry, and avoid law enforcement threats. 

How Drug Cartels Operate

Drug cartels typically have a hierarchical structure with a clear chain of command. At the top of the organisation is a leader (Escobar for example) who holds significant power and is responsible for making major decisions. Below the leader are several key members who are responsible for overseeing various aspects of the cartel’s operations, such as production, distribution, and finance. These members are then responsible for managing lower-level members who carry out the day-to-day operations of the cartel. It doesn’t sound too dissimilar from any legal company, does it? The pyramid business model exists everywhere. Tom Wainwright, a writer for the Economist, found a similarity between companies like Walmart and ‘Narconomics’. He wrote:

“They say that in certain industries, Wal-Mart is effectively the only buyer in the industry. So if there’s some disruption to supply, let’s say the harvest fails for apples or something like that, apple growers aren’t able to increase their prices because Wal-Mart is the only buyer and they say, “Well, sorry, but this is our price and if you don’t want to sell to us, well, tough.” So the sellers have to carry on selling it at the same price as before. It seemed that something similar might be going on in the cocaine industry.”

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Tesco, Walmart, Amazon – all of these companies have monopolies in their fields. We argue that we exist in a free-market, where anyone can compete for a place in the industry, but this simply isn’t true. The power that drug cartels have over the illegal substance industry isn’t dissimilar from the power that legal big businesses have over theirs. Maybe there’s less violence and shoot-outs but, then again, have you heard of 0 hour contracts and underpaid labour? That’s not to defend drug cartels, it’s simply to highlight that the business model exists in the legal world too. 

Drug cartels use a variety of methods to produce and distribute drugs, including cultivating and processing illegal drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. They often rely on a network of suppliers and intermediaries to transport drugs from production sites to distribution points. Cartels also use sophisticated methods to conceal their operations, such as using hidden compartments in vehicles, encrypted communications, and money laundering.

Violence and corruption are two common tactics used by drug cartels to maintain control and protect their interests. Cartels use violence to intimidate competitors and law enforcement, as well as to eliminate perceived threats. They also use bribery and corruption to gain the cooperation of public officials and undermine the effectiveness of law enforcement. These tactics often result in widespread violence and destabilization in areas controlled by drug cartels, causing significant harm to local communities and economies.

History of Drug Cartels

Drug cartels have existed for several decades and have been a significant problem in many countries, particularly in Latin America. Some of the most notorious drug cartels in recent history include the Medellin Cartel in Colombia and the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico. These organisations have been responsible for significant violence and destabilisation in the regions where they operate, as well as for the widespread distribution of illegal drugs.

The Mafia played their part in the 1950s and Pablo Escobar mastered the game in the 70s. In fact, in 1975 the police in Colombia seized 600 kilos of coke from an illegal plane. As a payback, the cartel killed 40 people in the – soon to be known – ‘Medellin massacre’. The law and the cartels were forever at war. Still, in their zenith, the Medellin cartel were making 60 million dollars a day.

Eventually every cartel comes to an end – due to the imprisonment of some major kingpins – but there is always another one to come from the shadows. The Cali Cartel, based in Colombia, were next. In their peak, they controlled 80% of the cocaine that entered the US. Of course after a decade or so the group’s major players were also behind bars. History writes:

“According to the 2015 Congressional Research Service report, Mexican drug wars claimed more than 80,000 lives between 2006 and 2015.”

The Main Cartels 

The narco-trafficking in Colombia had a few main groups:

  • Medellin Cartel
  • Cali Cartel
  • Norte Del Valle Cartel

The current Mexican cartels include:

The impact of Drug Cartels on Society

The production and distribution of illegal drugs by drug cartels can have serious consequences for public health. Many drugs produced by cartels, such as cocaine and heroin, are highly addictive and can lead to overdose and death. In addition, drug cartels often use cutting agents to increase the volume of drugs they can produce, which can result in dangerous and unpredictable mixtures that can harm or kill users. The impact of drug cartels extends beyond the health consequences for users.

The cost of law enforcement efforts to combat drug trafficking and related crime, as well as the cost of healthcare for those suffering from drug addiction, can be substantial. This can put a strain on resources and limit funding for other critical social services. However, it’s also worth noting that the blame cannot go entirely on the drug cartel’s themselves. The War on Drugs – first coined by Nixon in the 60s – simply does not and will not ever work. It is an outdated, lazy, and iron fisted approach. There has to be a more bureaucratic way of dealing with cartels, rather than engaging in drug wars. These exact wars – brought about by both the cartels and law enforcement – can also have a profound and long-lasting impact on communities and families.


Drug cartels seem to be shown more on television than actually spoken about in any sensible way. People watch Narcos and Breaking Bad, enjoying the drug wars and the substances themselves. The accents, the aesthetics, the guns – it all makes for pretty good television. However, there’s more to it than that. Beneath this Hollywood portrayal is a real problem that can only be dealt with, long term, with nuanced conversation. Drug cartels and the way they operate are far more similar to legal companies that we use everyday than we think. Let’s end the war on drugs. 

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The post What is a Drug Cartel? appeared first on Cannadelics.

Go Ahead and Pack Heat, But Not a Bowl

As I sit here typing out this story from the safety of a bulletproof office—at least I hope to hell that it is—someone, maybe even someone you know will be killed by gun violence. On average, around 106 Americans die each day from a chance meeting with a bullet. Some of the casualties are shot dead by gutless goons while others, sadly enough, turn the firepower on themselves. Despite the vast toll of bodies and bloodshed, however, the American piece construct, one that seemingly embraces the most imbecilic tenets of deep-woods hillbilly philosophy, is to shoot first and never ask questions. No matter how many innocent people succumb to murder and suicide in this pistol-packing nation, the red, white and blue fabric of the governmental hood, all tattered and torn from decades of knock-down drag-out politics against its own, continues blinding a nation with a hefty dose of God-fearing optimism.

After all, many of the victims of gun attacks actually survive—around 95 of the 316 shot a day are merely injured—and of the 74 each day who stick the barrel in their mouths in pursuit of ending it all, 10 of them just end up disfigured. The recipe for relief when guns go wrong in this country is to simply mourn, pray and repeat. And what the politicians refuse to sort out with respect to all of this boom-boom killplay, they give the rest up to God and hope for the best. But that’s never enough. 

“The shots keep getting closer to home,” Rachel, a 33-year-old graphic designer who lives on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri, told High Times. “More criminals than anyone else seem to have guns. It’s scary, you never know any more if you’re going to get killed just sitting on the porch.” 

Nevertheless, the so-called greatest nation in the world keeps its finger firmly on the trigger. It has to. Why, if the forefathers of the good ole US of A thought it necessary way back when to give every citizen the right to pack heat, then by God, the politicians, both the corrupt and non-confrontational, should never stop fighting to ensure that every citizen is clenching a firearm in their fists as soon as they pop out of the womb. Unfortunately, our gun-wielding society has officially lost its damn mind. What was intended as a right to self-protection (or perhaps more controversially, create a standing army, not give everyone the right to carry weapons just because) has since mutated into the dimwitted armament of domestic terrorists. We’ve now got weak-minded, undisciplined, pimple-faced, pseudo-anarchists angry at the world shooting up schools at a rate that crossed the line of acceptability a long damn time ago. The unarmed has become the minority. 

It’s to the point where you can’t even get into an old-fashioned screaming match on the street without fear that someone might get their feelings hurt bad enough to whip out a gun and start shooting. To say it’s the wild west out there would be a gross understatement. It’s more like Thunderdome. The depravity surrounding gun violence continues to spiral further into profound depths of extreme dipshittery—experiencing an increase of 20% since 2019— yet more states are passing laws making it easier, not harder for civilians to carry a gun. Over half the nation now allows adults as young as 18-years-old to carry a concealed weapon without a permit. 

Yep, without

Alabama is the latest state to make gun ownership as easy as catching a cold. It’s just one of many jurisdictions across the country where it is now perfectly acceptable to pack heat—although some restrictions apply—but don’t you dare pack a bowl. Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Tennessee, Texas and Utah (as well as others) have, over the years, relaxed their respective gun laws to allow people 18-years-old and up, those barely old enough to wipe their own ass, to forgo the licensing process once required to procure a firearm. Yet, strangely enough, these states don’t want their citizens, not even those presumably old enough to understand the basics of bathroom hygiene, to have the same kind of freedom when it comes to weed. No sir, anyone in these places who gets caught in possession of a little grass, rest assured the courts will be eagerly waiting to make their life a living hell. In Alabama, for example, getting caught with any amount of marijuana can result in a year in jail and fines up to $6,000. Even if a pot offender gets a slap on the wrist, that doesn’t mean he or she will escape jail and get off with a polite warning. 

Those who get wrapped up in a pot charge, even low-level smears, where the prosecution pushes for probation rather than incarceration can still end up being forced to attend drug and alcohol classes, do community service and surrender their driver’s license privileges as part of their probationary terms. It’s how the man grinds drug offenders to a pulp through the gears of the system. These people may have seemingly caught a break in the eyes of outsiders, but they must still adhere to all sorts of nagging stipulations, including pass random drug tests during their probation period or else run the risk of being sent to jail to fulfill their sentence. Cages are the alternative for those without the money to pay steep restitution to the state for breaking their drug laws. Hey pal, pay up or get locked up. Your choice. 

Those parts of the country where guns are widely accepted—even praised, third only to God and country—yet pot use is still considered a threat to the well-being of the public is about as backasswards as it gets. Even if some of the negative consequences of pot (legal or otherwise) that’s been reported over the years ended up being true, a stoned society is presumably still a heck of a lot less risky than one that is armed for no reason.

Are we to believe that just because some gray-headed slave owners from 1787 penned a document one night over a few stiff drinks stating that the people should all have the right to keep and bear arms, deadly weapons earn a free pass from here to eternity?

George Washington and the rest of the Constitution crew didn’t foresee that the gun industry would eventually modify the musket used in the American Revolution, turning it into a fearsome killing machine capable of firing 300 rounds of “die, you bastard, die” per minute. Just like they didn’t anticipate that cannabis growers would eventually produce weed strong enough to make people call 911. Not even the lawmakers responsible for banning weed in 1937 could have made that prediction. To be fair, we’ve made some rather impressive technological advancements over the years, some of which, had the founding fathers been made privy to prior to signing, may have inspired them to make a giant paper airplane of the Constitution, soak it in kerosene and fly it straight into a candle. Or perhaps they would have simply decreed, “The people have the right to do whatever the hell they want; they’re going to fuck it up anyway.” 

Fast forward more than two-hundred years and the lawmakers of these tumultuous times have witnessed the death and destruction, the ridiculousness of holding on to pistol heritage, and yet the only heavy hand they continue to hold firm is on cannabis prohibition. Let’s be clear: Marijuana consumption doesn’t kill, and if there is a rising death toll anywhere because of it, the black market perpetuated through discrepancies between state and federal drug laws is ultimately to blame.

Many gun advocates argue that law-abiding citizens aren’t inclined to commit crime, so arming them, even without a permit, is absolutely no danger to society. Fair enough. It could also be argued that those philosophies equally apply to the average cannabis consumer. Give them the right to buy and possess marijuana just like alcohol, and most won’t cause any dust ups with the law. “I’ve never been in trouble for anything other than weed,” Dimitri, a 24-year-old from Greenville, Indiana tells us. “I’d be considered a model citizen if it wasn’t for these dumb pot laws.”

Meanwhile, law enforcement continues to piss and moan about the dangers of legal marijuana. Some of the latest reports, much like the previous reports we’ve all read over the years, have connected legal weed to everything from increased violence to human trafficking. The boys in blue also like to voice concerns about the distribution of firearms related to illicit marijuana trafficking, much of what continues to thrive within the gray areas of legalization. However, as much as they would like to convince the average citizen that weed is the culprit in the undoing of America, an affinity for a plant, legal or otherwise, is not what’s driving the nation’s lust for guns. No sir, we’ve been obsessed with gat machismo a long time. There are presently around 393 million weapons in the hands of civilian Americans, with three in ten adults claiming gun ownership. All of this equates to roughly 121 guns per 100 residents. Gun control laws have continued to weaken across the nation, and now more young men barely out of diapers are freely permitted to keep firepower on their belts to supplement the testosterone leading them to fight or fuck anything that moves. This is, without question, a dangerous step toward mayhem.

“They should probably raise the age on that,” Chris, a 48-year-old gun owner from Lexington, Kentucky, told High Times. “I’ve seen younger guys get into some trouble that probably wouldn’t have happened had it not been for them having a gun. I worked with one years ago, he was like 21, who showed his pistol during a road rage incident, and they came down on him hard. Guys are just too hot-headed at that age. But they’re [the government] never going to change that. How can they say you can’t own a gun until you’re 25 and still ship them off to war at 18?”

Listen, I don’t like guns. I’ve never owned one and never felt that I needed to arm myself, even if it was, as the gun rights people often claim, just for personal protection. And I come from the rural Midwest, too, the redneck capital of the world. Everyone has guns. It was even perfectly acceptable, at least in our obscure part of the country, to pull into school with a firearm in your vehicle if it was fitted with a gun rack. A lot of high school students in the late 80s, albeit typically the same ones who belonged to FFA, showed up with hunting rifles in tow, but none of them ever dreamed of bringing one into the classroom and opening fire on the other students. Not even when fist fights broke out in the parking lot after class—and that happened more times than I can count—did the gun owners reach for a boom stick to get the upper hand on their opponent. They just took the ass beating. Win or lose, everyone back then lived to fight another day.

Coming from this culture, I’ve never been the kind of guy to impede on someone’s right to do anything. Not even own a firearm. If guns were your thing, so be it. I didn’t want people trying to take away the things that I enjoyed, so giving them the same courtesy was my way of maintaining balance. Fair was fair. But that was before. Now, fewer gun restrictions have put more firearms in the streets and into the hands of the wrong people, and not everyone is as hesitant to reach for them as they were back in the day. At the same time, the federal government, still awfully hesitant to do much more about the nation’s gun problem than offer cheap condolences, remains hellbent on keeping nationwide cannabis prohibition intact, even while states move in the opposite direction. If we, as Americans, must live in a nation where we’re always at risk of staring down the business end of a gun, we should never need to concern ourselves with the legal repercussions of possessing a plant that’s legal for adults in over half the nation. Times have changed, like it or not, and the government should respond accordingly. 

The post Go Ahead and Pack Heat, But Not a Bowl appeared first on High Times.

E. coli, Salmonella, or Lead Found in 40% of Illegal New York Weed

New York officials deployed researchers to sample products from illegal bodegas and pop-up dispensaries selling cannabis on the street, and tested them for harmful contaminants. If it’s safe, clean flower that you want—the findings were dismal at best.

According to a report led by the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association published on November 30, around 40% of illegal cannabis products sampled in New York City were found to contain harmful contaminants like E. coli, salmonella, and lead. The cannabis products were purchased from only about 20 illegal sites, but spanning across all five boroughs.

Salmonella, E. coli, and other contaminants in weed pose serious threats to your health, and are controlled under typical state regulations. Smoking weed with bacteria like E. coli provides a direct path for the infectant into the lungs, where it can potentially do a lot of damage.

“E. Coli, Heavy Metals, Copyright Infringement, and 100 Percent Failure Rate – A Look at New York City’s Illicit Cannabis Market,” was released by the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association (NYMCIA) in partnership with the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association (NJCTA) and the Connecticut Medical Cannabis Council (CMCC). 

Key Findings

The report reveals the results of third-party lab testing of cannabis products purchased from over 20 unlicensed dispensaries spanning across the five boroughs. Among key findings, researchers detected the presence of E. coli, salmonella, and pesticides in various products. About 40% of the products failed at least one of the standard tests administered to legal cannabis products only available at legal medical cannabis dispensaries. 

The report “illuminates the danger posed by pop-up illicit operators that have circumvented New York’s regulations” which creates hazards for public health. 

In some instances, THC levels as much as twice the advertised amount. Finally, over 50% of locations where the product was purchased did not ask for identification.

“The report’s findings are deeply troubling and highlight the tremendous risks posed by unscrupulous firms operating above the law,” said NYMCIA President Ngiste Abebe. “New York has a responsibility to not only protect the health and safety of its residents but also to fulfill the promise of a socially equitable adult-use market. Neither goal can be realized without stricter enforcement against bad actors.”

Bloomberg reports that over 30 licenses for legal businesses were granted on November 21, but in most cases, it’s open season for illegal cannabis businesses.

Impact on New York Communities

The implications of the impact upon disadvantaged communities was also brought forth. “I want everyone to understand that these smoke shops and delis are not legacy operators—they’re opportunists that are retraumatizing our community and stopping our ability to build wealth. They are poisoning our Black and Brown communities. You cannot build wealth without health and these smoke shop owners are destroying the reputation of New York’s cannabis with their chemicals. They need to be stopped,” said Juancarlos Huntt, CAURD license applicant and legacy operator and co-founder New York for Social and Economic Equity.

Others placed the blame on a failing medical cannabis program, which “pushed” New Yorkers into the unknowns of the illicit market.

”Faced with an eroding medical cannabis program, New York patients have been pushed into this newly rampant illicit market, exposing them to E. coli, salmonella, and other dangerous toxins from untested products,” said Don Williams, Vice President of Government Relations at Curaleaf. “They deserve better, and New York must prioritize creating a safe and thriving cannabis program for them and adult-use consumers.”

A link to the full report can be found here.

The post E. coli, Salmonella, or Lead Found in 40% of Illegal New York Weed appeared first on High Times.

Inside LA’s Secret Black Market Weed Packaging Mecca

Cash Only visited downtown LA’s wholesale cannabis packaging district—a micro-neighborhood where smoke shops and black market weed ops can get the materials to make counterfeit products such as mylar bags, flower jars, vape carts, edibles packaging, and much more.

If you want to start an underground weed brand—or bootleg an established brand like Cookies, Jeeter Juice, or Raw Garden—this is where you design and buy your wares in bulk. It’s essentially an IRL Alibaba.

The district’s accessibility has enabled a game of cat-and-mouse between licensed cannabis brands and savvy entrepreneurs looking to profit off the former’s likeness. If a legal brand adds something to its packaging, such as a QR code or holographic sticker, the bootleggers can purchase the updated product at a legal dispensary, bring it to the wholesale packaging area, and have the item copied and counterfeited that very same day.

Every time you see a counterfeit or unlicensed pot product in a New York bodega, such as Flamin’ Hot Weedos or mylar bags with stoned Rick and Morty on them, it likely came from this part of LA. Watch as we explore the area and highlight a major part of the underground weed ecosystem that is hiding in plain sight.

Courtesy of Zach Sokol
Courtesy of Zach Sokol
Courtesy of Zach Sokol
Courtesy of Zach Sokol
Courtesy of Zach Sokol

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The post Inside LA’s Secret Black Market Weed Packaging Mecca appeared first on High Times.