The demand for U.S.-grown marijuana has exploded across Mexico. Wealthy Mexicans want to be smoking the best stuff so they can post it on their Instagram.
Traditionally, weed has been illegally smuggled into the U.S. through speedboats, planes, drones, tunnels, and even slingshot devices. But the days of drug "mules" crossing the U.S.-Mexico border could be over and soon reversing.
Cannabis grown in California is some of the best in the world. Mexicans are demanding California grown weed that drug dealers have been forced to source from the States, according to WaPo. They're labeling the weed "IMPORTADO" and charging a hefty markup.
Just like Cuban cigars in the U.S., people are willing to pay a markup to purchase one because they can brag to their friends or post images on social media.
Traffickers from California are packing suitcases and stuffing cars with flower and other cannabis products, heading southbound as their contraband instantly doubles or triples in value as it enters Mexico.
"The demand here for American weed has exploded," said a drug dealer in Mexico city, who estimates 60% of the weed he sells comes from California. The dealer spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of arrest because cannabis is illegal in Mexico. "It's aspirational for many of my clients. They want to be seen smoking the best stuff, the stuff rappers brag about smoking."
U.S.-grown marijuana with high amounts of THC can cost upwards of $500 per ounce in Mexico, dealers said. The same ounce may only cost $150 in San Diego.
"Mexicans want to try what they see in music video, in movies, in media, and that's usually American," said another dealer in Mexico City. "We still have this idea that the best products come from the U.S."
At Urban Leaf, a marijuana dispensary in San Ysidro, California., near the Tijuana border, owner Josh Bubeck estimates about half his customers are Mexican nationals.
"Nobody is going to grow cannabis better than California probably ever," Bubeck said.
He said the appeal is clear: "You're showing 'This is what I'm about. I'm a bad ass. I got this from America.'"