As marijuana use and sales become legal and make a slow turn into a legitimate industry, there are a lot of people who stand to make profits and see this as a positive, beneficial move on the part of governments and business owners. We are in the middle of a zeitgeist that works to decriminalize and de-stigmatize the use and sales of marijuana. But, within the darker sector of the community, there is the other side of legalizing marijuana: human trafficking markets.
Here, we will examine cannabis farms and the practice of trafficking vulnerable workers to do dangerous work to harvest the product.
Legalization By The Numbers
The legalization of marijuana has gained favor steadily in America. According to an article in NationalAffairs.com, back in 1969, only 12% of the population supported legalizing cannabis use; today, that figure has increased fivefold and tracks at well over 60%.
Its usefulness strengthened the case for legalizing marijuana in certain medicinal cases. Today, though still illegal in the US at the federal level, marijuana is legal in 11 of the states for recreational use. It is legal in 33 states for medical use. Regarding our neighbors to the north, the entire country of Canada has legalized marijuana. So it seems as though there is no slowing down the movement towards legalization.
Human Trafficking: The Darker Side
The dark side of new legalization efforts is the uptick of human trafficking to sell vulnerable people into a new form of slavery where they are taken to cannabis farms and forced to work against their will.
The practice is rampant in Vietnam. Targeted workers are usually immigrants or orphans. They are kidnapped outright, or Vietnamese gang members promise them a better life and then smuggled into London. Most of the journey takes place on foot, and the victims are often beaten so they will walk faster. Once in London, many are locked in houses or flats and forced to work harvesting marijuana.
Those willing to speak out about their time in slavery report dirty conditions of the camps they are forced to live in. All of the slaves are manipulated, controlled, and beaten. The work is dangerous, as it calls for mixing liquids and powders that are not safe to breathe in.
This process often resulted in dizzy spells reported by the slaves. The wires on the heating/lighting lamps are not safe to work with and would often result in electrocution or outright burnings. The windows were covered to block daylight, so slaves rarely know what time of day or night it is.
Fear of Retribution
Many wonder why more slaves don’t run away, fight back, or try to report their experiences. Before they can pull off an escape, many of the slaves are drugged with the actual marijuana they’re producing, with cocaine, or plied with vodka so their judgment is impaired and they are physically unable to escape.
The smugglers also hold each slave accountable for the debt incurred for their journey and travel time and threaten them if they don’t work long enough to pay the debt back. And, simply put, many of them are too frightened to speak.
Throughout their ordeal, most slaves are threatened with death—either their death or their loved ones. The slaves are also threatened with prison time if they try to escape and are so terrified that it never occurs to them that their captors don’t have the authority to do such a thing.
Slaves who do manage to escape are often hunted down and taken back into slavery before they can make any sort of permanent escape.
Consequences of Legalizing Marijuana
There are many negative consequences to legalizing marijuana, both on individuals and out in broader society.
If you or someone you know is having trouble with marijuana or any other drug, we encourage you to reach out. We have many different treatment programs depending on what your needs are and take great care to make sure our patients feel accommodated and well taken care of.
Give us a call today for help.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.