ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mexican drug cartels pay about $20 a kilogram for marijuana at the farm gate in Mexican states like Jalisco, Durango or Chihuahua. Supplies are plentiful, since marijuana will grow just about anywhere in Mexico’s Sierra Madre as long as there is water for irrigation.
Before leaving the small independent farms, the marijuana is pressed into bricks — stems, seeds and buds — and roughly wrapped in burlap.
The farmers are paid by local gangs that either work for a specific cartel or pay protection money to a cartel. The local gang members then transport the marijuana to the border.
If they are working for a cartel, the group will transport it to the border and get paid. If they are independent operators, they may have to pay additional protection money to transport it to the border.
Either way, once transported to border towns such as Juárez and put in a stash house, that same kilogram of marijuana is worth $200.
The marijuana is rewrapped, usually in plastic, and prepared for smuggling into the United States.
Sometimes it is broken down into pounds — 2.2 pounds to the kilogram — for resale here.
Sticking to kilograms, that kilogram once smuggled to Albuquerque or Phoenix is worth more than $700.
And if it makes it to New York City, the price rockets to $1,600.
Source: Federal Court Records and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reports