Marijuana fueled Colombian drug trade before cocaine was king

Marijuana.com

The big idea Long before Pablo Escobar’s Medellín cartel got rich supplying Americans with cocaine in the 1980s, Colombia was already the United States’ main source of illicit drugs – specifically, marijuana. That’s the takeaway of my new book “Marijuana Boom.” This debunks the popular notion of Escobar as the pioneer of Colombian drug trafficking. Rather, it was some of Colombia’s most marginalized people who changed the course of their nation. Back in the 1970s, peasant farmers from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta – a remote and mountainous region of Colombia’s Caribbean coast – began shifting from banana, cotton and coffee production to marijuana cultivation. When this population again pivoted to growing coca leaf for processing into cocaine in the 1980s, they set Colombia on a course to become the illicit drug capital of the Americas. Why it matters This research upends other old tropes about the drug trade, including the idea that it’s inherently violent. Colombia’s marijuana economy operated relatively peacefully until the Colombian and U.S. governments in 1978 launched a militarized campaign to eradicate marijuana crops and increase drug interdictions. Traffickers retaliated, giving rise to the now familiar “war on drugs”-style dynamic of escalating conflict. My research also disproves the long-held academic consensus that illegal drug markets…

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