Examing the real cost of weed


Rain Shanks, Co-Editor-in-Chief

It’s an herb, it’s medicine; it’ll get you addicted, lazy, and fat. According to WebMD, the short-term side effects include distorted sense of time, paranoia, “Magical” or random thinking and short-term memory loss.

People misunderstand the freedoms in America. Yes, smoking pot is illegal (at least in Texas) but Americans have a right to a free basic education, live with inalienable rights enforced by the government, and equal protection under law.  We trade freedom for security.

But as a nation, we have traded our security for a recreational drug. Regardless of your view of the drug, there’s little debate over the impact of drug trafficking.

While marijuana alone doesn’t fund the cartels that now run our neighboring country, it is a major part of the illegal drug trade. And the wars that are fought there are not just encroaching on us, they’re already here.

Marijuana dealing has created a hierarchy, and at the bottom of the totem pole are the growers. These people feel pressure from both sides.

“The typical life of a Mexican marijuana grower involves hard work and pressure from cartels for increased marijuana production,” said a border patrol officer, who spoke to the Cougar Claw but asked to remain anonymous due to undercover work. “They also face pressure from the threat of government eradication initiatives, which threatens their livelihood.

“These farmers are typically armed for protection and are mostly poor and undereducated as well.”

Unlike American farmers, these growers get no money from the government for their crops of corn, beans or cotton. In harsh times of drought or poor market, Mexican farmers don’t receive the subsidies that could cushion their income.

Desperation and hunger turn farmers into marijuana growers.

Then, there are the runners. Cartels will focus on uneducated, impoverished teenagers who come from broken homes.

Their age is key for the cartels, as they are easily manipulated, allowing them to feast on them like prey.

What often happens is that the victim, usually from border towns like Brownsville, Laredo, and McAllen, will be promised around $1,000 to cross the border carrying drugs. The payoff, however, is $10, if anything – but there is no justice system when it comes to illegal dealing. Rat the cartel out, and they lose their family.

The cartels are not shy about using violence. In 2006, a Houston man was gunned down in front of his family at a restaurant along I-45 by a cartel hitman in a case of mistaken identity.

“Organizations” such as the cartels have turned marijuana into a tool for financial gain and social dominance. And as it follows down this chain, it impacts regular citizens on its way to parties, parks and Justin Bieber’s hands, here in the States.

Like the rest of us, dealers in the U.S. have other opportunities. They just aren’t very appealing.

The minimum wage does not make it possible to afford an apartment, a car and an education. With all of those expenses skyrocketing, it’s no surprise people have turned to dealing.

Life is expensive, but drugs are always in demand. With border patrol and police departments cracking down on these people, the number of youths in prisons for minor possession have escalated quickly, with over 750,000 last year. States like Washington and Colorado, have used legislation to combat these numbers.

    Lindsay Gallot is a Marijuana Culturalist in Seattle, Washington, meaning she connects the growers to the vendors and the vendors to the markets.

Gallot strongly believes in medical  and recreational marijuana use, with personal testimonies of foot deformities causing her to depend on painkillers until she discovered the medical properties of marijuana.

“Instead of people getting off on methadones, they can find relief in marijuana,” Gallot said.

    A drug that could be used to treat nausea, glaucoma, appetite stimulation, mucous membrane inflammation, leprosy, fever, dandruff, hemorrhoids, asthma, urinary tract infections, cough, anorexia associated with weight loss in AIDS patients, pain, and multiple sclerosis, could give some traditional medicines a run for their money.

“I mean, what are the side effects? Happy, hungry, sleepy,” said a National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws member who chose to go by the alias Heisenberg.

Legalization has not yet put a dent in illegal dealing though, “for at least another year. Next year will be much different,” Gallot predicted.

But still, Seattle is different from Texas. With many Tomball High School students second- and first-generation Mexican immigrants, it’s harder to forget the wars waged just south of the border.

There are “225 documented gangs” in Houston alone, according to the Houston Chronicle, and the number of marijuana operations are on the rise.

Some define marijuana as a drug, synonymous to alcohol with the power to destroy lives, families, and careers. Other claim it’s medical uses, with the power to revolutionize the lumber and textile industries, only made illegal with the justification of skewed studies influenced by propaganda.

Physically, the effects of marijuana are comparable to alcohol. But it’s not the physical impact on the body, but the impact on the country, that needs to be addressed.

For those in the Houston area, border violence hits too close to home.