smuggling

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California: Marijuana Being Smuggled From U.S. To Mexico

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A recent report by KPBS.org suggests there’s an unexpected development in the story that is the war on drugs. The report says that there is a demand in Mexico for potent California strains of marijuana. Cannabis attorney Matthew Shapiro states that “there is no such thing as high-quality Mexican weed.”

Although equally as unlawful as smuggling contraband from Mexico into the U.S., the process of entering Mexico is a lot easier due to the lack of attention paid to the reversed ideology. A smuggler can cross the border into Tijuana without ever speaking to an official, making the process nearly risk-free.

Dr. Raul Palacios, clinical director at the Centro De Integracion Juvenil drug rehabilitation facility in Tijuana, says his patients prefer the potent California weed as opposed to the marijuana being grown in Mexico. Marijuana in Mexico averages a level of 2 percent THC, pot's psychoactive ingredient. marijuana grown in California, on the other hand, can reach a THC concentration level of 30 percent or higher.

Mexico is closely following the laws being passed in the U.S. regarding the marijuana industry. The $1 billion in tax revenue that California has generated makes it tempting for the Mexican government to follow its example.

Arizona: DEA Agent Echoes Message of Billboard Supporting Marijuana Initiative

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The Independence Day-themed ad highlights benefits of regulating and taxing marijuana in Arizona: ‘Adults could buy American and support schools, not cartels’

A 23-year veteran of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) who spent years investigating Mexican drug cartels is throwing his support behind the initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Arizona and echoing the message of a billboard supporters launched this week at Tempe Marketplace.

“If Arizona regulates marijuana, adults could buy American,” reads the Independence Day-themed ad, instead of buying marijuana that has been illegally smuggled across the Mexican border into Arizona.

It also notes that revenue from regulated marijuana sales would “support schools, not cartels.” The proposed initiative would initially generate $64 million in annual state tax revenue, including $51 million for K-12 education and all-day kindergarten programs, according to an independent study conducted by the Grand Canyon Institute.

Louisiana: Fishermen Find Brick of Marijuana On Beach

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Capt. Theophile Bourgeois and his clients on Friday discovered a brick of cannabis while walking along an island beach in the Chandeleur chain off the Louisiana coast.

"It was half in the sand, right up on then beach," Bourgeois said, reports Todd Masson at The Times-Picayune. "My clients were like, 'What do you think it is?' I said, 'I'd bet my left nut what that is.' It was dark; I knew it wasn't cocaine. I said, 'That's weed.'"

They used to be called "square groupers" -- the stray bales of marijuana that occasionally washed up on the Gulf Coast, by-products of a thriving black market that brought weed into the U.S. via the Caribbean.

The anglers cut open the brick to check, and Capt. Bourgeois' suspicions were confirmed. "It was solid seeds and stems," he said. "It stunk. It was skunk weed."

The cannabis was very compressed, according to Bourgeois, and he estimated the weight of the brick as between 15 and 20 pounds. It appeared to have been lost at sea for awhile. "It was old and waterlogged," Bourgeois said.

"It was on the bay side, which meant it made its way through current and came around," he said. "It looked pretty damned old."

Arizona: Smuggler Arrested, 495 Pounds Of Pot Seized

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A drug smuggler was arrested and 495 pounds of marijuana were seized last week according to a press release from the Pinal County Sheriff's Office in Arizona.

A deputy observed a red SUV on May 25 make a sudden turn off of Papago Road near Maricopa. The SUV sped away from the patrol car.

The deputy followed the SUV and saw it driving in circles at high speeds between fields where workers were present.

The SUV was found abandoned and an unknown number of occupants fled the SUV into nearby farm fields.

Officers found 22 bales of marijuana in the vehicle weighing a total of 495 pounds, according to a statement from the PCSO.

The deputy found the smuggler trying to blend in to a group of farm workers.

Work crews who witnessed the incident easily identified the smuggler.

PCSO identified the man who was arrested as Aldo Aleman, 19, of Stanfield.

Aleman is being held at Pinal County Jail.

Photo courtesy Pinal County Sheriff's Office

U.S.: Federal Numbers Show Marijuana Smuggling Plummets After States Legalize

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Federal marijuana trafficking offenses are on a steep decline nationwide as more states legalize recreational cannabis.

According to the latest drug trafficking statistics from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC), such offenses have fallen sharply since 2012, the year that Colorado and Washington residents decided at the ballot box to legalize weed, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post.

The decline continues through 2015, the most recent year for which numbers are available.

"The number of marijuana traffickers rose slightly over time until a sharp decline in fiscal year 2013 and the number continues to decrease," according to the report. This, mind you, while trafficking in other drugs -- particularly meth and heroin -- appears to be on the rise.

The USSC's numbers show that at the federal level, marijuana trafficking is becoming less of a problem. Legalization could be reducing demand for black market sales, state prosecutors could have changed how they charge defendants, or there could be another explanation altogether. The data doesn't provide enough details to draw a conclusion, according to researchers.

Texas: Border Officers Find 1,400 Pounds Of Marijuana Stuffed Into Coconuts

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

On May 9, the Customs and Border Protection's Office of Field Operations at the Pharr (Texas) International Bridge cargo facility found 1,423 pounds of marijuana hidden in a commercial shipment of fresh coconuts.

According to a news release, CBP officers discovered the marijuana on a tractor/trailer hauling a commercial shipment of coconuts from Mexico.

With the help of a canine team and a non-intrusive imaging inspection officers discovered 2,485 packages of alleged marijuana hidden in the coconut shipment, the release said.

The drugs, valued at approximately $285,000, were seized by the officers. The case is under investigation by Homeland Security Investigation special agents.

Mexico: Marijuana Farmers See Profits Tumble As U.S. Legalizes

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The loosening of marijuana laws in the United States has increased competition from American growers, apparently enough to drive down prices paid to Mexican black-market cannabis farmers.

Small-scale growers in the state of Sinaloa, one of Mexico's biggest marijuana production areas, said that over the past four years the per-kilogram price has fallen from $100 to $30, reports Deborah Bonello at the Los Angeles Times.

The price drops appear to have led to reduced marijuana production in Mexico and a drop in trafficking to the U.S., according to officials on both sides of the border.

"People don't want to abandon their illicit crops, but more and more they are realizing that it is no longer good business," said Juan Gerra, Sinaloa's secretary of agriculture.

For decades, in an impotent and ill-fated attempt to stop marijuana cultivation in Mexico, both the American and Mexican governments have paid farmers to grow legal crops, and have periodically sent in Mexican soldiers to supposedly "seek out and eradicate" cannabis fields. Just as often, the troops merely demanded a piece of the action.

Those efforts, of course, failed miserably to stop production, because marijuana was still more profitable than the alternatives. It took legalization in several states in the U.S. to actually make a negative impact on Mexican cannabis production; it's not rocket science and doesn't require a genius level IQ to comprehend.

Kansas: 80-Year-Old Marijuana Dealer Pleads Guilty In Federal Court

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The dramatic exploits of a lifetime of smuggling came to an end on Thursday when 80-year-old Marshall Herbert Dion entered his guilty plea in federal court to running a huge marijuana-dealing and money-laundering operation.

Dion, who owned houses in Massachusetts, Colorado, and Arizona, had $11 million hidden in a North Reading, Mass., storage facility, and once crawled away from a Wisconsin plane crash as thousands of dollars in cash -- suspected drug profits -- floated through the air around him, reports Milton J. Valencia at The Boston Globe.

Under his plea agreement with federal prosecutors, Dion could serve 5 to 7 years in a federal penitentiary, ending a lucrative career that spanned decades until a chance traffic stop in, of all places, Kansas.

“Over the course of the conspiracy . . . he had sold approximately 3,000 to 10,000 kilograms of marijuana,” Assistant US Attorney Leah Foley claimed during a brief court hearing.

"Mr. Dion has embraced his responsibility and is looking forward to the next chapter in his life," said his lawyer, Hank Brennan.

The end began for Dion's smuggling career with a June 2013 traffic stop in Junction City, Kansas. A police officer pulled him over for driving 80 mph in a 75 mph zone; during the stop, the officer searched Dion's old pickup and found nearly $850,000 in cash.

Mexico: Drug Trafficker 'El Chapo' Is Folk Hero No. 1

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

In Sinaloa State, Mexico, where Joaquín Guzmán Loera -- better known as El Chapo -- was born, the notorious drug trafficker's spectacular escape through a hidden tunnel under what was supposed to be the most secure prison in Mexico has enhanced his status as an outlaw folk hero.

American officials claim Guzmán has contributed to "the death and destruction of millions of lives across the globe through drug addiction, violence and corruption," yet for many Mexicans, he is a combination of Robin Hood and billionaire, report William Neuman and Azam Ahmed for The New York Times.

El Chapo fought the law, and unlike the Bobby Fuller Four, he won. He beat what many Mexicans view as a corrupt ruling class, and Mexico -- just like America -- loves an outlaw.

“Why do people admire him?” said Adrián Cabrera, a blogger in Culiacán wearing a black T-shirt with a picture of El Chapo. “Because he’s a living legend. He’s like Al Capone. He’s like Lucky Luciano. Like Tony Soprano. Like Scarface. He’s like a character on a television show, except that he’s alive, he’s real.”

North America: Shoe's On The Other Foot - US Weed Now Being Smuggled Into Mexico

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An an interesting case of role reversal, marijuana grown in the United States is increasingly being smuggled into Mexico, according to the DEA.

At one time, Mexico supplied the vast majority of cannabis found in the U.S., but that has changed due to more weed being cultivated north of the border. The high quality of American weed is catching the attention of Mexico drug cartels, reports RT.com.

American marijuana, typically with potency between 10 and 25 percent THC, is, on the average, noticeably stronger than Mexican weed, which averages 3 to 8 percent. American weed, meanwhile, typically sells for three to four times as much as Mexican product.

"I believe that now, because of the changes they're having to make because of marijuana legalization in the U.S., the cartel is pushing more cocaine, meth and heroin. They're diversifying," journalist Javier Valdez told NPR.

"It makes sense," said Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Lawrence Payne, reports National Public Radio. "We know the cartels are already smuggling cash into Mexico. If you can buy some really high-quality weed here, why not smuggle it south, too, and sell it at a premium?"

Kansas: At The Crossroads of 'Marijuana Trafficking'

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

With marijuana laws relaxing seemingly everywhere, the blossoming domestic cannabis industry has increased the quality of pot, and not just in states where it's legal for medical or recreational purposes. Neighboring states like Kansas have become way stations for the high-grade marijuana flowing to more populated cities to the east.

In the past, reports Roxana Hegeman at The Associated Press, most of the weed seized by cops came in the form of compressed bricks, much of it from Mexico and selling for between $400 and $500 a pound.

Just a few years back, 70 percent of the marijuana seized in Wichita was compressed, according to Chris Bannister of the undercover narcotics division of the Wichita Police Department. In contrast, today about 85 percent of the marijuana seized is "medical-grade," Bannister claimed, and just 15 percent is "traditional marijuana."

"The quality is there, the demand is there, and the price reflects that," Bannister said. "And it is driving down the price of traditional pressed marijuana."

"Drugs go east; cash goes west," said Chris Joseph, a Topeka lawyer who handles drug-related traffic cases. "Really the Colorado angle is that it is just a different source, it is not so much that the amount of drugs and money on the highways has really changed."

Arizona: Man Driving Car With 220 Pounds of Marijuana Had Been Deported 11 Times

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A man accused of driving a car carrying 220 pounds of marijuana had already been deported to Mexico 11 times, according to law enforcement authorities along the Arizona border.

Twenty-one-year-old Daniel Jupa-Fino was arrested on Tuesday after he ran from a car when a deputy pulled him over on Interstate 8, according to the Pinal County Sheriff's Office, reports the Associated Press.

The sheriff's office said it later learned from federal authorities that Jupa-Fino had been deported 11 times during the past three years for entering the U.S. illegally.

He's currently in jail in Florence, Arizona, on charges of possession and transportation of marijuana.

A second man who was a passenger in the vehicle was also arrested on marijuana charges.

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