What Happens When a Country Goes Dark: Philippines Black Market Cannabis

5 months ago

2016 was quite the memorable year in human history: Brexit, Trump, and of course hitman Rodrigo Duterte who campaigned with his War on Drugs in the Philippines and was elected President.

Already before so-called D30 the Philippines - like most Asian countries - had a harsh position on drugs, including cannabis, but as a developing nation, a Tiger economy even, things weren’t that hard to find. Yet, Filipinos who otherwise are known as some of the leading user generated content and social media adopters and contributors, would generally stay quiet about things online. Even despite all suspecting that law enforcement didn’t really bother about the Internet - at least not for drugs and even for issues like child pornography where many countermeasures and busts are the result of foreign agents leading investigations.

But, while otherwise happily talking and sharing online, when it comes to drugs Pinoys tended to standout because of their absence this time. Even on a popular forum like RollItUp, Filipino activity wouldn’t truly go noticed.

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Duterte shows diagram of drugs syndicate in 2016 - public domain photo

As soon as it became obvious that Rodrigo Duterte was in with a shout, and later after his election, the nation went pretty dark when it came to drugs, especially cannabis. Dealers and users disappeared, if not voluntarily then via (extra-) judicial operations part of Duterte’s “Oplan Tokhang” anti-drug campaign.

While most is focused on the local “Shabu” (crystal meth), the zero tolerance policy is real and definitely a deterrent. How couldn’t it be given Duterte’s reputation of previously having led, or at least tolerated, death squads in his origin city Davao. Not to mention the many sound bites which have gone viral around the world.

Let alone the widely reported headcount of Duterte’s war on drugs.


Look man, there's only three reasons why you can't make your court date. One, you're in a hospital. Two, you're in jail. Three, your ass is dead.

Winston, Jackie Brown


So how’s “smoke” now in the Philippines in 2019?

As mentioned, even before D30 things weren’t rosy. While those living in the province could rather easily obtain (semi) decent nugs, in Manila things were slightly different and it wasn’t always easy to get a decent smoke. Volume was ample, quality was... don’t complain if you ended up with male supply. More often than not, you were happy with what you managed to easily score. Personally, for me that often went via a promoter of rock gigs in one of the more respected indie rock venues in the Metro and thus there was a degree of access to supposedly decent quality. But I also recall the odd time of receiving males.

Those living on other isles could often score nugs, even nicely trimmed stuff because there’s more growing opportunities in the province. The typical small village mentality and gossip is a bigger killer in most areas of the city than it is in provincial life. Weird but true.

Recently I went to visit a friend in a lesser affluent area of the Metro. Not a slum area but definitely an area at the lower end of the financial ladder. Just outside of one of the main business districts, with a guesstimated 40% working population and many of which active in minimum wage jobs. A broadband connection, even the cheapest with 5Mbps only (~$24), is not a default in that area but the exception. Families with 2-4 kids earn between $250-300/month and those are the ones who don’t have to worry too hard about paying rent each month.

Because curiosity tends to kill the cat and there’s way too many stray cats anyway, I wanted to know what the “people out there” smoke nowadays. Those are the areas the unknowing person wanting to score would consider. So I quickly transferred my mate some bucks and told him to get some grass for us and get some for himself too.

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Apologies for the poor photos, but I think both images show sufficiently what you get. Or rather what most people smoke nowadays in the city of Manila. I guess you can understand that this isn’t the type of “nugporn” one cares editing into a great photo.

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That’s right... it’s all just trim and shake. With branches, with seeds (mostly crushed), all incl so to say.

People pay around $2/“teabag” and for most it’s one or two hits from their glass pipe(1). No wonder most have leveled up to crystal in the poor areas.

When I asked my friend how much nugs are and if he could get some so we could smoke them while there: sorry, not available on the market anymore since... you guessed it.

And if it were, they would be outside of the affordable prize range for them.

PS: No, it didn’t even make for a nice cup of tea. ¯_(ツ)_/¯


(1) Not that many people roll, but king size rolling papers have become a rarity as well since Duterte and are only found at few tobacco merchants in malls anymore. At around US$ 4.80 for a pack of 32 RIZLA+ Blue [blegh].
Tags: #philippines, #black-market, #duterte, #warondrugs


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It's rough not having access to good quality buds!

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Having access in general would already be awesome. ;)

Eventually, that leads to quality too.

I did not know that the situation was so detrimental, they are risking their lives and even though the grass is of low quality

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To get a bird’s eye view on things, hop over to this post.

I’ve elaborated extensively in the comments there. There’s also one comment with several news links, long form articles, which give a solid understanding about the situation and also Duterte.

It’s bad if you live in the wrong areas. Really bad.

For expats scoring drugs is pretty much worst (stupidest?) thing you can do because it also opens you up to blackmail. People snitch for food.

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It's extremely bad. Death squads target 'drug users'.

Unfortunately, situation you described in post is the same as in Croatia. Just, weed is a bit better.

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At least in EU there’s a chance for decent laws some day.

When I was in Cologne, Germany, beginning of the century, the Croatian trail was always a good one to score decent quality. :D

It's really upsetting seeing such trash policies ravage a country so badly, the sooner things change the better. Stay safe man!

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Thanks. Best MO since is hit the beach, surfer spots, and hope you have some Australians with contacts. Light up on the beach past 11PM when local life has mostly died and cops are mostly focused on “bar girls” areas.

The two biggest surfer spots on the main isle, La Union and Baler, are rather safe. Plus... you get some quality surfing time. 😁

Oh man. If I got that from my guy I would freak. It must be tough in such countries.

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You become less demanding and enjoy the slightly better stuff you find even more.

There’s a reason why king size rolling papers have almost completely disappeared. Initially when the vape shops took off some years ago you would find them there but... who uses king size papers for their cigs? Especially if rolling tobacco is 2.5x as expensive as Marlboros, 4-5x as expensive as cheap cigarettes?

They always put so much effort to going after the little guy and most of the time the big guys making all the cash walk off scot free. A lot of the times the little guy is just trying to make a few extra bucks to provide for the kids. It's a pretty sad situation bro. Nice looking smoko mate did it just give you a headache? bong on bro. :-)

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Yeah, except for a regional council - which surprisingly was anti-D30 - so far no king pins have been arrested. They weren’t arrested either, they were so-called extra-judicial killings. shrug

I made tea out of it. I can smoke one of that stuff, a second one indeed gives a headache.

Poor Phil people, how are they going to be copping without weed over there 😢. No wonder a friend once told if government find out he's on smoke.io he will be dead. I hope Lord bring them the light from the darkness government create for the nation.

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I have occasionally wondered about what would be the impact of it being known that I contribute to smoke.io.

I think that depending on the gossip generated around it I would definitely expect the cops to arrive, yes. Considering that this is a gossip culture, I would even expect the cops to think that I operate a major drugs org via the internet. Yet, luckily they are poorly funded and don’t have much budget for internet. Or at least such goes the popular opinion, but we also known from child porn cam busts that most operations only happen after foreign agencies got involved and often also led the research to take down involved rings.

Obviously there’s a lot of FUD but no, I will not promote it to anyone that I’m an active contributor here. Better safe than having to pick up the soap.

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Yet, luckily they are poorly funded and don’t have much budget for internet.

How about they legalize MJ and get enough money to use for the nation and also help the health of thousands of people in the country. What happens to our government?! 🤷‍♂️