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State-level cannabis legalization in the US is drastically impacting the weed market in Mexico. In fact, an article by Kevin Sieff, the Washington Post’s Mexico and Central America bureau chief, reports that a ton of American cannabis is regularly trafficked across the border into Mexico now. This marks a major role reversal in the international unlicensed marijuana trade, considering Mexico has historically supplied the US with weed for decades

It’s likely that the majority of the American cannabis products in Mexico are predominantly unregulated, and thus, untraceable by the legal industry’s track-and-trace system. A DEA report issued this past March revealed that weed seizures at the US-Mexico border (heading into the US) have dropped by a whopping 80 percent since 2013. And yet, more American weed is being sold and consumed in Mexico than ever before.

Mexico’s government isn’t stoked about this. They released a report stating that unlicensed cannabis products — including 5,000 containers of cannabis gummies discovered by Mexican customs in November, which were en route from Arizona — are flooding the country.

The DEA report did take note of the reversal and suggested that Mexican cannabis producers “may increase quality” to catch up to US supply. 

The Post’s story indicates that US producers are essentially “stepping in” to fill consumer needs in Mexico. In other words, the demand is there. It’s a widely-held belief that the United States produces higher-quality marijuana than Mexico — which may be due to the wider availability of expensive indoor grow equipment in the US (typically seen as the key to growing weed with frosty trichomes and high THC percentages). Either way, it plays into why people in Mexico want American weed so bad. 

“The demand here for American weed has exploded,” said an anonymous Mexico City cannabis dealer. “It’s aspirational for many of my clients. They want to be seen smoking the best stuff, the stuff rappers brag about smoking.”

“We still have this idea that the best products come from the US,” another CDMX anonymous dealer told Sieff. 

Despite modern-day pop culture imagery, the perception that the US is the authority on cannabis over Mexico is historically inaccurate. Mexico has produced recreational cannabis far longer than the United States, and legal cannabis economies like that of California continue to depend on the labor of Mexican immigrants to make it through harvest time. 

Smokable weed was actually popularized by Mexican immigrants in the US back in the 1930s. Roughly until the 1970s, Mexico continued to supply the United States with its flower, pioneering seedless sinsemilla strains. The country also gained global notoriety for its storied “Acapulco Gold” varietal. Today, there are families in Mexican states — such as Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Guerrero — that have specialized in outdoor cultivation for generations. 

Until Mexico regulates cannabis, however, this legacy will remain dormant. The Supreme Court recently declared cannabis prohibition unconstitutional, making personal consumption the center of the decision. Though Mexicans can now apply to the federal health agency COFEPRIS [Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risk] for a license, it remains illegal to buy or sell the plant. That puts the country’s cannabis cultivators and producers at a dreadful disadvantage to their neighbors to the north. 

“Companies like us that want to produce legally, who want to invest — we have to wait for complete regulation,” said Raul Elizalde Garza, chief executive of HempMeds Mexico, to the Post. Garza is also a father to a girl named Grace, whose epileptic condition helped sway lawmakers and the general public to support medicinal marijuana in Mexico. “Marijuana from California has a huge advantage on us.”