Blunt Trauma: Marijuana, the new blood diamonds
In the summer of 2010, I harvested a small crop of marijuana I’d grown in my basement and sold it to a twentysomething college student who replied to an advertisement I’d posted on Craigslist. The transaction was conducted under the auspices of Colorado’s medical marijuana law, and so a certain degree of farce was involved. I wasn’t sick, yet I qualified as a stateapproved pot patient, which allowed me to grow and sell marijuana to other similarly qualified “patients.” Say what you will about the merits of such a system, but at least no one died as a result.
Marijuana may be one of the safest intoxicants known to man—in thousands of years of unregulated use, there has not been a single known fatality attributable to overdose. However, the system by which millions of Americans obtain their pot is deadly and growing deadlier. Mexican cartels have long supplied heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine to the United States, but marijuana is the most widely used drug in the United States, and the cartels are in a murderous frenzy to provide it. Since 2006, approximately 50,000 people have been killed in a gruesome war to control lucrative smuggling lanes into the United States.
My little marijuana farm wasn’t a conscious attempt to provide certified violence-free weed, however. It was a one-time experiment for a book examining the explosive growth of the medical marijuana industry, which is now permitted in 17 states and the District of Columbia. I’d conceived of the project as a change of direction from a previous book, Blood Diamonds, in which I’d traveled to Sierra Leone to investigate the global trade in conflict diamonds. The rough stones were mined by brute force by the Revolutionary United Front—a ruthless rebel group who used murder, torture, and terror to control mining areas—and then smuggled through neighboring countries, passed into legitimate channels, and eventually sold to an unwitting public in the form of tennis bracelets and engagement rings.