Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A New Marimbera Bonanza?

A 1979 newspaper headline crows that the Army has erradicated marijuana plantations in the coastal Sierra Nevada mountain range. (Photo: Tumblr)
Colombia's drug production is apparently growing again - but now it's not cocaine, but marijuana.

The last time Colombia's pot production boomed was in the late 1970s and early '80s, when the phenomenon became known as the bonanza marimbera. That bonanza resembled the cocaine boom which followed it, just on a smaller scale.
Colombian gold: A newspaper headline from decades
past boasts that pot from Colombia's coast is the world's
best 'according to experts.' (Photo: Tumblr)

Back then, Colombian pot was prized in the U.S. for its high quality. But, after a few big years, Colombian production dropped under combined pressures of U.S. interdiction and competition from a home-grown U.S. pot plantations.

But Colombia's brief experience as pot exporter was key, because the industry established the
trafficking routes and even some of the criminal groups which would later run the cocaine industry. The marijuana industry also institutionalized the drug industry here when Pres. Michelsen (1974-8) virtually legalized money laundering by creating a 'side window' in the Banco de la Republica where drug dollars were converted into pesos.

The marijuana boom also left behind an enduring conspiracy theory: that those hippy Peace Corps
volunteers had planted and cultivated Colombia's marijuana industry.

Marijuana seizures have risen over
 the last five years. (El Tiempo)
Today, El Tiempo reports, Colombia's marijuana production is booming again - altho this time the industry's mostly for domestic consumption.

And this time, hopefully, Colombian authorities' response will be more rational and less self-destructive. Authorities in Bogotá have a choice: they can continue with prohibition and let criminal mafias make millions from marijuana production and commercialization, generate violence and futilely fill up Colombia's prisons. Or, they can legalize weed and create a constructive, job-creating, tax-paying industry.

With pot becoming legal in one jurisdiction after another across the Americas, Colombia's decision should be easy to make.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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