A surge of cheap heroin spreading in $4 hits across rural America can be traced back to the remote valleys of the northern Sierra Madre in Mexico, reports the Washington Post. With the wholesale price of marijuana falling, driven in part by decriminalization in sections of the U.S., Mexican drug farmers are turning away from cannabis and filling their fields with opium poppies. Mexican heroin is flooding north as U.S. authorities trying to contain an epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse have tightened controls on synthetic opiates such as hydrocodone and OxyContin.
As the pills become more costly and difficult to obtain, Mexican trafficking organizations have found new markets for heroin in places such as Winchester, Va., and Brattleboro, Vt., where, until recently, needle use for narcotics was rare or unknown. Farmers in the “Golden Triangle” region of Mexico's Sinaloa state, which has produced notorious gangsters and big marijuana harvests, say they are no longer planting the crop. Its wholesale price has collapsed in the past five years, from $100 per kilogram to less than $25. In the U.S., although prescription painkillers remain more widely abused and account for far more fatal overdoses, heroin has been “moving all over the country and popping up in areas you didn't see before,” said Carl Pike of the Drug Enforcement Administration.