Marijuana/Hashish

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Up until last year, Colombia was the world's largest marijuana producer with primary growing areas in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and Serrania de Perija mountain ranges in the northeast. Local consumption was not considered extensive and did not reduce exports appreciably, but growing concern over the use of bazuco - marijuana smoked with coca paste - and the assassination of Justice Minister Lara spurred increased eradication efforts in the form of spraying pesticides. When peasants charge that the use of the herbicide paraquat damaged other crops as well as caused health problems, the government switched to glyphosate, known by its trade name of Roundup. Although purportedly harmless to humans, peasants, forced to abandon cultivation, still protested.

While marijuana production in Colombia decreased drastically from between 7,500 to 9,000 tons to between 2,500 to 3,000 tons, in Mexico, where farmers are confronted with a depressed economy, marijuana crops have increased from between 5,850 to 6,124 tons. Cultivated year-round, marijuana is found throughout Mexico and increasingly in areas previously considered non-traditional growing areas. Two crops are grown a year in most areas: the first, planted before the rainy season in May and harvested between August and October, produces better marijuana (with a higher concentration of THC, the active ingredient) than the second crop, planted in October and harvested in February and March.

In Jamaica, the third-leading marijuana producer with between 1,559 to 2,909 tons this year, the crop is grown in nearly every district. Officials estimate more than 1,900 tons are exported a year. Sold in the US at a wholesale value of about $1.4 billion, marijuana exports earn more than twice as much as all of the country's other exports.

Banned in 1913, marijuana was first introduced in Jamaica from India by indentured laborers around the mid-1800s. Often taken as a cold remedy and to soothe cranky infants, it is still widely accepted in rural areas as a medicine and referred to by its Hindi name, ganja. Rastafarians and members of the small religious organization Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church use ganja as a sacramental drug. Overall domestic consumption, however, is believed to be 20 percent of total production or less.

As a cash crop, marijuana provides small farmers with a high return and ready market. It is the main crop of many small farmers, particularly in economically depressed rural regions. Due to its greater value, sinsemilla, a highly potent form of marijuana produced from unpollinated female plants, is increasingly being cultivated in many areas, particularly in the Negril. Jamaica is also the primary producer of hashish oil, which is usually made from stems or decayed or dried plants.

The lack of alternative employment in rural areas and a weak market for traditional crops such as sugar, corn and beans has also spurred marijuana cultivation in Belize, now ranked as the fourth-largest producer. Meanwhile, production in the US is also growing. Officials now estimate that, after corn, marijuana is the most profitable cash crop in the US. In Hawaii, it is believed to surpass pineapples as the state's largest agricultural crop. Other marijuana producers include Brazil, Thailand, Panama, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Laos, Indonesia and Nigeria.

The major world producers of hashish include Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Morocco, and to lesser degrees Nepal and India. Since civil strife began in Lebanon, the country's deteriorating economy, lack of central police authority and good climate have helped it become the leading hashish producer. This year an estimated 720 pounds were cultivated. The strife, however, has also limited traffickers' ability to export hashish. Consequently cultivation in other countries has increased. Cannabis grows wild throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan, but the growing market has spurred cultivation in some areas. In Morocco, individuals who have strong ties to the Moroccan community in Europe tend to grow cannabis, known locally as kit or chira. Must cultivation is in the Rif Mountains, located south of the Mediterranean coast. As with other illicit drugs, the profits are great. Afghan hashish smuggled out of Pakistan, where it reportedly costs $25 a pound, sells for about $1,500 a pound in Saudi Arabia.

Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.

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