The large concept

Long before Pablo Escobar’s Medellín cartel acquired wealthy supplying Americans with cocaine within the 1980s, Colombia was already the United States’ major supply of illicit medication – particularly, marijuana. That’s the takeaway of my new guide “Marijuana Boom.”

This debunks the favored notion of Escobar because the pioneer of Colombian drug trafficking. Rather, it was a few of Colombia’s most marginalized people who modified the course of their nation.

Back within the 1970s, peasant farmers from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta – a distant and mountainous area of Colombia’s Caribbean coast – started shifting from banana, cotton and occasional manufacturing to marijuana cultivation. When this inhabitants once more pivoted to rising coca leaf for processing into cocaine within the 1980s, they set Colombia on a course to develop into the illicit drug capital of the Americas.

Why it issues

This analysis upends different previous tropes concerning the drug trade, together with the concept it is inherently violent.

Colombia’s marijuana economic system operated comparatively peacefully till 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 acquainted “war on drugs”-style dynamic of escalating battle.

My analysis additionally disproves the long-held academic consensus that unlawful drug markets emerge in distant areas the place the state has inadequate presence.

I discover Colombia’s marijuana increase was truly an unintended consequence of state-led efforts to economically develop Colombia. Throughout the 20th century, Colombia labored to construct its banana export sector, create a cotton belt to provide Colombian textile factories and to redistribute land. By the 1970s, Colombia was increasing worldwide trade, significantly with the U.S.

These adjustments made some rural Colombians wealthy however, my analysis exhibits, impoverished peasant farmers within the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. People who’d grown authorized commodity crops noticed alternative in exporting an unlawful one to the United States: marijuana.

What nonetheless is not recognized

My guide recounts how and why folks in northern Colombia used their farming expertise to develop and export marijuana. But it would not element their subsequent transition, from marijuana to cocaine.

In southern Colombia, lecturers have documented how Pablo Escobar’s era of traffickers financed new settlers to grow coca leaf, the bottom ingredient in cocaine, within the 1980s. We simply do not understand how cocaine concurrently supplanted marijuana because the staple drug crop of the peasant economic system up north.

How I do my work

This started as a private quest to grasp the nation of my childhood. My father is from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta space, the place marijuana as soon as boomed.

Some of my analysis was archival, carried out in Colombia and the U.S. But a lot of it was finished on the bottom. I started gathering testimonials in northern Colombia within the early 2000s, throughout Colombia’s 52-year armed conflict. Paramilitary forces managed the realm. The warfare led to 2016. But armed teams, together with cartels, nonetheless function there.

To keep protected whereas finding out an trade that makes use of money and violence to maintain its affairs clandestine, I relied on family and friends, who helped me set up contacts and establish data sources. I additionally stored my questions targeted on the defunct marijuana enterprise – not the energetic cocaine trade.

This focus helped me keep away from reproducing what historian Luis Astorga calls “the mythology of the narcotrafficker.” There are not any Pablo Escobars in my guide – simply on a regular basis Colombians who seized on their nation’s rising business ties to the world’s largest drug market – the United States – to launch a worldwide enterprise.


By Lina Britto, Assistant Professor of History, Northwestern University

This article is republished from The Conversation below a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Featured picture by Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

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