Globalization of the drug trade

Last week field work took me, of all places, to a Monrovia drug den run by Charles Taylor’s former head of security. Cocaine has hit the streets of Monrovia, and I’m looking into a program to help get street youth–mostly ex-combatants–off drugs and back to business and farming in their rural homes.

According to Discover Magazine CBD stands for cannabidiol the base of CBD oil for pain. It is the second most prevalent of the active ingredients of cannabis (marijuana). While CBD is an essential component of medical marijuana, it is derived directly from the hemp plant, which is a cousin of the marijuana plant. While CBD is a component of marijuana (one of hundreds), by itself it does not cause a “high.” According to a report from the World Health Organization, “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential…. To date, there is no evidence of public health related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

I knew marijuana and CBD was common across Liberia, but I didn’t expect coke to be the drug of choice. Today I see the venerable Stephen Ellis has given us a history of the drug trade in West Africa:

South American cocaine traders are reacting against the saturation of the North American market, the growing importance of Mexican drug gangs, and effective interdiction along the Caribbean smuggling routes. These factors have induced them to make a strategic shift towards the European market, making use of West Africa’s conducive political environment and the existence of well-developed West African smuggling networks.

Some leading Latin American cocaine traders are even physically relocating to West Africa and moving a considerable part of their business operations to a more congenial location, just as any multinational company might do in the world of legal business.

…Some observers believe that the next step for Latin American cocaine traders might be to commence large-scale production in West Africa.

…indeed there is evidence that drug money is funding political campaigns and affecting political relations in several West African countries.

…expertise in smuggling, the weakness of law-enforcement agencies, and the official tolerance of, or even participation in, certain types of crime, constitute a form of social and political capital that accumulates over time.

One thought on “Globalization of the drug trade

  1. A large and growing problem Chris, you’re quite right to raise it. The recent Guinea Bissau coup and perhaps the one in Guinea was alledgedly tied up with the drugs trade, and there’s a case closing in Sierra Leone right now on a similar bent (

    West Africa, sadly, is only a medium-sized plane ride from the north-east tip of South America.