|Coca leaf and cannabis cures for sale in a Bogotá market. |
Are the two plants really so different?
Now, Colombia wants to be a world leader in another drug: marijuana.
The country's cannabis strategy is full of ironies, of course. Colombia was a world marijuana leader back in the 1970s and '80s, when Colombian Gold was prized in California high schools like the one I studied in. Of course, today pot is legal in California (although it can't be imported), and California produces lots more high quality pot than Colombia does.
But hot, humid Colombia has lots better growing conditions than do temperate nations like the U.S.,
Colombia's cocaine industry continues costing the country immense amounts of money to pay for carnage and law enforcement, while its marijuana businesses will soon be paying taxes and creating legal employment, like the tobacco and alcohol industries.
Is there a lesson here about the best way to manage mind-altering substances?
Colombia's cannabis industry suffered a black eye a few weeks ago when a group of Israeli cannabis tourists and their guide were kidnapped after visiting a medicinal marijuana plantation near Cali. The kidnappers, who were apparently dissident FARC guerrillas, released the tourists but killed the guide, after demanding an astronomical ransom from her family. Whether the kidnappers were motivated by money or paranoia about strangers entering their region is not clear. But the tragedy was only marginally related to marijuana, which was what drew the tourists into the troubled region, but did not cause the crime.
|Mónica Berenice Blanco Sossa, |
murdered Argentine-Colombian tourist guide.
Some have suggested that the tragedy was the fault of the guide and the tourists for pursuing mind-altering substances. That's an interesting sentiment. I'll wait for them to prohibit tourists from consuming alcohol, tobacco and caffeine, as well.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours