I have read in internet articles that drug cartels were among the aspects of the initial game design (including golf courses and spies1) that eventually were excluded from the game. Poptop felt including a "drug" option might "glamorize" the world of drug dealings and wanted instead to emphasize the socio/political aspects of "cold war" era Caribbean in a way that would be pleasing to everyone.21
I don't think the drug influence will ever play a part of the game for the same reason Poptop changed the "bordello" into a "cabaret" and a "prostitute" into a "showgirl" -- to give the game a little more class2 while still involving the seedier side of --
However, if drug involvement is an idea for an expansion pack, ...3
Yes, the initial outline
of the game included dozens of things - e.g. land vehicles - that sounded good; but reality set in when it actually came to how to boil the ocean in a teacup. There were as many reasons for dropping them as there were for thinking of them in the first place.2
It was NOT to be "pleasing" or to add "class." It was merely to get the "Teen" rating from the ESRB which meant papering over some things so they did not stand out as major selling points. The ESRB is quite flexible as evidenced by the "Teen" rating given "Spring Break"
which has drunkeness, topless beaches, and casual sex on the beach. Deep Red did redefine the bordellos into something else however.3
Apparently the romance of the Hippies and their flower power driven by drugs was inherited from the Flappers, Speak Easies and bootleggers of the 1920s. It also seems that the game doesn't have enough of the "seedier" side of life to suit a portion of the players, and they want to wallow in the pure filth of completely anti-social crime carried out by scum-bags.
If it is essential to satisfying gameplay to bring criminal activity onto the game screen with NPCs doing the deeds, it need not (should not) be limited to 'drug cartels'. Scum-bag crime on the screen should include the full list -- drug trade, bootlegging alcohol & tobacco, pornographry, sex slavery, racketeering, smuggling Mickey Mouse watches and guns, and others. The Isle of Depravity
would surely be a hot seller, don't you think?