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Cannabis activism in Tijuana

 June 22, 2022 at 6:00 AM PDT

S1: Are you familiar with this sound ? This is the pedestrian border crossing in San Ysidro. Thousands of people cross back and forth every day. We know this.
S2: But what you might not know is that a lot of the border crossers from Mexico are also cannabis consumers , and they often make a quick stop at a special place before going to work or school. Whatever.
S3: Whatever. Belief in San Isidro. The founder. My name is Wilson , where we're in San Ysidro drive by the Tijuana border.
S2: Will is the founder of Urban Leaf , one of the more famous weed shops across California , and he's also one of the most influential people in the industry here.
S1: Recreational cannabis was legalized in California in 2016 , but in the early years , local regulations were constantly changing. And when Urban League first opened its doors , it wasn't an easy time to break into the business.
S3: I mean , it was a scary it was a scary time , right ? It was when San Diego was , you know , far more conservative than it was today. And our doors were kicked in at 6 a.m. and you didn't know what was going to happen. It was a scary time. We're thankful every day that we don't have to live in that world anymore. But it took a decade to get San Diego to that point. Right. And there's a lot of risk.
S4: Personal risk that you you know , you you see from making that jump very early , I mean , first person through the door normally get shot. It's a scary.
S1: This is port of entry.
S2: Where we tell cross-border stories that connect us.
S1: I'm Alan Lilienthal.
S2: And I'm not the Lone Cell. For years , marijuana went north , tons smuggled from Mexico into the U.S.. And drug trafficking in Mexico gave drug cartels money and power. And these fueled a lot of violence all around the country.
S1: But ever since weed was legalized in California and other states , the amount of marijuana found by Border Patrol agents has gone way down. Seizures declined 78% from 2013 to 2018.
S2: Now it's the other way around. Mexicans are going north to buy weed and California weed is going south. In Mexico , illegal. Here's Wilson of Urban Leaf.
S3: Again , California in general has the best weed in the world. You know , California cannabis is the brand.
S1: So when we interviewed some people who crossed the border to buy it or believe their cross-border experiences as weed consumers were pretty similar.
S5: I work over here , so I cross every day and just we come over here just for weekends.
S3: I usually buy our girls. I'm lazy , so I just buy the pills are ready to go and edibles.
S5: The different types like the names and the THC. I mean , it's different. There's a lot of different shoots. Yeah , it's better over here. Yeah.
S2: Yeah. For example , they all talked about the experience of buying marijuana in the U.S. and pressing with it. But the one.
S5: I mean , there is a method and there is a rule and it's just always keep everything on your body. But technically , there are rules that they can check everything in your car , but they can't really do that to you unless there's another reason or anything like that.
S2: And we have mentioned this before. This two women also told us about how a lot of Mexicans really don't have a good perception of cannabis.
S5: I think that people in Mexico really need to stop viewing cannabis in such a negative light because I will go over as in right now I'm going to go camping and it's with a bunch of Mexicans and they're just like when they smell it around like , disgusting. So we really need be more open minded as Mexicans because I feel like Mexico is very controlled by drugs that don't need to be controlled. Like that's. Is that even a drug ? It's a plant. You know what I mean ? But that's my personal opinion. But I think that it would just diffuse a lot of the things that are happening , you know , just that just for a plant that is being sold.
S1: I mean , it's obvious that we to consumers who live in Tijuana and have a visa or dual citizenship , they're going across the border to buy wheat.
S2: But here's the other thing about this one. It is a border town with a lot of potential in the cannabis industry. And a lot of people think the city could benefit economically when cannabis gets legalized. Yes.
S1: Yes. And it's not only dreams and fantasies. Tijuana already has a bunch of weed entrepreneurs and activists there just waiting for the green light. Hello.
S4: Hello. My name is Lisa Fletcher. I am an attorney here in Mexico. The state cannot tell you what to do or what not to do , especially with the way you conduct yourself on life. So if you want to drink , well , you can go to the liquor store and buy a drink. If you want to smoke , you can go to the liquor store and buy a smoke. Why is it that something like cannabis is so blocked ? And we started researching and we started reading , really reading. And while we found out that it's a basic human right issue.
S3: I left the Manila part of the road and I see a. We sell everything that you need to grow like nutrients , light grown rodents , all all the tools , all the accessories that you need for that. My name is Peter Gastelum , and I'm the owner of the kind of high club , the high high club with a smoke shop. We hope we can be the first one selling weed in the corner. We're trying to refocus on not just the smokers , not just the regular stoner , where we think we can focus on CBD. We can we can help the whole society with with the weed.
S2: Today in Port of Entry.
S1: We continue with stories about crossing the border to change minds.
S2: In this episode , we introduce you to some influential characters in the cannabis industry from both sides of the border.
S1: Thank you for listening.
S2: Somewhere , someone. E. A son was a welder.
S1: So there's a lot of folks in Tijuana that want cannabis legalized and they're pushing back on conservative ideas that stigmatize weed here.
S4: We are a culture based on religion , based on family , based on some core values that maybe don't go according to the myth of the cannabis. It's funny because when you talk to an older person or to a mother , to a father , to a grandparent , and they see a guy on the street like a homeless person , they say , oh , look at that , that marijuana. Yeah , that's that's the phrase. Look at that junkie. When he's far , far away from marijuana as possible , marijuana won't even do anything to that person.
S2: This is Luis ology again.
S4: But they have that concept that was very , very put in their minds by television , by a narrative that was put on the agenda a few generations back. And we have to exterminate that by educating people.
S2: Luis is a young lawyer who considers himself an activist. He specializes in civil cases and human rights and pushing for legalizing weed.
S1: In the work Luis has been doing , along with his Tijuana law firm , has definitely impacted the process of legalizing cannabis in Baja , California.
S4: The Supreme Court has resolved that since a few years back ago , that cannabis it's not an illegal substance. So they ruled that it's not a dangerous substance. They can use it as a a treatment for certain diseases. On that issue , we we thought that that the best way to make activism , legal activism , real legal activism on cannabis is by pushing we have certain tools that we can push forward , and I believe we can do it.
S2: You might be wondering , what tools is he talking about ? Well , remember or last episode where we talked about a young politician named Juan Carlos who had a legal protection called Amparo. Well , Luis is part of the law firm who made this possible for him.
S1: Amparo is a legal document that allows personal use of weed in Mexico. Based on that , Mexico's Supreme Court ruling a few years ago that decriminalized cannabis. It's like an individual permit to possess and use weed , even though it is still technically illegal. It's complicated. Luis and his law firm decided that they could charge a very affordable amount of money to process these. Amparo was for all kinds of people.
S4: Started going on social media. And like we say , that Tijuana is a ranch. Everybody knows each other one way or another. I mean , if you're in a gap age from 35 below , I think , you know , most of the people around here , at least we have a friend in common. So we we started pushing the narrative and mostly speaking about it.
S2: Luis and other weed activists are really focusing on getting weed fully legalized in Baja California by pushing more and more people in Baja to get this in bottles.
S1: Why Baja ? Well , some people from other parts of Mexico perceive Baja , California and Tijuana specifically as very Americanized. Luis agrees.
S4: We're into inter-cultural connected. Most of us were. We crossed to the United States , to this and that , to have fun , etc.. So I think that mix between cultures have given us a little bit of more of an open mind.
S2: Yeah , I guess this is why many people believe Baja California is much more open to the idea of legalizing cannabis than other states in Mexico because we have always been exposed to California's culture.
S4: Like all the migration happening in California and in Baja , California came to to give us a different mindset from from from everyone we adopt. I think we as as friends , we adapt to what's coming. And we are not afraid to try something new. And I think as pioneers on this , on the cannabis industry , we can't stay back. We have an obligation because we're neighbors with the most powerful and the most most the most innovative industry of cannabis in the world.
S1: And living in a border town like this means getting inspired by both sides of the border. This is why Tijuana already has many cannabis entrepreneurs with very creative and solid businesses.
S3: Like a gun shop , which are also on my list of almost as many.
S3: We are the only store that sells these products in , I think , all the north part of the country.
S1: My lady and his brother are the owners and creators of Border Growers Shop , a store in downtown Tijuana that provides almost all the supplies you need for growing cannabis.
S3: We don't we don't sell seeds. A lot of people ask us like a you have seeds , but we can't do that right now because of the legal situation in Mexico. But we sell everything that you need to grow , you know , nutrients , lights , growth and all the tools , all the accessories that you need for that. A few years ago , I went with my brother to Humboldt , California , to look for some learning. You know , it was impossible to do it in Mexico. The only place that we can go to learn was California.
S1: But Mallory and his brother , it didn't work at Humboldt for too long. They visited multiple farms to learn and eventually met a guy at a bar in Trinity County and ended up working for him for four years. Man.
S2: Man. They learned a lot about growing cannabis while they were up in Trinity and when they decided to go back to Tijuana , they wanted to start a business without getting themselves involved in anything illegal.
S3: We came from a very loving , regular family. No illegal activity. So we don't want to get her mom worried , you know. So we find this as an opportunity to get a step ahead to the industry that is coming in Mexico. And we are one of the first companies like legal companies in Mexico. There are importing legally this products and bringing to the people.
S1: Starting in the world of cannabis cultivation is not simple. Many factors have to be taken into account before raising the first satisfactory flowers.
S2: And trying to cultivate marijuana in a country where it hasn't been legalized adds more difficulty to this job.
S1: Marla says. They are very respectful of the privacy of their clients , and they always recommend having legal assistance.
S3: We only talk about like growing methods , like techniques or some nutrients and stuff like that. We don't never talk about Where are you doing that ? How many pounds you get for your lights or nothing like that. California has like very specific grow method and it's very hard to make it in. In Mexico.
S1: Not legal.
S3: It's not possible now because it's outdoor , you know , it's outdoor and indoor growing. It's a whole different ballgame , definitely. You know , you have to like have a lot of like control of environment.
S2: But when that changes.
S3: Actually Mexico is like the perfect weather to do it.
S1: Bordeaux grower is a business with solid inventory. They have around 400 products and 90% of their sales are online. So they ship a lot of products to other parts of Mexico through e-commerce.
S2: But look , Mexico's mail delivery system is not the most effective. And sending large shipments to other parts of the country has its challenges.
S3: Everything that that travels from Tijuana to the south part of the country has to pass the Dos Puntos inspection inspection points. So people are like taking your package in a there is no like importation document and there is an interpretation that all of our products are imported. I need you to to deposit $303,000 in this OXO account the first time we pay. The second time we were like , you know what ? What are you doing is illegal ? So I'm going to do something 10 minutes later. Oh , we found a document. My name is Peter Costello and I'm the owner of the kind of high club.
S2: Burger Salem's Tijuana High Club hopes to be the first to sell legal weed in Tijuana.
S3: Here in Tijuana , you can get a lot of jobs. Yes , talking English and doing the hustle. Like if you try to make money , you just try to sell something or or connect someone. And that was my job. I went to state to Mexico City , and then I came I came back and I'm like , Oh , I have all these years.
S1: To describe Tijuana High Club , THC for short. It is many cool and creative things mixed into a smoke shop where they sell all the essentials to consume cannabis like bongs , vaporizers , organic wraps , etc..
S2: And like many businesses in Tijuana , it all started with a very simple idea , and it eventually became something with the bigger vision.
S3: I ran into this friend that he was selling bongs. Then I told him like , Hey , I can take good pictures of your stuff , okay ? I pay you with bongs somewhere. You come with me. I sold your bank. I was in you in a smoke shop. My friend told me , okay , you're in the place. I gave you the have and we start. And then he give me the money and I had all kinds of friends. So I told him , like an architect friend , Hey , can you bring me a render and all this stuff ? And that's how it started. And then I contacted my , some of my friends , that graphic designers , and that's how we came up with all this. All these ideas.
S1: Of High Club is way more than just a smoke shop. Pedro has created a solid community over the years , and he wants his business to be for everyone , not just weed smokers.
S3: Most of the people across the states in. And right now , if you got a grandma or your your mother , you recommend CBD or something with related. Even if you don't smoke weed and as long as it doesn't get me high , I can try it for most people right now is like more open about that.
S2: Pedro sees huge potential for Tijuana Highcliffe.
S3: And to be honest , is going to have him come here. So I think it's going to be great. There are already super big names in the in the industry. And while I look at the Mexican market , when it has a lot of potential , many , many people are uses already and they don't have the same quality as American companies. So I think they're going to great in Mexico.
S2: The vision Pedro has for THC is unique. He is creating different spaces for other people. We created businesses in Tijuana and even artists. Yeah.
S1: Yeah. For example , he wants to build a music studio where a bunch of people can collaborate together fashion designers , photographers , musicians , and start a ceramic workshop to.
S3: The idea that I had is that we're going to build this cafe. So everything everyone is going to you can come in and there's nothing to hide any here. We're going to build a music studio , so I'm going to invite people to that and maybe we can start a podcast , something like that. And everything is going to be connected to one type of.
S2: THC is already well known in Tijuana , in part because they have a few locations around the city and there are around 20 other smoke shops in Tijuana.
S1: But of course , the success of Tijuana High Club and the other businesses similar to this one and all the ideas that Pedro has visualized for the future , depend completely on the legalisation of cannabis in Mexico. Not about anything , although already that one of them.
S2: E Yeah. Resembles Gwen less.
S4: People like like Pedro who are on this industry they can benefit from let's say in two years everything is going to be legal and there's going to be a ruling and everything is going to be nice. Again.
S2: Again. Louis So let's hear here.
S4: So since they already started on this industry , I believe that they are pioneers on this and they will be able to capitalize on the market because people already know the branding. People know THC , they want a high club.
S1: Louis believes the legalization of cannabis in Baja California could really boost the local economy because tourism in Tijuana has been growing steadily in the past year due to the culinary deliciousness , craft beer and other recreational activities.
S2: Now imagine a city with all this growing tourism plus legal cannabis.
S4: What would I think ? If you smoke cannabis , you're going to want to eat something good. And we have lots of options to eat something good here. The industries that are here on Tijuana Bay by tourism , food experiences , IT services , they can benefit a lot from from the cannabis industry.
S2: But not all Mexicans or even Taiwan insists are in favor of legalization.
S4: We think that if today they asked all of the Mexicans if they are willing to accept the legalization of marijuana right now , I don't think that most of the Mexicans are going to say yes , because we are a culture based on religion , based on family , based on some core values that maybe don't go according to the myth of the cannabis.
S1: So legalization may or may not be in the cards as quickly as Luis and others would like.
S4: The authorities are lagging too much on this , and I think there is not a political will to do it. It's it's not on the political agenda of this administration.
S1: So the thing about weed in Mexico and the reason a lot of our parents and the older generations have such negative views about it is because marijuana has always been heavily associated with the cartels and all the violent things that they've done over the past few decades. Because as long as weed has been illegal , the cartels control it. There really hasn't been any scientific or medical backing to this stigma. It's been purely the association with the cartels. So I think now that things are becoming legal and the actual health benefits of cannabis are becoming more apparent , that stigma is starting to lift.
S4: To the young people. They. I think we are on a very important historic event that we can be part of. And by pushing it forward by legal means , we can be on that part that we can tell our grandkids that we did something. So if you are a 25 year old person and you want to smoke cannabis while you can , you can smoke Canada , you can smoke cannabis comfortably at your house , but you're not making a difference. Educate yourself on what can you do to push forward this agenda. Everyone knows a consumer has the obligation to push forward because it is very easy to just say , I want my rates , but it's not that easy to work within the system to get that right.
S1: There are a lot of consumers in the border region who are looking forward to cannabis legalization in California , me included.
S2: And there are a lot of entrepreneurs looking forward to capitalizing on the industry when that happens.
S1: But as we heard , there's still some political challenges and cultural conservatism to deal with.
S2: In the meantime , we will continue to be part of the cross-border experience like it has been for decades.
S1: But if you want to learn more about the of High Club , go follow them on Instagram at Tijuana High Club. And if you want to know more about Border Grover , you can visit their Web page. Border Grover Adcom.
S2: Don't forget to follow us on Instagram to add port of entry.
S1: This episode of Port of Entry was written and produced by Natalie Gonzalez and Elisa Barba.
S2: Adam Yellow was the director of Sound Design.
S1: Alisa Barba is our editor.
S2: Lisa Morissette is operations manager and John Decker is the interim associate general manager of content.
S1: This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting , a private corporation funded by the American people.
S2: So that eosio in Italy.
S3: Gonzalez notes that most of the.

Cannabis advocates in Tijuana work with the legalized scene in California and get themselves ready for a future where adult-use cannabis is finally legal in Mexico. Not only are they working to get the laws changed in Mexico, they also have to find ways to change the perception of cannabis at the border, which has long been associated with Mexican drug cartels.

Port of Entry is back, this time with a series of stories on how the border can change minds.