Mexican drug cartels have begun to supply a new product to the American black market – hemp concentrate, which contains over 80% of THC. The extract is transported across the border in 19-liter cans.
Liquid with THC is charged into vaporizer cartridges
Detective Matthew Shay of Maricopa County said smugglers who used to import marijuana are now transporting hemp concentrate. Cartels use modern technologies using butane or CO2 to extract cannabinoids. A mixture with 6% THC undergoes distillation and filtration, and an oily liquid with a concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol of more than 80% is obtained.
According to Neck, out of 113 kilograms of low-quality marijuana, 19 liters of concentrate can be produced. This amount of extract is enough to refill vaporizer cartridges worth more than $ 500,000. To increase profits, American drug dealers add various ingredients to the fluid, in particular, vitamin E acetate, which can cause respiratory illness.
Shay believes that the appearance of hemp extract on the market is due to the growing popularity of electronic cigarettes. He notes that most U.S. residents prefer to use concentrate and rarely smoke marijuana. The detective claims that mixtures for vaporizers bought from illegal sellers are dangerous to health, however, scientists still have not been able to prove that the epidemic of vapers in North America was due to uncertified liquids.
Legalization of hemp hits drug dealers
An employee of the Cato Institute, David Bier, said that between 2003 and 2009, the US Border Service doubled the number of employees at the border in Mexico and built fences over 965 kilometers in length. Despite this, the amount of marijuana confiscated by one border guard increased from nine to 57 kilograms per year. However, after the legalization of cannabis in Colorado and Washington in 2014, this figure dropped to 42 kilograms. The lifting of the hemp ban in other states of the United States led to a drop in the weight of seized marijuana to 11 kilograms per customs officer in 2018.
Bier is convinced that strengthening border controls is an ineffective mechanism to combat smugglers. Instead, he proposes the legalization of cannabis at the federal level to create a regulated marijuana market. Nevertheless, the lifting of the ban on the plant will not solve the problem of drug smuggling, because the cartels will profit by trading in other prohibited substances. Experts note that from 2014 to 2018, the supply of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and fentanyl from Mexico to the United States grew by 18%.