Traveling through different states and different countries, lots of things change. Aside from landscapes, cultural attitudes, and climates, laws change as well. It is important to be aware of these laws and attitudes, especially as one who uses cannabis. What might be perfectly legal in one area could get you in legal trouble in the next.
Questions like, “is it worth it to bring weed on a plane or bus?” or “should I try my luck finding weed there?” have gone through every stoner’s mind at some point.
I’ve been on the road, traveling for about five months. My journey began in the American west coast; I frequently enjoyed the benefits of recreationally legal weed. It was a marvelous time trying all of the different varieties of edibles, pre-rolls, and other cannabis products. I had the liberty to experiment and pinpoint what kind of strains I prefer, what tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels work best for me; I got to buy a bottle of weed-infused hot sauce (all with just my ID). I was focused on living it up and enjoying every moment of legal weed I had before I crossed over the border into Mexico, knowing things would change.
Dutifully, I ate the last of my edibles and made sure there wasn’t so much as a spec of marijuana in my backpack before I headed out. I hopped on the San Diego Trolley to the San Ysidro border-crossing, walked under the proudly waving McDonalds flag, and made my way to the infamous Mexican-American border. The security at the border was reminiscent of walking through a greyhound station; there were no drug sniffing dogs or metal detectors. There was an x-ray machine, but the guy operating it didn’t seem to care if people walked past him. It seemed that I easily could have gotten away with bringing some pot over the border, but after walking past an M16-wielding soldier, I figured better safe than sorry.
Despite its reputation and rumors, I didn’t see any open pot smoking in Tijuana, nor did anybody offer me any on the street. I did get offered Viagra quite a few times, as well as some pain killers, but never weed. Next day, I hopped on a bus and got off at my final destination: Ensenada, Mexico, a port town in the Mexican state of Baja Norte with a population of 500,000. The downtown area of Ensenada gets busy with tourists whenever a cruise ship is in town, but is fairly sleepy the rest of the time. My purpose for being in the town was to improve my Spanish, eat the famous seafood, and hopefully find some writing work in addition to the living arrangement I already had in place: living and working on an old, broken down yacht in a clandestine scrap yard (story for another day).
The captain of the boat, George, was very gracious when he met me. In addition to laying down the ground rules for living on the boat, as well as advice on where to eat, the captain warned me about marijuana. “Don’t go asking around for weed now,” he said. “You know, these guys hang out by the marina and call you buddy, they tell you to come with them, and next thing you know you’re caught in a sting and being extorted by the police. It’s just not worth it, don’t do it.”
The captain didn’t have to tell me twice. Basically, I had resigned myself to the idea of not smoking weed while I was in Mexico. Not only were their dangers of colliding with the law, but also with a host of other shady characters, not to mention the moral quandaries of directly supporting the ongoing cartel violence.
After a few lonely days of Tindering (looking for a date) at the local cafe, I met an American transplant named Roxanna. She was a Los Angeles native who moved to Mexico after she needed some medical work done, and simply had no means of affording it alongside gas and rent in Los Angeles. Also, she echoed the same sentiments as the captain: “dude, seriously, don’t fuck around with pot out here,” she said while cracking her window open slightly and scanning for cops. “It’s illegal here, you don’t want to end up in Mexican jail or get targeted by the cartels.”
Whether or not these fears were justified, Roxanna was much more comfortable with smuggling her weed over the border from Los Angeles. Despite living in Baja Norte for nearly six months already, Roxanna clearly had no plans of making a local pot connect.
My crewmates on the ship have been having similar issues trying to get a hold of some pot in Mexico. One of my crewmates — we’ll call him John — made it closer than any of us to finding a weed source. He met a guy who agreed to teach him Spanish, and after a lesson or two, John casually brought up the fact that weed was hard to find. His teacher told him not to worry, took some pesos, and said he’d have an eighth of an ounce for him come next lesson. When it was time for their next lesson, the guy never showed up; John shrugged his shoulders and commented that the guy had told him quite a few sketchy stories about his days in jail, and his short temper.
All of these struggles finding pot are in light of the recent ruling by the Mexican Supreme Court last October, which determined that Mexico’s prohibition against the recreational use of pot is unconstitutional.
Mexico’s congress is controlled in both houses by the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) political party, natively called the Movimiento Regeneración Nacional. It’s a democratic socialist party; current president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is a member. The MORENA party has legislation on the table to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, and it is anticipated by many that Mexico will become the next country to legalize weed.