USA technology cripples another old mainstay of the Belize underground export economy.
Back in the 1970's Belize enjoyed a measure of prosperity by exporting to Wisconsin buyers, the famous 'Belizean Breeze' sensamilla, by the plane and boatload. DEA crackdowns in the Straits of Yucatan and Gulf of Mexico gave some trouble and slowed the export potentiality of this herb to the northern USA states. By the 1980's, cocaine was starting to take hold in the USA and with the impetus of criminalization penalites, it became more cost efficient for smugglers to carry cocaine, on a cost/weight/penalty basis. Marijuana, a mainstay of the 1970's was on it's way out as an export crop for the country of Belize. By the beginning of the 1990's marijuana as an export crop from Belize to the USA was almost neglible. It was less than 1% of the export market enjoyed during the 1970's. By the year 2000, marijuana as an export crop had dried up completely to zero. It was simply easier to smuggle the smaller loads of cocaine, for higher prices and similar penalties if caught, that were going intransit sometimes through Mexico.
What really killed the Belizean underground economy of marijuana exporting out of Belize was not interdiction, but the scientific breakthroughs in the USA in hydroponic technology. The University studies on light waves, the combination of hallogen, fluorescent and incandescent light waves in combination and at specific distances from plant growth measured in inches, coupled with the ability to alter the plant's sense of timing and increase growth rates by going to artificial 18 hour sunlight days was the real death knell of the marijuana export business from Belize.
Pot plants back in the 70's had low levels of THC, the chemical that produces the pleasant pacifist buzz. Since then, growers have used traditional cloning and hybridizing techniques to create a master race of pot plants. Dwarf versions as small as a tomato plant, but with buds that have 25 times the THC levels of the 15 foot plants of the 1970's in Belize. Couple this with hydroponics, the science of raising plant crops in nutrient- enriched water, instead of using soil, has created an explosion of hydroponic indoor farming in the USA.
Nowadays, 99.5% of the expensive marijuana sold in the USA is produced in the USA in houses and apartments. There is still a small amount of marijuana grown on Federal lands, but the shift has been from importing marijuana and from using Federal lands in the USA for outdoor growing, to indoor hydroponic cultivation.
USA growers, rent a house, a room, or apartment. Pay in cash, leaving no paper trail. Seal off doors and windows, install lighting systems, hydroponic trays and nutrient water tanks, timers, humidifiers and air conditioners mimic cycles of long days and short nights to grow plants at optimum temperatures of 68 degrees.
One grower of 1400 plants here in Miami ( one plant is a quarter pound of $2000/lb bud ) used a swimming pool to temperature regulate their plants,( minimum $700,000 wholesale and probably over a million dollars). They ran an underground pipe to the pool of the $350,000 house, rented in a walled protected exclusive residential section. The DEA says 98% of the marijuana today is grown in the USA. 34% of that is grown hydroponically indoors, in clandestine closets and bedrooms. With one plant bringing in $500, a bedroom can return you a $45,000 year tax free income. There is the risk of getting caught and penalties. When I was living homeless for three years, after an accident and waiting around for a 4 year courtcase with Workmans Compensation to come to trial, or settle; the idea of growing marijuana was attractive. Upon investigation, the smell of ripe buds, before they would be picked turned me off. You can't hide that smell. If it hadn't been for that, I might have tried it. But I had no desire to spend 10 or more years in jail. The draconian laws created more fear than the envisaged reward. But it was a tempting mental flirtation for a while. Especially when you are old, injured and unemployable. $112 worth of food stamps a month, of which you had to sell half to pay for the six visits, to qualify and re-qualify for them every three months, does not give much of a substitute lifestyle. Nor does living on the street in an old vehicle.
High quality pot now sells between $2000 and $6000 per pound. One plant produces a quarter to half a pound. Connoisseurs now have a choice of many different potencies and flavors. You can even buy nutty, or fruity flavors. My neighbors on the side and rear around here, smoke what is obvious to me, outdoor pot, the cheaper varieties. The smell wafts on the tradewind breezes every weekend, I smell it from my swinging hammock on the front porch.
Last year, agents raided 54 houses in this county, compared to only eight houses ten years ago. Counting the neighboring counties, they raided 211 house growing operations. During the 1980's infra-red photographic techniques by satellite would show a single pot plant in a field. This forced the business indoors. Most operations get caught by someone bragging and a supposed friend squealing. Sometimes the smell of ripe buds. Electricity consumption is the other major tipoff. The light systems are very consuming of electricity.
Here in South Florida, indoor marijuana farming is a very lucrative part time enterprise. Even if it is just your closet, or spare bedroom, so says the DEA.
( Information taken from the Miami Herald of Feb. 20th, 2000.)
Another export economic mainstay of the underground economy in Belize has bit the dust.
The drug certification country program by the USA President has become a laughing stock in the USA Congress and Senate again this year. According to recent hearings! Nobody believes the practice anymore in the USA government. It is solely a political tool and weapon to make foreign governments bend to USA trade practices. Mexico never gets de-certified. How can it? All the agriculture off winter season crops have shifted from the southern states to Mexico with NAFTA. The previous USA agricultural lands are now covered with concrete and subdivisions. Nor can you de-certify Venezuela, because the USA needs the oil from Lake Maracaibo. Nor can you de-certify Colombia, even though production of cocaine has increased 5 times since the previous year. The ridiculousness of the excercise leaves many small countries like Belize flabbergasted. Why pick on us, they say? It's politics mon and world trade competition. Just a weapon and strategic skirmish in a larger war for world export slice of the pie. Only the gullible believe this nonsense exercise.