Lina Britto
Colombia -
November 08, 2022

Marijuana Boom in Colombia

Colombia is experiencing a cannabis boom: the medicinal use of the plant is regulated, and there are intense debates about its recreational use. The latest chapter in a long history links cannabis to the country’s political situation. Between the 1960s and 1980s, there was talk of a “marijuana boom” when Colombia became one of the world’s leading exporters of narcotics and a key country in the developing “War on Drugs.”

How did Colombia go from being a coffee-producing country to a drug-producing nation? The third episode of Jardines y Laberintos searches for answers, and we speak with Lina Britto, Colombian journalist, anthropologist, and historian. Lina has just published in Spanish her book Marijuana Boom: The Rise and Fall of Colombia’s First Drug Paradise; an ambitious investigation that seeks to understand a forgotten chapter of the country’s history.

“It is during this marijuana bonanza, not cocaine, that Colombia becomes a theater of operations for the war on drugs,” observes the specialist. “The conditions that made it possible for this economy to emerge came neither from the absence nor the weakness of the state, but on the contrary from a lot of state reforms that several Colombian governments, associated with several U.S. governments, were carrying out throughout the twentieth century in different areas of this region.”

For Britto, understanding what the marimba bonanza was is essential “because it tells us about a transition we lived through as a nation, how we went from being an essentially coffee-growing republic to a narcotics-producing nation. All in a quarter of a century”. A transformation that implied legal reforms and an escalation in the use of force: it was a matter of “using the repressive state apparatus, mainly the armed forces through the Ministry of Defense with money from the United States, and launching a campaign of crop eradication and interdiction of trafficking. This war has never happened before; it is the first time we are doing this with money and political support from the United States. So, the Colombian state mobilizes its repressive apparatus to militarize this region, eradicate crops and interdict trafficking and arrest all those involved in the process.”

‘Jardínes y Laberintos: Conversaciones Sobre Drogas, Políticas y Violencias’ is a program of interviews with activists, growers, artists, researchers, and writers to talk about concrete cases and experiences around substances. Marcela Vallejo, a Colombian anthropologist and part of the Vist team, is the host. You will find it posted every Thursday on our YouTube channel.

cannabis  /  history  /  Jardines y Laberintos  /  journalism  /  Marcela Vallejo  /  marijuana  /  research  /  war on drugs
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