In an unexpected twist, the most sought after illegally-trafficked marijuana at the U.S.-Mexico border is the cannabis entering Mexico, not leaving it. California-grown marijuana joins exclusive Nike shoes, a new Supreme hoodie, or a PS5 as products to be had at a premium in Mexico. The U.S.’s marijuana doubles or triples in value as soon as it enters Mexico
Buying and selling marijuana is against the law in Mexico, although possession has been decriminalized. But just across the border, legal California cannabis imported illegally now dominates a blossoming Mexican boutique weed market. It is with a point of pride that Mexican dealers flaunt their highly sought-after product with bold-lettered IMPORTADO on their menus.
Speaking under the condition of anonymity for fear of arrest, one Mexico City dealer estimated that 60 percent of the cannabis he sells is from California. “The demand here for American weed has exploded,” he said. “It’s aspirational for many of my clients. They want to be seen smoking the best stuff, the stuff rappers brag about smoking.”
As California legalized cannabis and professionalized its production, some of the world’s most famous cannabis strains could easily be purchased just north of the U.S.-Mexico border at outlet malls walking distance from Mexican territory.
Josh Bubeck owns Urbn Leaf, a dispensary located a few hundred yards from the border into Mexico at Tijuana. Bubeck estimates that 55 percent of his customers are Mexican nationals. He and his employees warn all customers that bringing marijuana back to Mexico is a violation of Mexican law. But Bubeck sees firsthand what the strong appeal is.
“You’re showing ‘This is what I’m about. I’m a badass. I got this from America,'” Bubeck said.
Monterrey, Mexico-based HempMeds is one of a few companies selling CBD products in Mexico. But Mexican law allows those products —containing no THC— to be made with Mexican hemp.
“Companies like us that want to produce legally, who want to invest — we have to wait for complete regulation,” said Raul Elizalde Garza, the chief executive of HempMeds. “Marijuana from California has a huge advantage on us.”
Marijuana advocates in Mexico have argued that, given its years of producing the drug illicitly, the country could establish an enormously profitable industry. The Sinaloa Cartel has reportedly been looking into establishing its own legal cannabis subsidiary in Mexico.
Despite Mexico’s supreme court striking down laws that criminalize the cultivation of cannabis for personal use, lawmakers have not yet passed legislation that would allow for a commercial marijuana market. It is still technically illegal to buy or sell marijuana, and it is nearly impossible to regulate the quality of Mexican cannabis products available on the illegal market.