In early 2014, federal security administrators reported that more heroin grown and produced in Mexico was entering the United States. Officials stated that this was occurring due to the decrease in marijuana that was being sold by Mexican traffickers.
Based on intelligence and media interviews, the wholesale price of marijuana sold in Mexico has dropped within the past 5 years. In 2009, a farmer growing marijuana in Mexico was able to receive up to $100 per kilogram of wholesale marijuana. By 2014, the wholesale price of marijuana dropped to less than $25. Farmers state that the push towards marijuana legalization has contributed to the downfall as more people buy higher-quality marijuana that was grown in the United States.
As the price of marijuana decreased, Mexican drug cartel have begun looking for new revenue streams. It appears as if they have found a replacement in heroin.
With reports from criminal justice programs stating that heroin abuse increased by 79 percent in the US between 2007 and 2012, Mexican cartels are increasing their supply in order to meet demand. Back in 2007, border security agents seized 367 kilograms of heroin that was being smuggled into the United States from Mexico. In 2013, security agents seized 2,162 kilograms.
A contributing factor to the high heroin abuse rates in the US is driven by prescription drugs abuse. With heroin being cheaper than prescription drugs, many users are continually switching to heroin due to its cheaper cost. For example, a prescription drug sold on the black market in can be sold for up to $80, with the effect of the pill wearing off after 4 to 6 hours. A hit of heroin can be sold for as little as $4.
Farm workers in Mexico are cashing in from the increase in heroin demand. Farmers in the Northern Sierra Madre earn up to $30 to $40 per day cultivating poppies on farmland. The poppy farm is reportedly the best paid farm in Northern Mexico.
Farmers sell a kilogram of opium for $1,500. The wholesale price has doubled in 2013 from the year before. The raw opium is sold to middlemen who cook the opium into heroin. After being smuggled across the border, a kilogram in the Northern United States can be sold for $60,000 to $80,000.
Source: Nick Miroff, “Tracing the U.S. heroin surge back south of the border as Mexican cannabis output falls,” Washington Post, April 6, 2014.