“This weed is garbage.”
I say it aloud, even though there is no one to hear me. It’s like my testament to the universe. I know that living in Vancouver, one of the very best places for high-quality cannabis on the planet has really spoiled me. However, the bag of weed that I just bought at the bar looks like it was grown in a ditch.
Dedicated to Ariel, Descansa en Paz
I thought Mexican weed had a better rep than this. Most people think that. The truth is most of the good stuff ends up on the streets of Acapulco or Mazatlan.
That’s not to say there are plenty of “dealers” in town, but I’m putting that in quotes because that’s not what they are. At least, not in the Canadian sense.
In Canada, cannabis dealers are entrepreneurs. They run a business and take pride in their work. I know that because I used to be one of them. Sure, I had colleagues who were assholes, but for the most part we didn’t screw around. We were civil rights activists, not just cannabis dealers, and it looked bad politically if we weren’t on the level.
“Dealers” in Mexico, with few exceptions, aren’t really dealers at all. They’re just people who have access to cannabis. It’s infuriating how they don’t seem to care about making money or product quality.
If you’re confused, I don’t blame you. It’s easy to buy weed if you have a connection, right. It’s an old school process, as weed is legal in so many places now, but even back in the day it was straightforward.
You call your dealer. If they have some, they bring it to you. Maybe in your house, maybe they meet you somewhere, whatever. You give them money. They give you weed. End of transaction.
That hardly ever happens here. When you’re visiting as a tourist in Mexico and you buy weed, it’s a one-off, so the process seems similar. Visitors often stay in certain areas, making it easier for locals to find them.
That’s why tourists come home thinking it’s easy.
As an immigrant, and as a woman, it’s a hassle-buying weed here. All of the “dealers” are men, unfortunately, and they all seem to think they’re selling heroin. They behave as if they can string me out on the stuff and lure me back to their house. It isn’t crack, amigo!
Let’s go through a few of the usual scenarios.
Okay, you meet a person who says he sells weed. He sells you some, and gives you his number so you can call him again.
You call him. He asks you to meet him somewhere, so far, so good. And you do, but when you get there he doesn’t have the product. You have to come with him, somewhere, to get it.
This is annoying for a number of reasons. First, who are you and why should I let you take me anywhere? Secondly, I have a busy life and I don’t have the time to follow you around for the whole damn day. I just want the weed. I don’t want to be your friend.
Because that’s what will happen, you’ll be following some stranger around for hours and you’ll be lucky if they have any weed at the end of the stupid little excursion they take you on.
If you try to call them again, they tell you to meet them. And they’ll stand you up.
Yeah, I know, being stood up by a cannabis dealer. Dafuq?
If that does happen, it’s because they ran afoul of the cops or some legit reason connected to law enforcement. But here, you’ll hear excuses like, “It’s raining” or “I can’t find a taxi.”
It seems weird at first. There is a reason for it, and that goes back to the Mafia influence.
The Mexican cartels have a stranglehold on dealers in the bigger cities, especially near the resorts. Selling too much product to residents on a regular basis is frowned upon, as it means less money than selling overpriced stuff to naive tourists. The Cartels here want their “dealers” to stay poor and scared.
Oh, you have a connection with one of your expat friends. Not so fast, that guy buys it from his source and sells it to you at a premium as if you were a tourist. And they will never hook you up directly with the source because then their own personal gravy train ends.
Any “dealers” here who take their business too seriously are reprimanded. And when I say reprimanded, I mean murdered…
That’s what happened to Ariel.
I have no idea if that was his real name. I didn’t know him long enough to find out.
When I write about my experiences here, I change the names to ensure my friends and associates stay safe. In this case, I’m using the real name, because this article is a tribute to Ariel and the good work he was trying to do.
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Ariel was a professional. He was punctual, accessible, and honest. If he didn’t have weed, he said so. Ariel didn’t stand me up or try to lure me back to his house. He answered his phone. You could always find him, or someone he knew, behind the counter at the little taco place he and his family ran to the corner. He was truthful about quality and price.
He was doing well. That was the problem.
Ariel stopped answering his phone. Which was a little weird, because as I said, he was reliable? So I went out to his neighborhood to see if I could find him. He usually operated out of a little restaurant in Puerto’s most easterly barrio, known as La Punta.
A little background on this part of town. La Punta used to be like Zipolite. Scruffy, visceral, unapologetic, a haven for hippies, smokers, and backpackers. My favorite dive bar used to be here. It’s still here; it’s just not my favorite anymore.
La Punta was discovered by developers and hipsters just a few years ago and the result was a mini-Mazunte. It took less than ten years. Now it’s a tourist haven. I have to admit, there’s a restaurant here with great sushi and Thai food that sometimes lures me back, and the organic grocery store is beautiful. Please, I’m not made of stone.
The restaurant is boarded up, not a soul to be seen. It’s the low season, but that’s still not a good sign.
I visit my favorite dive bar. I haven’t been back since then, and I miss it. Awesome meatball subs. I was eating one when I asked the bartender about Ariel, and he casually tells me Ariel’s dead.
A meatball bounces from the sandwich as I tighten my grip on the bread. Red sauce splashes on the white ceramic. I can barely even open my mouth to say,
The bartender is pretty blasé. Which pisses me off, because he’s one of the expat creeps who used to sell me overpriced weed and refuse to hook me up with his source. Ariel was costing him money, too. For all I know he might have had something to do with it.
Yeah, the Mafia asked him to tone it down. And he didn’t so they shot him. Right over there in the street. You want another drink?
No, I don’t. I want my dealer. God damn it.
Since then, it’s been either trips to Zipolite or dealing with the folks who are getting crushed under the Cartels. I know the guys on the ground are scared, so I try not being frustrated with them. It’s above them, as the expression goes. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, they give you a choice. A smallish bag of reasonably priced crap or tiny amounts of decent but overpriced weed that won’t even make a pinner. That’s a nickname for a skinny joint that’s more paper than product. Check out my upcoming article as to why that’s not a good thing.
There must be a grave or memorial for Ariel, as such things are of great importance to the culture here, but I have no idea where it might be. So I used my own powers to build one for him here, on this page.
That won’t put a dent in the power of the Mexican Drug Cartels. But something else will.
We fought for legalization in Canada, and we won. We’ll fight for it in Mexico, and we’ll win here, too. Like the saying goes, never piss off someone who buys ink by the barrel.
Kristy Ambrose is a professional writer, beginning in 2010. Ambrose dabbles in various genres, including short blog posts and serialized novels. Her inspiration comes from gamers, beachcombers, foodies, and her fellow traveling smokers. Ambrose holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.