According to US and Mexican law enforcement authorities, the security crackdown on US borders in the wake of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington has brought drug smuggling to a screeching halt. Sources close to the marijuana trade on both borders confirmed to DRCNet that the cross-border business has virtually dried up -- at least for now.
With National Guard troops joining hundreds of additional Customs agents on both borders, almost every passenger and commercial vehicle entering the country is being searched, Customs spokesman Dean Boyd told the Dallas News. On a normal day, he said, Customs officials in San Diego and El Paso capture about 20 shipments in vehicles, but since the attack that number has dwindled to one or two a day.
"Traffickers watch us very closely, so they know we are on a very tough security footing," Boyd said. "If I were a smuggler, I would not want to be trying to send anything illegal across the border right now."
Anecdotal evidence support's Boyd's contention. "My Canadian guys are scared to cross," a mid-level East Coast marijuana dealer told DRCNet. "They're lined up at the border, just waiting for things to cool down."
It appears the same on the US-Mexico border. "It's been real hard to get, it's fucking tight down here right now," a well-informed source in San Antonio told DRCNet. "It had already tightened up in the last year or so after Clinton hired all those Customs and Border Patrol agents, but now it's real bad," he added. "After they flew those planes into those buildings, they had Laredo virtually closed down for awhile, and now it seems like nothing's moving. But it'll happen again... sooner or later. It's too well-organized and there's too much at stake to stop it forever."
Boyd agreed, citing economic pressure on the smugglers. "How long they can hold shipments is a good question," he said. "These guys have bills to pay, too. They must be getting anxious."
Mexican officials told the Morning News they had noted a reduction in smuggling activity, particularly in the San Diego-Tijuana area, home of the Arellano Felix organization, which supplies the bulk of cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine entering the Western US. "It seems as though the drug dealers don't want to risk seizure of their products with all this extra police activity," said a Mexican federal prosecutor. Mexican officials reported a dramatic reduction in heroin busts at the Tijuana airport as well.
In British Colombia, home to a $4 billion marijuana industry that provides employment to tens of thousands, there is much nervousness. "Rural areas of the province are in a panic," former Grand Forks (BC) mayor Brian Taylor told DRCNet. "This is the time of year when people have money because they sell their crops, but word on the street is nobody's moving anything. The outdoor crop is in -- it was a great year -- but nobody knows where to sell it."
Local prices have dropped in the last two weeks, said Taylor, who operates the Cannabis Research Institute (http://www.cannabisresearchinstituteinc.org), which provides a variety of good and services to medical marijuana patients, including complete grow systems. While Taylor attributed part of the drop to the fact that it is harvest time, British Columbia Marijuana Party leader and pot-seed impresario Marc Emery told the Canadian Broadcast Corporation the border squeeze is driving prices down in the province.
The flipside is that the price of BC Bud will increase on the US side, said Emery. He told the CBC that mules are being offered twice as much -- up to $1,000 per pound -- to run the dope across the border in boats, small planes, or on foot. US consumers will foot that bill, he said.
"The thought that there's increased penalties, or that the United States may shoot on sight, or are a bit jumpier and more security conscious, means there's a lot more marijuana backed up here," said Emery.
Taylor points to at least one silver lining. "The good thing is, our small towns out here are swamped with coke and meth this time of year, but this year our communities are being spared the ravages of hard drugs," he said, alluding to the cross-border bartering of hard drugs for BC Bud. "Here in the rural areas, every year at this time, coke and meth bring down a lot of our young people. The coke and meth come every fall, you can put two and two together." [This also raises the converse issue of whether a scarcity of marijuana could lead to increased use of home-manufactured substances such as methamphetamine in the US.]
The borders have seen previous security crackdowns, most recently in the wake of the arrest of Algerian bomb-carrier Ahmed Ressam crossing into Washington state just before New Years 2000 and after the murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena in Mexico in 1985. But neither of those crackdowns lasted long enough to have a lasting impact on the trade. Whether this one will remains to be seen. Keep an eye on prices.