In Honduras, the mere mention of MS 13 is enough to incite fear in anyone.
MS 13, or Mara Salvatrucha, is a fast-growing criminal organization with great influence on the country’s economy, military powers, and politics. They not only threaten Honduras, but El Salvador as well, and have ties to Mexican drug cartels that only seem to be growing. The gang was established back in the 1970’s in Los Angeles, originally with the intention to protect Salvadorian immigrants from the threats of other gangs in LA. But through the years, they evolved into a criminal organization. They are notorious for their cruelty, and their number 1 rival is the 18th Street Gang.
MS 13 has been making money from the drug trade throughout the region, and lately they have been cashing in on a chemically altered weed that’s been made to be more addictive than cocaine. It’s known as Tiburon, which translates to shark.
According to a VICE article by Jared Olson, MS 13 has been making a killing out of Tiburon though its actual contents and ingredients remain a mystery. “We’ve sold a lot,” says “El Pedro”, one of the MS 13 members who were willing to be interviewed by VICE World News. “There’s a lot of addicts to Tiburon now. It’s almost as addictive as cocaine… Everyone from the youngest kids to really old people consume it now.”
Since the 1990’s, MS 13 has been selling drugs on Honduras’ streets. This area is known for being a major transportation hub for illegal drugs en route to the United States. MS 13 started selling Tiburon, also known as Krispy, before the pandemic hit Honduras. “Every day, we make around 8,000 to 10,000 lempiras ($328-409)”, says El Ardilla, another gang member to VICE World News. He picks up a pack of the mysterious drug. “Now this costs 100 lempiras. Before, it only cost 30 or so. The demand was less. Now it’s 100, and we’re making up to 10,000 a day. It’s our best-selling drug,” he says.
They boast that their rival 18th Street Gang, whom they refer to in local language as Barrio 18, are still unable to get a piece of the Tiburon pie, giving them authority through monopoly of the drug . “They don’t have the same supplier as us,” El Ardilla says. “They’ve stayed with the same old marijuana. With the 30 lempira stuff.”
According to Douglas Farah, a Central America gang expert: “They view Krispy and Tiburon as their ticket into serious drug trafficking alongside the Mexicans.” The gang members refuse to disclose what goes into the making of Tiburon, though some users have jokingly said that it includes gasoline. However, Farah believe, based on some evidence, that the marijuana contents may have been tampered with by adding cocaine. And if it’s true, it could be seriously addictive.
“If you’re a Krispy user, you have a lot more of the effects of harder drugs,” Farah says. “What’s really disturbing is their willingness to sell it to anybody. You’re getting younger and younger people, kids even, involved in the consumption of something that’s even more addictive than marijuana. If the health effects are not widely visible yet, they will be soon.”
It looks like the global cannabis industry isn’t the only one benefiting from increased sales from the pandemic, either. “Sales doubled,” due to the pandemic, El Ardilla says. “Because the whole world was stuck in their house. They couldn’t work, and at the same time, the quality of the weed has gotten better and better.”
The Rise Of Dangerous Fake Weed
MS 13 isn’t a pioneer in developing some kind of fake weed to be sold on the street. While Tiburon is still new, we can only imagine that we’d hear of the drastic side effects later on.
The rising popularity of fake weed, or synthetic drugs that attach the name of marijuana on it to attract lower-income people or those on the street is nothing new. However, people need to understand the differences between them, primarily the fact that synthetic weed being sold on the street is NOT cannabis.
It isn’t easy to convince people, though, until they start suffering from often fatal side effects. Illegal drug manufacturers go to extreme lengths to develop a product that looks like weed. But in reality, there are more than 100 toxic chemicals that have been sprayed onto dried plant, sometimes an herb that looks like bud, to create these synthetic forms of pot.
In the streets of the United States, they are known by different names: Skunk, K2, and Spice are the most popular names. They are also dirt cheap: sometimes as little as $5 can already get you a few hits. Don’t be fooled by the labels either, they WILL lie to you. But it is NOT the real thing. Skunk, K2, and Spice have been reported to produce dangerous effects such as tremors, heart attacks, seizures, strokes, twitching, and even death.
Fake weed is sold not just on streets but by dealers (in person and online), as well as some obscure gas stations. Whether you’re in Honduras, the United States, or any other part of the world, be wary about what you are buying. Stay safe by purchasing from a reputable dispensary instead because one mistake can cost you your life. Or, you could be making people like the MS13 rich – they could be laughing all the way to the bank while you are on your way to the hospital.
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