During 2018, the Policía de Control de Drogas (PCD) – Drug Control Police – began to detect small shipments of Colombian marijuana into Costa Rican territory. The weed was camouflaged in cocaine shipments.

Marijuana and cocaine from Colombia washing upon Costa Rica’s Pacific coast

This called the attention of authorities, who began to try to understand what it meant. However, months passed before it was understood.

On June 2, a patrol boat of the Servicio Nacional de Guardacostas (SNG) – National Coast Guard – intercepted a speedboat with 14 bags of illegal drugs in the waters of the Pacific Ocean, some 180 kilometers from Quepos, Puntarenas.

When they were opened, the packaged contained marijuana produced in Colombia and authorities learned its destination was for national consumption.

A few days later, on June 6, another boat crashed into a rocky area on La Leona beach, in the Corcovado National Park, in Osa, Puntarenas. The tide was responsible for carrying the bags to the beach and onto the rocks.

Again, found was Colombian marijuana. 958 kilos of it. In addition, there were 118 kilos of cocaine.

Less than a week later, on the night of June 12, a speedboat ran aground in the night on a lonely beach in Isla Damas on the coast of Parrita, with a shipment of 600 kilos of marijuana.

With these three cases, the Costa Rican authorities confirmed that the drug trafficking organizations brought back Colombian marijuana back to Costa Rica, a market that they abandoned 11 years ago.

The last cargo of Colombia produced marijuana was confiscated on September 26, 2008. That haul consisted of 3,200 kilos of compressed marijuana, 200 kilos of cocaine and 10 kilos of heroin that was thrown from a boat.

Increased consumption

Security Minister Michael Soto Rojas confirmed Thursday that drug traffickers are again bringing cannabis from Colombia. He did it at the end of a presentation at the legislative commission on Security and Drug Trafficking.

“We are with a new marijuana admission route to the country (…) it is such a popular drug that consumption is increasing because we see it on the street, we make a lot of small seizures and also crack (.. .).

“It is not that there is overproduction because consumption was reduced, on the contrary, it is an increase (of consumption) that we are seeing on the street,” the minister confirmed.

The arrival of Colombian marijuana had been discarded because consumers preferred cannabis from Jamaica, which is known as “high red”, which is stronger because it has levels of 12% to 18% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of the plant.

“This is a criminal resilience, we have squeezed them hard in the Caribbean, not so much we, but the United States, France and the Netherlands, a good job is being done, then the (criminal) organizations look for new ways to supply themselves. They opened a new route, which was traditionally for cocaine, now what must be done is to work very hard to prevent this from happening, I believe the results are seen in the seizures,” he said.

According to Soto, when analyzing the behavior of criminal organizations, they possibly improved the quality of the weed. He does not rule out that they even hired biologists to make plant mutations and improve THC.

“We are working to know the quality,” he said.

Five types of weed in Costa Rica

With the return of Colombian marijuana, there are now four types of cannabis marketed in the country, the Jamaican, the weed produced locally and that which is grown in controlled environments, known as hydroponics.

Minister of Security, Michael Soto (bald) sits to the right of head of the OIJ, Walter Espinoza, before a legislative commission on security and drug trafficking

“Now we have to analyze how the competition will behave, they are going to try to sell a better product to beat the competition,” warned the minister.

Michael Soto said that in the latter seizures were small amounts of cocaine, which according to research, is because the traffickers provide a product to several organizations.

“Organizations look for partners. Two national structures bring in drugs through organizations dedicated to transporting. Be that in a boat or small plane drugs arrive for different groups. It is a business. They are going to take advantage of the resource and then bring marijuana, cocaine and even weapons,” concluded the Minister of Security.

In his report to legislators, Soto said the oversupply of cocaine in the market has resulted in a drop in prices, where a kilo not long ago went for US$7,500, now it sells for US$6,500.

Soto also said homicides (related to drug trafficking) dropped this year, from January 1 to Juen 13 only 224 murders were recorded, 63 less than the same period last year (287).

In addition, there was a drop in crimes against property (robberies, assaults, thefts, and break-ins) of which between January and June 13 of this year there are 22,636 complaints. The figure is 2,002 less than the 24,638 in the same period in 2018.