Recent media hype over the discovery of sophisticated marijuana growing operations in Mexico overlooked the most important aspect of these new plants: they are cloned in indoor greenhouses.
Earlier this year authorities seized three greenhouses in Jalisco state where criminals were using "foreign expertise" to grow "genetically modified" marijuana. But as El Daily Post writes, while local and international media made it sound as if Mexican drug cartel technicians in lab coats were carrying out highly complicated gene-splicing operations, the more important developments within Mexico's marijuana market were related to cloning these plants indoors.
Cloning entails growing a new plant from a cutting or sample of an existing plant, ensuring they are genetically the same, El Daily Post explains. Cloning marijuana instead of growing it from seed takes a certain know-how and produces higher quality marijuana, indicating Mexican growers' increasing sophistication, the report says.
SEE ALSO: Mexico News and Profiles
Another key indicator of this development was the use of large indoor greenhouses instead of small dispersed outdoor crops previously seen in Mexico. Marijuana cultivation has traditionally been a low-labor process in which farmers would plant seeds and leave the product's quality to the variables of natural sunlight and rainfall. Indoor production, combined with the cloning of high-potency strains, creates much higher quality marijuana, but requires constant care.
InSight Crime Analysis
As El Daily Post notes, there are two possible reasons for this increased sophistication. First, with high-quality marijuana already being produced legally in US states like Colorado and Washington, Mexican growers may be looking to improve their product in order to remain competitive with their US counterparts.
Second, while Mexico remains a major marijuana supplier to the United States, an increasingly significant portion of the drug is consumed domestically. Since the market for high-quality marijuana already exists in Mexico, local growers may be trying to mirror the US (and Canada's) economic model of producing high-quality marijuana, which can retail at higher prices.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Drug Policy
"The shift in production techniques might become more common if traffickers can adapt to meet market demand," El Daily Post writes. "Time will tell if this happens and governments should work to assess the quality of product seized in addition to the quantity."
In a further parallel with the United States, Mexico has its own marijuana legalization movement, partly based on the notion of depriving organized crime of marijuana revenues. But while there are some indications that the United States' piecemeal legalization has had an effect on marijuana exports, Mexican drug traffickers have been quick to make up for lost revenue through other substances like heroin and methamphetamine.