Venezuela’s interior minister Miguel Rodríguez announced April 22 the arrest of nine people on charges of leading, financing and organizing violent anti-government protests in the Caracas municipality of Chacao. On the basis of "previous intelligence operations," Rodríguez said 10 homes were raided before dawn, netting the nine suspects who, "According to people detained several days before, were handing out money" to demonstrators. He said police have warrants for 15 more who are supposedly directing, "These violent groups engaged in terrorist activities." He added that those previously detained confessed that in addition to cash payments, they agreed to take to the streets in exchange for "genetically modified marijuana." Said Rodríguez: "They give them that drug to get them high and keep them in permanent activity against security forces."

Regardless of whether Rodríguez's claims of a pot-for-protest scam are accurate (and whether he is using the word "terrorist" in a dishonest way)... what the hell could he mean by "genetically modified marijuana"? Well, that phrase is being batted around a lot in South America of late, and (ironically) probably originates with street dealers themselves, to hype their product. A June 2011 report from AFP wire service in Colombia's El Espectador notes street weed being sold in Cali from seeds "genetically modified in Europe or the United States." But while the report is unclear, this almost certainly means indica hybrids, as opposed to the traditional Colombian sativas -- that is, seeds "modified" by traditional cross-breeding techniques, and not recombinant DNA technology! The account also notes that the new variety is being sold under the name "creepy." A February 2012 report on InSight Crime website noted a 3.6-ton haul of so-called "creepy" or "cripa" cannabis by National Police troops in Colombia's Valle de Cauca region, calling the stuff "extra-potent."

Stateside stoners will surmise that this originates in the term "creeper" -- for pot with a buzz that comes on slowly and takes the user unawares. Originally, the word was intended as a warning to wait before smoking too much. But in South America, it seems to have just become another rough synonym for high-potency. In the same way, the word "hydro" has long been used in South America to hype even outdoor pot that is obviously not hydroponic. While there have been conspiracy theories about plans by the biotech biz to develop GMO cannabis, we can assume the so-called "genetically modified" pot on the streets in Colombia and Venezuela is just a bunch of hype.

It's disappointing to see the supposedly progressive Venezuelan government resorting to reefer madness to stigmatize the opposition. But it's even more disappointing to see this kind of imprecise scare-mongering terminology -- with the media cluelessly playing along.