Arizona marijuana seizures hit all-time high

August 7, 2009

Large marijuana seizures are frequent in the sweltering Arizona deserts that straddle the superhighway for people smuggling from Mexico — although this year they are breaking all records. Last month the Tucson sector of the U.S. Border Patrol announced that agents had seized more than 500 tons of marijuana smuggled up from Mexico since October, a leap of about 40 percent over the same period last year.Border Patrol spokesman Mike Scioli says seizures of marijuana – which is grown in Mexico by the country’s powerful drug cartels, and forms the backbone of their profits — have become more frequent as security along the border tightens, with more agents and infrastructure, including miles of vehicle and pedestrian fencing.“Smugglers used to just drive vehicles over the border, now that the fence is in place, that’s prohibited them from doing that,” Scioli said of the barriers, part of 670 miles (1,080 kms) of fencing under construction border wide that block or snag trucks crossing north. “They’ve had to change and do things differently.”Scioli said agents are seizing more marijuana walked north over the searing deserts by smugglers carrying it in backpacks, as well as bundles attached to ultralight aircraft and flown below radar surveillance — which have appeared in recent months in Arizona.Federal border police have also found at least 16 clandestine drug tunnels punched beneath the border city of Nogales, Arizona, since October, which investigators say were used by affiliates of Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa cartel in a bid to avoid beefed up security at the ports of entry.The spike in seizures comes as both U.S. and Mexican authorities battle Mexico’s powerful cartels, which have killed more than 13,000 people since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006.President Barack Obama will fly to the western Mexican city of Guadalajara for his first North American leaders’ summit with Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Sunday, at which the current state of the war to crush the traffickers will be high on the agenda. Meanwhile, U.S. federal police say stepped up enforcement is hurting the drug gangs.“They are finding more resistance from both Mexican and U.S. law enforcement,” said Ramona Sanchez, a special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Phoenix division. “Nowadays the stakes are too high, nowadays they cannot afford to lose a load” of narcotics.But while authorities make security gains, the multi-ton quantities of marijuana seized by border police in Arizona are but a tiny fraction of the total grown by Mexican cartels and smuggled north to meet the demands of an estimated 25 million Americans who smoke the drug.A recent drug threat assessment published by the U.S. government’s National Drug Intelligence Center pegged Mexican marijuana production at a massive 15,500 tons in 2007, the most recent year on record.Furthermore, it noted that the powerful cartels have moved much of their drug-farming operations to remote areas of the Western Sierra Madre Mountains, away from the Pacific coast states of Guerrero, Michoacan, and Nayarit, which had been the heart of eradication programs.The report also highlighted the resilient cartels’ savvy in relocating production, which also sought “to reduce transportation costs to the southwest border and gain more direct access to drug markets in the United States.”For more Reuters coverage of the drug war click here.(Photos: Reuters and U.S. Customs and Border Protection)


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500 Tons from ONE sector last month. A 40% increase. And it’s only a fraction of what comes across the border.”Meanwhile, U.S. federal police say stepped up enforcement is hurting the drug gangs.”There seems to be a disconnect from reality by our law enforcement personnel. The drug gangs are fighting each other not US Law Enforcement Officers. US Law Enforcement seem to be sitting on the sidelines. They catch very little of what comes through. And they admit it. But US Law Enforcement seems to think that they are somehow relevant in stopping drugs from entering the country. I don’t think you could get more people using cannabis if you wanted. Anyone that wants it can get it.If cannabis is the number one crop is several states and it’s illegal, what does that say about efforts to prevent people from using it? Apparently, it’s not working. Prohibition 2.0 isn’t working and neither is any part of the drug war. You can’t keep drugs out of the prisons then how do you expect prohibition to work in the general population?Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results is insanity. And so is pretending that you are winning a drug war when you clearly are not.

Posted by TYC | Report as abusive

After four DECADES of a ‘War on Drugs,’ and seizures still happening all the time, isn’t it time to recognize the futility and waste of this failed ‘War?’Allow American farmers to grow it, TAX it, REGULATE it, and all these seizures and violence come to an end, and we won’t have to pay for people to live in prisons for years to come. 1/3 of today’s prison inmates are there because of drugs, our prisons cost us $200 BILLION a year! With as many as 25 MILLION Americans using cannabis over the last year, we can’t afford to house every ‘criminal’ in the US! With a prison capacity of 3 million, and already full, where would we put the other 22-25 million Americans who ignore this flawed law?It’s time to stop the vilification, demonization and incarceration of non-violent cannabis aficionados! The vast majority of us are home-owning, tax-paying, child-rearing- fully-employed American CITIZENS! Who want nothing more than to relax with a different intoxicant than alcohol (which KILLs 150,000 Americans a year btw, pot kills ZERO).I pay my bills, I take care of my house and neighborhood. STOP oppressing me because of my relaxation habits.Marijuana is less addictive than either alcohol or tobacco, kills ZERO people a year through direct use (alcohol kills 150,000, cigarettes 450,000), WHY is it illegal? WHY am I hunted and decried? I hurt no one but myself, and in America, that choice is supposed to be part of our FREEDOM!

Posted by Fred Evil | Report as abusive

The simple measurement that is key to this discussion is price. Price shows how well supply is meeting demand, if the NarcoNazis were to actually impact the availability of drugs, they would drive the price UP. The truth of the matter is is that Mexican Marijuana sells in the U.S. today (Aug 2009) for the exact same price it sold for 20 years ago ($80-$100 per oz.). Adjusting for inflation alone would mean it needs to cost MORE today to be at the same availability level it was 20 years ago. The fact that it costs the same means availability increased over that time period, and that those fighting the availability of drugs have been LOSING ground the entire time. Fact is those who want to use it, DO. ALREADY. No one in the US who wants to use cannabis is prevented from doing so by unavailability of cannabis due to seizures. The reason they seize the drugs is because the law lets them seize any PROPERTY they can associate with the “drug crime” and they are addicted to the extra money they can take from the cannabis using public with the draconian drug laws. They will prosecute people with stems and seeds on the floor of their car for “distribution” so they can sieze (i.e. STEAL) the car itself. This is the real reason the NarcoNazi’s want drugs to remain illegal, so they can make money off it. They don’t want people to STOP smoking it either, that would also cut into their seizure money.The american people have 2 options:1. Do nothing, leave the laws the same accepting the fact that the marijuana trade cannot be stopped, and accepting the fact that those who want marijuana can easily access it through a Cartel-to-Gang-to-User distribution system and accepting the crime and jailing costs associated with that failed system. Accept that we’ll send millions of dollars to Mexico for a noxious weed.2. Realize that marijuana prohibition is unenforceable, and actually CAUSES more crime than it prevents. Change the laws to regulate the access as is done with alcohol, tobacco, automobiles and firearms. Receive tax income from an AmericanFarmer-to-AmericanDistributor-to -User distribution system. Realize that there WON’T be any appreciable increase in marijuana users in the US because those who would choose to use cannabis are already doing so. Allow the millions (or billions) spend on marijuana to remain in the US and NOT have the dollars leave the country yearly to buy a noxious weed for $100 per ounce.

Posted by x1134x | Report as abusive

There is only one way to stop the cartels, and it happens to be the least violent. Legalization. You can kill off as many as you want, meanwhile sacrificing your own soldiers, and more people will step up to take their place.In the meantime, if we legalize, we will stop arresting non-violent people here in the US and sending nearly a million people to jail (aka crime college) every year. – Basically we will stop producing criminals as a society.Also, marijuana will be vastly less available to minors. Drug dealers don’t ID, they don’t have health & safety inspections, they don’t follow city zoning guidelines, and they would be happy to get kids hooked on something else that would be more profitable for them. If you think marijuana would be more available than you are naive and in denial, because you’re basically saying you would rather them get it from the criminal I mentioned instead of a coffee shop that would turn them away because they don;t want to lose their license.

Posted by mike | Report as abusive

Abolish the controlled substance act and treat alcohol and drug abuse/addiction as a health problem and not a criminal problem.

Posted by muggles | Report as abusive

Making marijuana legal would cause more bad than good for the country.

Posted by Bobby B | Report as abusive

Please take into consideration the roll of the privatized prison system in conjunction with the prison guard union influence. It is enormous.

Posted by Barry | Report as abusive

when auto crashes killed people, seatbelts were installed. when booze was killing young people, an age limit was enforced. lets wake up, when 13000 people are killed in 3 years in mexico, an a few gangs profit from it in mexico & 25 million smoke the herb in the united states alone, whats wrong here? if it were leagle here,grown here packaged here, taxed here there would be hundreds of millons in tax money collected from the 25 million souls who smoke it here, then we as a country would not be spending 500 million dollars to keep it out.if just the 25 million who smoke the herb were taxed 1 dollar a day, that would be 25 million dollars multiply by 7 days equals 175 million dollars multiply by 52 weeks would be 9,100,000,000.00 in tax money a year. that would pay few bills, & a few punks below the boarder would not have the man power, nor the fire power to fight legal goverments!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by lloyd alford | Report as abusive

The people that say make pot legal, are users themselves, and don’t care what this would say to our children. A lot more people will try it if they believe it is safe and legal. There are plenty of studys done by responcible organizations that prove how damageing smoking dope is. The pot heads choose to ignore these studys. They are hooked on the weed and will always promote using it, I say this to the potheads, GO GET SOME TREATMENT AND GET CLEAN, and stop trying to corupt our children you vermin!!!Otto Hedrick

Posted by ottohedrick | Report as abusive

Otto Hedrick is so off the mark with his comments (although he is entitled to his opinion no matter how wrong it is).I have researched the use of Marijuana and i have never found any “independant studies” that have concluded Marijuana use is harmful. The studies i have found that do say this have a different agenda in mind, these are mainly drug companies and government agencies. If you are truly against drugs that harm our children then we need to get rid of alcohol, tobacco, tylonol, and all other “legal drugs” Tylonol is probably the most abused drug on the market. I can walk down any street and see signs “London DRUGS”, Save-on-food and DRUGS. there are liquor stores or bars on every block. lets get rid of some of the debt that the Bush and Harper administrations have left for our grandchildren and legalize cannabis.

Posted by Andrew | Report as abusive

My advice for anyone accused of a marijuana distribution or production offense is plead not guilty and read Hank Rearden’s speech to the court from Atlas Shrugged in your defense. The day has passed when twelve of your peers could be found who would be willing to lock you in a cage for decades because you had the courage to grow, trade, or consume the most useful plant on earth. Hand out Fully Informed Jury Association leaflets at the courthouse on the day of jury selection. Jury nullification is bound to play a central role in ending cannabis prohibition!Free Marc Emery!Install Ron Paul!Go Kopbusters! v=1-WPhkkPkEM 2k

Posted by jack mcguirk | Report as abusive

While the arguments surrounding marijuana can range from racist to religious, from erudite to blind, legalization seems to be currently carried on the prevailing wind. We need to look beyond the old debate to discuss what we’re looking at now, or soon.It’s hard to find exactly what to say about legalization and the cross-border drug war going on; while legalization in the US will bring significant domestic economic gain, what then happens to the cartels? I don’t think they’ll suddenly go away, or give up, but what WILL they do to maintain their holdings? Sure, US legalization of marijuana is the easiest way to deal them a death-blow, but how much fight will they have left in them to muscle into the emerging legitimate marijuana industry? Would legalization end the 1920s-style violent business model, or just reform it into another mafia? Even as a libertarian, I see that the emergent marijuana industry will need HEAVY regulation, if for no better reason than to protect (literally! physically protect) American professionals from violent criminals in the industry’s formative years.As an aside, you don’t need to smoke marijuana to advocate personal freedoms, nor to disagree with the law enforcement/ privatized prison lobby. The arguments about pot’s impact on families and society is nothing different from alcohol, tobacco, or any other form of self-destruction. As a parent, its MY job to raise my kids to be responsible, not my government’s.

Posted by Ben | Report as abusive

Prohibition on something that grows naturally does not work. True or False?Alcohol kills over 100,000 a yearTobacco 400,000Cannabis 0The only thing a person has complete control over is their own body, and we demonize people for making decisions that does not affect anyone else but themselves.”The land of the free? whoever told you that is your enemy”-R.A.T.M.

Posted by Easy | Report as abusive

Marijuana has been propagandized for so many decades now that it seems there is a collective blindness when it comes to the facts surrounding it. In the early part of the 20th century the original source of propaganda was the cotton industry, which wanted to destroy its competition from hemp (which was cheaper to produce and a much stronger, longer-lasting textile). In this century, if the legalization of marijuana becomes a real possibility, you can bet that the pharmaceutical and liquor industries will jump into the fray feet first, since they have the most lose, financially. It wouldn’t be the first time that corporate interests were set above the public good (cigarettes being a prime example).I’ve seen several news sources recently cite the poll where 44% of Americans say they think pot should be legalized. But what I’ve rarely seen cited is that in the same poll, 51% of responders said they believe that alcohol is more dangerous than marijuana. Maybe there’s hope for us yet!I know darn well that 44% of Americans don’t smoke pot, so that can only mean that even non-users are beginning to realize that it makes more sense to regulate and tax it, since prohibition is obviously not working. Did we learn nothing from the prohibition on alcohol?? Organized crime syndicates were sorry to see that end, just as they would be sorry to see marijuana prohibition end today.Do some people abuse marijuana? YES, of course. Does that abuse have the same deadly repercussions as alcohol abuse? NO, not by a long shot. As a taxpayer, I would rather we MAKE money from pot instead of spending billions fighting a losing battle. That would leave plenty left over to spend on treatment programs for the tiny percentage of users who will always be wont to abuse any substance.For those of you who are vehemently opposed to legalization, whether you want to believe it or not you know someone who smokes pot. We are in every strata of society and in every age group. Most of us are normal, responsible people that you would feel comfortable inviting into your home. And if marijuana is eventually legalized, the only thing that will change is that neither of us will have to watch our tax dollars being wasted on a drug war that can never be won.

Posted by Drug Test Diva | Report as abusive

[…] thru the desert. Better stay back in Misery, we dont want you helping us out here in AZ… Arizona marijuana seizures hit all-time high Aug 7, 2009 […]

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