Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Monday, April 27, 2020

Cartel Free “Ethical Weed” Grown and Sold in Mexico

Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: MND / MazatlanPost/ GrowthOp

The face of marijuana cultivation in Mexico is changing as more and more independent, boutique cannabis growers are popping up, providing high-quality “ethical” strains of weed free of cartel violence and influence.

Farmers turn to cultivation of ‘blood-free,’ ethical marijuana, Boutique cannabis growers don't sell to cartel middlemen; Sinaloa farmers are growing cartel-free ‘Ethical’ Weed.

There are a number of factors at play in this new dynamic, including the availability of specialized seeds from the United States and Europe, the possibility of legalization within the country by the end of the year and a decline in demand for mass-produced weed due to legalization in the U.S.  

There are a number of factors at play in this new dynamic, including the availability of specialized seeds from the United States and Europe, the possibility of legalization within the country by the end of the year and a decline in demand for mass-produced weed due to legalization in the U.S.  

But there is also a growing social consciousness among consumers that these small independent growers are banking on, marketing potent strains such as Chronic, Purple and Blue Dreams as “blood-free” weed, write Deborah Bonello and Miguel Angel Vega. Given the choice which would you choose ?

There is no cartel middleman in this emerging ethical cannabis market, with growers selling directly to dealers. 

Alongside other producers from the violent state of Sinaloa, Lazaro, a farmer,  he is now planting cannabis, or ramas (branches), as he calls it, inside homes and greenhouses. His indoor crop is closely packed into a room under an orange light, which reflects off the white walls to create an amber glow. The plants sway under the breeze of a bank of fans, facing into the room from their stations, mounted every two meters along the walls.

None of the farmers had to ask permission from the cartels to go it alone. “We’re independent and doing it for ourselves,” said Lazaro. There is no cartel middleman in this emerging ethical cannabis market, with growers selling directly to dealers. 

Similar to legal farmers in California and Colorado, growers in Mexico are sowing new seeds brought in from the United States and Europe to produce stronger, more refined products as well as oils and other derivatives. They’re investing in technology including lights, fertilizers, and climate control for their plants.

“We have to innovate,” Ricardo, another farmer from Sinaloa. “Innovation is what is generating business now. The seeds arrived a few years ago from Europe and the U.S., but at first people just grew it at home and didn’t want to share it. Now they have to, out of need.”
Farmers in states such as Sinaloa have switched from large, outdoor crops to carefully tended indoor operations, using lights, fertilizers and fans to allow the plants to mature under optimal circumstances. They are also dabbling in producing oils, edibles and other companion products as customers look for innovation in forms of THC delivery.

Although this kind of production incurs significantly higher costs, there’s no profit-sharing with cartel enforcers and profit margins are significantly higher. Whereas weed growers used to get around US $25 per kilo, dealers are now buying top-level cannabis at a price that varies from US $1,278 to $1,700 per half kilo.

However, by eschewing cartels pot growers face a number of challenges. Creating their own infrastructure for transporting their crops to dealers is one problem; operating under the radar of violent cartels is quite another.
“I know a lot of dealers distributing cannabis in Mexico City and they’re making deals directly with producers,” said Zara Snapp, founder of the Instituto RIA, which carries out research and advocacy on drug policy. Producers and dealers said weed is being transported by car, motorbike, and even messenger services around the country.

“You’re not benefiting from any cartel protection structures or mechanism,” said Jaime Lopez, a security analyst. The fact that the market is, as yet, small means that it’s easy to stay low-profile. “As long as you stay small and not too flashy you might avoid the vultures. But that’s a big if.”

And there are barriers to entry. Farmers like Ricardo and Lazaro are in the minority. Most humble farmers in the mountains of major drug-producing states such as Sinaloa and Guerrero could not afford the investment required to create the kind of growing environments needed to produce refined weed.

“We plant [cronica] in houses with fertilizers and lights and temperature control so it’s more expensive to produce,” Lazaro said. If growers plant outside, the seeds are more expensive, and fertilizers add costs.

That said, producers now have more control over their business and don’t have to comply with the low prices set by violent cartel middlemen. They can also market their weed differently.

“I think cannabis that is marketed as ‘blood free’ or ethical sells better. People are more likely to ask where their weed is coming from and that is a big shift,” Snapp said.

And although investment may be higher, so are the profits, which the farmers no longer have to share with criminal gangs. The farmers are selling the finer weed for a lot more money than the run of the mill mountain-side stuff ever used to go for.

“I get a product called Blue Dreams from Sinaloa, and it is still the product most in demand,” said a dealer in Mexico City. Blue Dreams sells for 200 pesos ($8.50) a gram. He also buys high-end weed from other suppliers in different states in Mexico because they’re cheaper.

Crime syndicates such as the Sinaloa Cartel and the New Generation Jalisco Cartel have over the last decade realigned their drug portfolios around cocaine and heroin as well as synthetics like methamphetamine and fentanyl as the demand for Mexican weed for American dried up with legalization. Weed no longer makes big business sense to them.

On the steeply sloping mountains of Sinaloa where Lazaro lives, farmers cultivating swathes of waist-high cannabis plants is becoming a thing of the past. State-level cannabis legalization in the United States – the main destination for Mexican weed for decades – all but wiped out the market for regular marijuana from farmers such as Lazaro. As the cartels, which would buy it from him and transport it across the border to the U.S, have seen demand dry up, many farmers have stopped bothering to plant it.
Mexico’s drug plantation landscape has seen much change in the last decade. Heroin poppy replaced the profits generated by cannabis for farmers as the U.S. opioid crisis generated new demand for Mexican heroin. But subsequent oversupply combined with the arrival of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl in the drug portfolio of Mexico’s crime syndicates eventually battered the price of poppy paste, shrinking poppy-growing profits.

Mexico City vendors are seeing a growing demand for high-end weed is a new phenomenon. Yet after months of what the dealer described as “record sales,” growth in the market is limited right now due to the current coronavirus lockdown and a drop in income for many of his customers in the cities.

Will Mexico’s currently small-scale, ethical boutique weed trade last? The bigger the market, and growers, get, the more likely they are to attract the attention of predators. “If these guys become truly profitable they might find themselves on the wrong end of racketeering efforts by men with guns,” said Lopez.

And once legalization arrives in Mexico, which is expected to happen this year, the window for these small-scale farmers could close as big business enters the fray. There’s nothing to stop the cartels getting involved in the legal trade, should they think it’s worth their while, and legal companies are already circling.

“The question is how big a market is this and the capabilities that legal players would bring in after legalization. If they open the market we might see an influx of venture capital money as we have seen in the states,” said Lopez.

For now, these producers would do well to emphasize the cartel-free nature of their wares, said Lopez. “Based on my understanding of millennial and post-millennial spending habits, some sort of ethical labeling and branding would seem like a good road to go down. I know it would certainly make a difference to me.”

Last week, Marijuana Moment reported that, once again, the country’s Supreme Court extended the deadline to green light cannabis, this time until Dec. 15. Bills have been tabled to address an earlier ruling that banning personal possession and cultivation is unconstitutional, but have not found their way into law quite yet.

The coronavirus has also contributed to discussions failing to proceed as intended.

For now, however, blood-free weed seems to have found its niche market.


  1. Finally, the end of discriminatory practices against cannabis in MX.

  2. I can't see the cartels standing by for this for very long.

    1. You can't see that happening because it won't. Not for a second. The chicos malos are involved in everything that makes money.

  3. Should be "Free weed" not just "Cartel free weed". 100% good free weed for 100% of people. Vote for me and I will ensure the weed is 100% free for everybody. Thank you and God Bless You.

    1. 8:27 who pays 100 more times the prices of blood cartel weed?
      The investment required, the problems to keep the operation hidden, and having to keep the actorities away mean this is cartel owned.
      Designers weed for the mexican rich juniors can be as legal as they want, but there is n9thing tax free in the world except for russian loans
      These desigers' strains will pay tariffs, and the chinese won't go for any more of that BS.

  4. Although i dont smoke weed anymore i would choose "ethically grown weed" over "blood weed" in a heartbeat.
    What I'd really like to see though is pure old mexican hierloom strains, with absolutely no genes from the new marijuana hybrids! Those beautiful varieties are probably extinct by now, but i can still dream! Some of the best marijuana used to come from Mexico. Mexico has the climate, and the know how. Viva!

    1. 8:31 grifa will grow anywhere, no seas mamon.
      Strains need too much pampering and many customers with deep pockets,
      The rabble will aways go for good enuff cheap ass grifa and the snobs can always stick their cabbage sized purple lettuce up their pampered arses.

    2. You won't have to dream for much longer when I win the election, ensuring long-term friendly big business links with Mexico will be a top priority once I am President, so that these wonderful legacy strains are not lost or underrepresented in our future society. There will be equal rights for all strains of marijuana and I will give it away for 100% free. A vote for me is a vote for free weed. The profiteers in return will not be happy but the weed will remain free. Thank you and God bless you.

    3. 5:46 you will NEVER BE PRESIDENTE or have any strains,
      You already smoked the lettuce and the seeds and ate the ashes!

  5. Yeah this article sounds good, except there's only one problem. There are a lot of people that aren't a cartel, that that grow cannabis. A lot of those Growers, sell their weed to the cartels. It's a no-brainer. So I don't in my opinion, this is just someone claiming that they are not "cartel" but then they are open to being extorted, or worse, by organized crime groups.

    1. Its the kids & Grandkids
      of incarserated Cartels that wants to do this
      it takes money to farm
      water pumps fertilizer workers
      etc Bribes are gonna be paid Somewhere down the line
      I whole heartly cant believe no
      blood somewhere will NOT be spilled along the line

  6. It will be a cold day in hell before there is weed sold in Mexico that has no cartel ties.

    1. y'all are outside looking in

    2. I would hand it out for free.

    3. It's been going on without cartels for a while already. I know plenty of people in Mexico City who have grow opps and never deal with cartels. However it's still a small community in regards, not to say in the future they won't be involved. Where I live, the cartel doesn't care about chronic, mushrooms or LSD.

  7. Thanks Yaqui: Good article.
    I agree with the caveats in the article, concerning narco-cartel wolves circling these developments. In fact, I sense that the oligarchs and narco minions are cutting deals as we speak.

    After years of swiming in blood and the destruction of Mexico due to the narco-cartels and corrupt government, some people called a real or virtual conference to do the hi-tech mota projects. I also think, Trump's Wall (with it's many detection and apprehenion assets) on the Wall and in the USA) is foreboding to the Mexicans.
    I smell, touchy feely AMLO in the game ... AMLO sees AI, robotics, and corporate giants in the game(s) and knows Mexico cannot be left behind. In fact, I would not be surprized in the USA, or China are not involved already.
    Of course, the think tanks and funding agents cannot be revealed.... These kind of machinations go on at weddings, trips to Spain, UAE, etc, where agreements are made while in high privacy and luxury. Kind of how Las Vegas got off the ground, remember when it was just a rinky-dink desert town (re. Movies like "Casino" and "The Godfather").
    I am curious to see how our BB community reacts to the news.

    1. Tás màs pendejo MW...
      Siempre sales con tus chingaderas.
      No foreign motherfackers invented Las Vegas,
      it was all Eyetalian Mobster visionary statesmen giving the OK to Bugsy, approved by their J-Street banksters...
      Of course even Meyer Lansky was their puppet...
      Now Las Vegas &Co. has offshored some operations to keep money away from the US government and to make sure they buy the right politicos they need to have in their own pockets, even the Teamsters Union that helped fund Las Vegas are now property of smart Police Unions and some select truckers

  8. Jobs for the poor in Mexico and tax money for the political elite. Everyone wins

  9. I’ll
    Bet a million bucks caro Quintero is back at it!!
    Long live sinsemilla

  10. How on earth will they defend from cartels? With hugs?

  11. Once again Mexico 5 steps behind the world.

    U.S.A. will not buy weed from Mexico.

    U.S.A., farmers are already suppling weed to Chicago & other City & states.
    Canada also.

    1. 6:01 mexican weed will always be sold on the US,
      nobody can beat the price of normal, natural, GMO free grifa.
      Some still like their Paris Hilton irrigated and fertilized brands, but they are more expensive than her pestilent parfiums

    2. US farmers are not supplying Canada. Thats a dumb dumb comment

    3. Big Pharma companys dont care where or how its obtained. You must be young as hell.

  12. Wow! That name though...."ETHICAL WEED". The Mexican bubble-gum book of ETHICS.

  13. The way to destroy illegal drug cartels is by grinding them between the millstones of legalization, regulation, competition and taxation.

  14. I call BULLSHIT!!!! Everything involving weed has a criminal element. Do you guys seriously think that the cartels would have let this pass.... Even the growers in Colorado and California sell part of their crops to the black market to increase profits.


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