Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The blind side of Lou Dobbs on War on drugs. B.C. Cannabis on the Northern Border.

Stopping smugglers is left to a multitude of government agencies and agents on both sides of the border. The political intrigue and sovereignty issues symbolized by anti-smuggling efforts became clear to me when I tried to interview top government bureaucrats in Ottawa and Washington, DC. Obfuscation, unreturned phone calls and non-responsive answers were the rule rather than the exception.

Because they are losing the war, officials are unwilling to provide stats or policy statements regarding smuggling. They're embarrassed. Federal officials in both nation's capitols sheepishly told me to contact local offices of the US Border Patrol and Customs Service, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Vancouver.

When I spoke to representatives of local agencies, I found them to be candid, affable and good-humoured about the obvious challenge of interdicting the total Canadian marijuana outflow. They seem like nice people.

"We're doing as much as we can," said Gene Davis of the US Border Patrol, "but marijuana is just one of many things we're trying to catch. We have a serious alien smuggling problem because Canada has a relatively open policy toward Third World immigrants, and that's a stepping stone for them entering the United States. The Southern border has gotten all the attention for so many years, but when Congress found out that even terrorists were coming across the northern border, and how few agents we had up here, they were really shocked."

Davis says that seizures of Canadian marijuana are up six hundred percent over last year's figures.

"Seizures are up because demand has increased, and so has supply. Why? Because the Canadian marijuana is so potent, between 25 to 30 percent THC, and everybody wants it. The BC bud is second to none in the drug world. The Blaine office has to patrol a very busy corridor which covers from the top of the Cascades west and includes the Olympic peninsula. There's lots of rugged hills and mountains. There are roads parallelling each other on both sides. We've asked for more manpower, and it looks like we might get it, but we've got so much territory, they could give us another 100 officers and it wouldn't be enough," he said.

US Border Patrol Intelligence Specialist Dave Keller says 42 agents are responsible for interdicting the 40 mile smuggling corridor near Vancouver.

"If we're getting more than two percent of what's coming across, we're lucky," he says. "The bulk of it is in commercial vehicles, but an average load is 35 pounds, enough to fit in one duffel bag. We haven't had the resources to examine the sea routes, and we don't think the air routes are significant. Many of the people we catch are ethnic minorities, like Central and South Americans who are also involved in gun and hard narcotics smuggling.

"We're seeing a rapid infiltration of organized crime, apparently a more rapid infiltration than what happened on the Mexican border. They're bringing marijuana south and sending guns, meth, cocaine and heroin. Definite Hells Angels involvement, Asian Triads, the works. Sometimes we see personal use smugglers: people who pick up one to three pounds of BC bud and bring it across for their own smoke."

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