Beginning to See the Plight
I mean, it really doesn't fell like the world is imploding. I blame the California sun that has been seeping through the cracks in the blinds and illuminating the entire apartment. The warmth and brightness of the California Sun really warps the brains of the inhabitants. That's why everyone is so breezy down here despite the impending doom and gloom.
"I lost my job. The bank took my house. But it's an awesome day outside. Time to head to the beach."
Pharmaceutical titans generated billions of dollars in trying to manufacture natural light in pill form, yet native Southern Californians get that sort of natural refreshment 300+ days a year, sometimes more. And if you add in those easy-to-abuse medicinal marijuana laws, mostly the placated souls are carrying on without too much of a gripe. How can you really be too pissed off at the world when the sun is shining and you have your pipe filled with finger hash? Oh, and did I mention 99 cent tacos?
Heck, even the Governator wants to legalize it so he can tax the hippies to bail Cal-eeee-four-nee-ah out of debt.
There are three medicinal marijuana dispensaries within (a short) walking distance of our apartment in the slums of Beverly Hills. They have hippie inspired names such as "The Wellness Center" and "Alternative Herbal Health." The closest liquor store is near the freeway. You know you're getting close to the hood when you see bars on the windows in commercial areas, especially this liquor store which has a missing letter in the dilapidated sign above the entrance.
Drive on down to Abby's for all your liqu'r needs. Thursdays specials included buy two boxes of wine and get the third one free.
That liqu'r store is located in the same strip mall as a Yum Yum and an air freight store which I'm positive is just a front to smuggle heroin into the City of Angels.
While reading Mr. Nice, I learned that after WWII, the Japanese mafia (known as the Yakuza) quickly rose to power. In the 1960s, they formed a joint venture with the Triad (Chinese mafia) in order to smuggle heroin into North America using several unorthodox methods. Heroin smuggling is a lucrative venture because it can only be grown in specific regions. Organized criminal entities become wealthy by transporting and smuggling the product... from picking up the product at the origin (Afghani poppy field) to delivering it safely to a major distribution hub (Bangkok) and shipped off to periphery distribution points (Tokyo, Vancouver, Los Angeles) where the product is disbursed into the streets of cities and suburbs all over North America from Orange County to Las Vegas.
That's why cocaine is also a lucrative venture since it can only be grown in remote South American countries such as Bolivia, Peru, and Colombia. Last week, I completed McMafia, which traced all the organized criminal entities after the fall of Communism. The Colombia chapter was eye opening. In the early/mid 1960s, Colombia supplied most of the marijuana to America until horticulturally-minded hippies started growing their own and the demand dropped dramatically.
That's when they turned to cocaine... getting Peru & Bolivia to grow and make the paste and then Colombia chemists transform the paste into the street product. From Colombia, they trafficked the product to the US (via the Caribbean) and Europe (to Spain and Italy via Brazil).
In the 1980s, the big three cartels came together and carved up the American market instead of fighting with each other. Pablo Escobar had Miami. Rodriguez (or the Cali cartel) controlled NYC and the Ochoa Brothers had L.A. The cartels created their own pharmacy chain in order to hide the fact they were importing chemicals to synthesize the cocaine. Imagine CVS coming into existence as a front for shady activity. Hmmm... it makes you wonder...?
The Cali Cartel flat out bought off banks and politicians all over Colombia. They owned the phone company and customs officials and knew who was coming into the country at any given time. They essentially owned the country and everyone worked for them in one way or another.
After the big dogs were killed or arrested in the late 1990s by ramped up efforts from the DEA, their organizations continued on since the heads of the cartels organized a profitable and strong system of production and distribution. In the post 9.11 world, the focus has shifted away from the Caribbean smuggling routes and over to Mexico.
The Colombians focused on the porous Southwest US border to fulfill the fanatical demand for cocaine. They paid off Mexican cartels to smuggle the drugs across the border. That's why the border towns are like the Wild Wild West almost a decade after the shift as those local cartels are battling it out for control of the smuggling efforts into America.
The last few paragraphs of the McMafia eluded to the fact that the Colombian cartels will be shifting their focus off of cocaine since its a dying drug - rich man's drug - and that they are going to look into synthetic drugs and meth.
Once Escobar was killed and the members of the Cali cartel were either killed off or jailed, the cocaine business thrived, as the trade splintered into smaller cartels and spread out. The Colombians continued to supply the cocaine, but it was the Mexican cartels that swooped in and seized the distribution responsibilities. After all, they had the advantage of being a border country to the largest abuser of cocaine in the world.
In the border town of Juarez, across the river in El Paso, TX, Amado Carrillo Fuentes built up an empire. He bought a fleet of planes that would fly down to Columbia to pick up the cocaine and bring it back to Mexico. That continued for years as he accumulated more wealth and power. After a while, the most feared man in Mexico was known El Senor de los Cielos, or the Lord of the Skies.
With the introduction of Nafta, it became easier to smuggle cocaine onto trucks that freely crossed over the borders. In addition, the cartels paid off thousands of mules to walk or drive it over the border. Sadly, the violence that plagued the streets of Colombia shifted to the streets of Mexico as turf battles raged in Juarez and Tijuana, and smaller border towns like Nogales, Calexio, Neuvo Laredo, and Reynosa. The outskirts of the Juarez became known as the killing fields and it was not uncommon to discover mass graves. Gangs killed rivals in public. In one of the most gruesome incidents, one gang walked into a crowded club and executed several of their rivals on the dance floor by cutting their heads off. Just a few more casualties of the drug trade.
At some point, the Mexican cartels started producing crystal meth. It was cheaper than importing cocaine and much easier to make. After a while, cocaine's demand simmered down while crystal meth became more and more popular with almost every aspect of American society. The demand was growing exponentially every day.
The cartels cut deals with biker gangs in the Northwest and in California, who were responsible for distributing the drugs into cities and rural areas. The DEA eventually figured out what was happening and tried to focus on the suppliers. Unlike cocaine or heroin which are both grown, crystal meth is manufactured. They nailed a lot of the American drug companies that were selling bulk ingredients and powder to the Mexican cartels. That didn't stop production. The Mexicans found Chinese companies that would give them the same chemicals and for a cheaper price. They also imported ephedrine directly from India and Thailand.
The result was a crystal meth epidemic that swept across America as tweakers popped up all over the map. The entrepreneurs came out of the wood work and homemade labs sprung up over night in order to cater to their newly addicted clientele. It was easy to make your own crystal meth, since most of the main ingredients could be purchased at local retail stores.
If your neighbor sprinkles a couple of pot seeds in his backyard and grows a marijuana bush, there's very little danger in that. But if your neighbor is cooking up a fresh batch of crystal meth, there's a chance he'll blow both everyone up on the block.
The DEA eventually banned purchases of bulk cold medicine that contained ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. Tweakers would buy up every bit of cold medication they could find at a local drug store, then spend endless hours ripping open the packets and crushing up the pills. They were after the pseudoephedrine, which is a form of speed. That's what keeps you awake when you pop non-drowsy cold medication.
When I was in college, we used to pop trucker's speed or ephedrine, which you could buy at any gas station along North Dectaur Road. It allowed us to stay up all night and party. And by 4am the hair on your arms stood straight up and you were bouncin' off the walls and shaking harder than Parkinson's patient.
I miss trucker's speed.