Chile’s Status as Marijuana Destination of Choice Confirmed by Record Bust

Latin America

The seizure of a marijuana shipment of over 4 tons in Chile in November, the largest drug bust in the country’s history, has confirmed that the Chilean market makes it a destination of choice for Colombia’s marijuana smugglers.

On November 19, the Chilean navy seized 4.2 tons of ‘cripy’ marijuana on a boat off the coast of the southern region of O’Higgins, with an estimated street value of $25 million. The shipment came from Colombia and six Colombian nationals were arrested on board the vessel.

According to Chile’s director of investigative police, Hector Espinosa, the drug was set to be distributed across the country, while O’Higgins chief prosecutor, Javier von Bischoffshausen said that Chilean authorities had been tracking this drug ring for nine months.

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Chile has been increasingly targeted by Colombian drug traffickers in recent years, especially due to its demand for the highly potent ‘cripy’ strain of marijuana.

Drug busts of marijuana have been steadily increasing. In 2017, 426 kilograms of Colombian cripy was seized in Santiago and in 2018, a seizure of 853 kilograms of cripy destined for Chile was made in Peru.

At 15.10 percent of the population, Chile ranks first in Latin America and fifth in the world for cannabis consumption per capita, according to UNODC’s most recent statistics.

Cripy has become Colombia’s newest international hit. It was long produced principally for domestic use but recent seizures have indicated a shift towards Latin American markets in Trinidad and Tobago, Central America, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia and Chile.

InSight Crime Analysis

The flow of cripy into Chile is rising rapidly and is set to continue. This most recent seizure in O’Higgins is almost ten times larger than the country’s second-largest seizure just two years earlier.

This suggests that Colombian traffickers have gone from a foothold to a stranglehold on the Chilean market over the last two years, seeing it as a priority destination for their crops and one which is a lot closer than North American markets.

In an attempt to tackle rising drug trafficking, Chilean president Sebastián Piñera recently deployed troops to the country’s border region with Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. But the government is yet to devise a plan to specifically tackle Colombian marijuana trafficking. And while previous Chilean governments advocated decriminalisation of drug use, that of  Piñera is resolutely against the idea.

Chile’s higher than average consumption of marijuana may be attributable to its successful economy and growing middle class. As the second wealthiest country in Latin America, cripy is somewhat more affordable for the average Chilean citizen than in other Latin American countries. In Chile, Colombian traffickers can sell cripy for as much as $5,000 per kilogram, yielding far more profit than at home.

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