Sunday, June 04, 2006

Cops see hike in marijuana use

Baguio City - The demand for marijuana is expected to increase by 20 percent this year after police noted a drop in the sale of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride acid or speed), a Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency official said here on Wednesday.

Senior Supt. Oliver Enmodias, PDEA Cordillera director, said the drop in shabu sale was noted in several parts of the country, including Baguio City.

Enmodias said illegal drug users could no longer afford the steep price of shabu so they were turning to marijuana.

The Cordillera remains one of the major suppliers of marijuana and the shift in demand may ignite an increase in production.

A gram of shabu, according to the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), can sell for P1,000, but its street value has risen to as much as P6,000, due in part to a crackdown on shabu suppliers, Enmodias said.

Police said the average shabu user is a low to middle income earner who may not be able to afford the rising drug prices.

A gram of marijuana sells for P25.

Several surveys place the country as the third biggest supplier of marijuana, although PDEA studies indicate that other countries have been underreporting their marijuana production, Enmodias said.

These surveys once reported that the Philippines exports up to $1.4 billion worth of high-grade marijuana, according to published accounts collated by the DDB.

Enmodias said marijuana is prevalent in Mindanao, on the borders of remote provinces like Kalinga and Ifugao, and the vegetable-producing provinces of Benguet and Mt. Province.

He said marijuana organically grown in Kalinga has a pure quality that is priced highly by users abroad. Marijuana grown near vegetable farms has a lower value in overseas markets because of the use of chemical fertilizers in those farms, he said.

Last year, Japan traced its marijuana traffic to the Philippines, and blamed the government for failing to curb the problem.

But the PDEA has assured the Japanese government that it has taken measures to stop the trafficking, including offering farmers in the mountain communities alternative crops to displace marijuana.

Mayor Rogelio Leon of Kapangan, Benguet, is banking on the profitability of anthurium plantations in the town to dissuade farmers from planting marijuana.

Law enforcers have also altered their strategy in fighting the marijuana trade.

Senior Supt. Marvin Bolabola, Cordillera director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, said they would reduce police operations that attack plantations and would instead focus on the interception of processed marijuana.

“We spend so much on [operations to clear plantations] where we cannot arrest anyone because the moment we reach the mountains, the culprits have already fled,” he said.

Enmodias said the government spends at least P100,000 on 80 policemen who walk for hours to remote mountain villages so they can clear marijuana plantations in a single operation.

The PDEA conducted 13 operations last year.

By Vincent Cabreza


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