The Price of Marijuana


I know that many of us eastsiders have an embedded belief that using marijuana connects us to our ancient sacred roots, much like the spiritual use of cannabis to the Rastafari. A sprig in rubbing alcohol or as a tea, has been a part of our grandmothers’ homeopathic medicine cabinet for many generations. As an artist, I have questioned the culturally profound and the political correct. [Note: Above image is a self-portrait connecting me to María Sabina and Bob Marley through marijuana.]

I feel that my obligation as a human and artist is to speak out on matters that I find unjust, using whatever power I have. Being a Chicana artist, I have used my body of work as a platform for creating exhibits and art that have a social message. I have worked with many other artists around the world to keep the sadistic murdering of young women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico current and on our minds through various artistic campaigns. One of the reasons we have come together as a community in LA to demand righteousness for the people of Juarez is because of our history of resistance to injustice. That’s just the way we have been, since California became part of the United States. It was not by chance that in 2001 Raul Baltazar, Rigo Maldonado, Azul Luna, Erika Elizondo and I were invited by the victim mothers of Juarez to strategize on finding a resolution to these crimes—we were a small group of representatives of the greater Los Angeles consciousness.

Due to the urging of the activists in Los Angeles, in 2006, then Congresswoman Hilda L. Solis of California introduced a resolution into congress condemning the brutal murders in Ciudad Juarez and urging the United States and Mexico to discuss resolution steps as part of their bilateral agenda. The resolution was passed. This resolution and consequent bilateral dialogue is part of what has set off the drug cartel and Mexican government wars taking place along the US/Mexico border.

Currently lawlessness is the way of life in Ciudad Juarez. Gangs of thieves have taken over the city, robbing citizens and extorting small businesses for protection fees. At a birthday party just last night, a friend told me that his 50 year old cousin was recently kidnapped from her torta stand in Juarez, robbed, brutalized and left to die in the Chihuahua desert, by 3 young men. A Juarez muralist I know says everyone is like a prisoner, only able to come out during daylight. If someone commits a crime against you, there is no one to call for help.

So you ask what does marijuana use have to do with the murders in Ciudad Juarez?

Please know that unless you are growing your own for personal use or have a medical prescription for marijuana—-you are funding the cartels that are terrorizing and murdering innocent people in Mexico. It doesn’t matter, if you think you are buying it from someone up north or back east or across the ocean—it is all one and the same. Americans are their biggest customers.

I write to you to urge you to think how you are contributing to the misery of others through your support of illegal drugs. When I have mentioned this to friends on the eastside, they feel that what I say cannot be true—that the cartels only push heroin or cocaine. I am sorry to inform you, but marijuana is also a part of this chain of illicit commerce. All of us in Los Angeles are so conscientious of our human rights, workers’ rights, of the ecology, of our communities, our bodies and our politics —let us also be conscientious of our actions and how they affect others in the world. I ask you to re-examine your dealings and reclaim your resistance to all that is unjust in the world.

If you would like to keep up to date on what is happening in Ciudad Juarez, read award winning writer, El Paso reporter Diana Washington Valdez’ blog

14 thoughts on “The Price of Marijuana

  1. Victoria,
    It’s a shame that not a single person will stop using drugs because of a plea like yours, and neither will the thousands involed in drug dealing on this side of the border.

    Thanks for the link to this blog, the violence and corruption in Juarez is fffinn unbelieveable.

  2. Victoria, Thanks for bringing up this topic. I’m sure it makes a lot of folks uncomfortable. It’s something I’ve often thought about: boycott the drug trade to stop violence. Perhaps it’s easy for me to make such a proclamation because it’s something I’m not involved with. But then again, just the way folks are for fair trade coffee, against blood diamonds and certain kinds of chocolate – maybe there could be a violence free certification on marijuana? I’m only half joking.
    In any case, the situation in Mexico seems very dire because of the drug cartels and it’s the drug trade that’s been fueling the violence among gangs here in Los Angeles. Maybe some of the folks that are outraged by gangs in general and “illegals” and all that other bullshit, should stop and think how their consuming habits are contributing to the cycle.

  3. Well, if you legalize it, and can certify how its grown, the problem goes away. It worked when they re-legalized alcohol, and it can work if they re-legalize cannabis.

    BTW ay c – some people have avoided some drugs due to their connection to organized crime (coke, ecstasy, heroin, speed), and if they know about pot, they may taper off or stop using it too.

  4. I have actually talked a few LA friends into growing their own, because of this issue. I even have a friend who shared a balcony with a cop in Ventura and grew his own in planters on the balcony. Of course, it was always a race between him and the cop to get to the plant when it was ready for clipping. Fighting harder for legalization would help.

  5. I find it strange that in much of the political Chicano scene there is an acceptance of pot usage but a frowning towards alcohol, not sure why that is. In both cases, make (or grow) your own is always an option! 😉

  6. ABSOLUTELY VICTORIA!!! This has been a topic that I’ve been discussing with folks all around me. I’ve even heard others say they’ve been thinking about the repercussions of drug use in the USA.

    Legalization would be awesome because it would really stop the source of business for these murderous cartels, but for now I’m urging all my pot-smoking (& other drug-use) friends to put a halt on that behavior. Some folks I know have turned to Cannabis clubs since their sources are in California.

    We need to blow this issue up. It’s about time.

  7. And it is bullshit when these big Narcotraficantes are made heroes of. I had a poor humble guy named Vicente working for me a number of years ago. Vicente was from the hills of Sinaloa, from a very poor little pueblo, one of those where only old folks and youngsters lived, everyone else had left for greener pastures.
    Vicente told me that one day a nicely dressed man showed up in his pueblo and said that if anyone wanted to work there would be a bus stopping the next morning to take whoever wanted to work to the pisca for good pay. The man said they were going to Sonora to pick cebolla and tomate.
    The next day the young men got on the bus and headed down the mountain, it stopped and picked up youngsters at other small towns until the bus was full.
    Then the bus headed north, not to Sonora but towards the mountains of Chihuahua, a drive that was a couple of days. When some of the young men asked about the direction they were going one of the chauffeurs stood up and pulled out a gun, he told them to shut up and not to ask questions.
    Vicente said they ended up in the mountains at fields not of onion and tomato but Marijuana and Amapola.
    He said there were other bus’s loaded with other poor campesino’s from other poor pueblito’s. He said that there were armed men including Mexican army soldiers with machine guns, and all were being directed by none other than Raphael Caro Quintero and his men.
    These poor guys worked day and night harvesting the grifa and Amapola and when they were done loading the trucks the narcos left them flat, not a peso was paid to these poor unfortunates. The Mexican Soldiers then placed them all under arrest and put them in the bus’s they arrived in.
    Poor Vicente told me that they were taken to various jails in Chihuahua and if they couldn’t make bail (la mordida), they spent a couple of weeks sweeping the streets and picking up trash before being told to get the fuck out of there (broke and on foot), and if they were ever seen again they would be shot on sight.

    No, most of these bigshot drug kingpins are worse exploiters and cocksuckers than the crooked Mexican Govt officials. And the poor Mexicano’s are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

  8. thank you Victoria. i completely agree with you. I also think you speak of a larger issue, one that chimatli mentioned. about people education themselves on what they consume and who produces it. Whether it be weed produced by drug cartels, a pair of jeans made by children in sweatshops in asia, tomatoes pick by underpaid immigrants or any other produce or service from an abusive company. People should be aware of what they are purchasing.
    And especially drugs that are produced, transported and sold by the very people who are tearing mexico and our communities apart.

    Yes legalizing would resolve many issues, but currently its not legal so it still a tainted product.

    Although there has been some gains on legitimizing atleast medical marijuana and some places ignoring small marijuana usage. but thats a different issue.

  9. SO if you know for a fact that your mota isn’t coming from Mexico then it’s ok?

    Still sounds like G W Bush to me a few years ago, but instead of giving money to terrorists its the cartels that we are supporting.

    Mexicans are desperate. There is no work in the north anymore, there is no government in their country and the only thing to do is go outlaw. I don’t mean to reduce the serious situation that is happening. People are dying.

    I think legalization will help stop this a lot. The Mexican govt. tried to make certain amounts legal or limit the penalties. Right now a joint is as bad a pound of weed in their system, they tried to change that, but the US told them not to do it and they listened and since then seems like it all went crazy.

  10. the LA times have been covering the issue for a long while now. here is a link to their project to cover the issue

    Legalizing it in Mexico, would still cause problem here in the US, as street gangs are namely responsible for distribution of drugs from Mexico.

    Legalizing it in the US would make growers in Mexico pointless. As people could grow their own here and worry about being charged with a crime, nor would they have to pay as much for it.

  11. There’s also the issue of addiction in America. When you compare the dollar amount that the US throws at “the drug war” with the dollars they don’t contribute to recovery programs, vocational programs, social support programs, anything that might *help* people–it’s abysmal. These people need help, they need education, they need skills & work–and the US throws them in jail.

    Jail almost never gets a drug addict clean. The majority of the time, addicts only get worse in jail, & progress to harder drugs & commit more crimes.

    A friend of mine was jailed for a decade in Texas for growing his own. He was a musician, never hurt a soul, and was a sweetheart. God knows what will happen to him in jail.

    The demand for cheap, easily accessible drugs will only continue while America pretends that their “war on drugs” is actually working. Serious drug reform is needed.

  12. When alcohol was re-legalized, more people became drunks. If they legalize weed, it’ll be the same deal. That’s just a price to be paid for all the good things that will happen.

    It’s a price worth paying. I think it’s worth it to legalize even the so-called “hard” drugs like cocaine.

    The street trade in drugs has a lot of problems. The pay seems to be shitty, so it’s not much of a “jobs program” for poor people. It causes gangs to defend territory for selling drugs. It brings drug buying customers into a neighborhood. If there are enough customers, you get some addicts using in the local parks, messing up the public spaces.

    It’s much better if these users could buy their drugs from some store, or maybe an online shop. Call it or something. So you know who’s going to get loaded. Let them get wasted at home instead of passing out at the park in a working class neighborhood.

    Use the profits from narco sales to fund treatment and education, like what these huge tobacco taxes do.

    Even if the revenues only cover costs, we’ll benefit from safer neighborhoods.

  13. Although I agree abou the article, it is not like medical mj from a club is coming from a communal co-op.

    The marijuana being discussed here from Mexico is the cheaper stuff that is compressed in bricks (commonly referred to as schwag)and smuggled here, usually by the same cats who deal with coke/heron/immigrants. For the most part this weed is smoked by younger kids and poorer folks or those not in the “know” about mj. The bulk of the audience here (and most young hip adults) smoke much higher quality stuff that has nothing to do with border cartels at all, it is usually referred to as Kush and/or chronic.

    Higher quality weed cannot be compressed in the same manner the stuff coming from border cartels, and the bulk of it comes from pacific coast growers (either local, humboldt or british columbia). Although these folks are much nicer than narcos, much of the stuff from Canada or the pacific northwest is shipped down under the control of Asian gangs, specifically vietnamese. If not asian gang, the growing/shipping activity is conducted by wealthy white stoner kids who either are or are offspring of rural hippies.

    When the weed gets to clubs, it is many times the guise for money laundering from organized crime. Armenian, Russian and Asian gangs are the main culprits, go to any canabis club in the valley (the other valley, not our sgv) and see what I mean. Many of these gangs conduct illegal human trafficking as well from SE Asia and Eastern europe, as well as other illegal activities.

    Right now there is movement to totally regulate and legalize weed here, which would help reduce criminal exploitation of the issue but also squash the small homegrown community and players involved in the legal pot bracket. Of course not all legal yerba is from organized crime, and even if it is it is less related to violent murdererous narcos.

    I note this situation to kind of underscore the fact that almost EVERYTHING we consume or buy from stores now has resluted in the suffering or death of others. It is great to choose what you consume thru fairness labels and whatnot, but our society is basically organized around people relying on much unecessarry destructive crap. To be totally disconnected from blood soaked goods is to live in the forest off of moss, or really adjust your lifestyle well beyond the comfort zone of most people.

    I mean these same narcos are also coyotes who help people cross the border, but I doubt the author or anyone else here would claim that hiring undocumented labor is supporting cartels. Not that I think the author is wrong, I actually agree, my point is this issue is complex with multiple nuances and cannot be simplified to ” if you buy weed you are supporting killers”. Because shite, if I buy lechuga Im supporting killers, if I buy a shirt Im supporting killers, if I buy some crap from Target Im supporting killing the earth through trash creation.

    Anyways, this is an excellent post. In Highschool I had a freind who moved here from Cuidad Juarez (by way of 5 years in El Paso) and would go with us on our drug dealing missions. He would tell us how the violence here is nothing, how they buried thousands of women and men around Juarez and how f’d up it is, he even lost some tias they assumed were kidnapped by narcos. That was back in the mid 90s.

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