Cloud of cannabis smoke envelops Colombian town

The Colombian city of Medellin is famous for coke. The Medellin Cartel was once the largest drug cartel in the world, supplying 90% of the world’s coke. The tale of the demise of its head, Pablo Escobar, was told in the TV series Narcos.

Medellin was the world’s murder capital in the 1990s, with deaths peaking at 381 per 100,000 residents in 1991. (Tijuana in Mexico is today’s murder capital and has a mere 138 murders per 100,000 people. The worst US city is Jackson, Mississippi, with 99.5 per 100,000 folk.) Medellin is back in the news now for drug-related reasons on account of its northern suburb, Bello. This has a population of half a million people and was recently enveloped in a cloud of cannabis smoke.

Bello looks much different during the day and without dense cannabis smoke. Photo: Reg Natarajan

Where all that cannabis smoke came from

Two weeks back, police and soldiers seized 1.5 tons of cannabis from local dealers, some of whom opened fire. Early on the night of Tuesday 12 July 2022, police officers had the brilliant idea of burning the confiscated dope. They didn’t first check the weather. This was a massive error. Heavy winds moved the cloud of cannabis smoke over Bello. One resident, Edilberto Castaño, appeared on TV. He raved about “very horrible smoke” and “a tremendous smell of marijuana that stopped everyone.”


Officials reassured citizens that there was no danger of fire, which all that smoke made residents fear. They did, however, order the evacuation of several blocks of flats. There were no injuries. Personnel from the police, army, fire department and Attorney General’s Office were all involved.

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