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Friday, December 27, 2013

Drug Boats In The Bay? Cartel Boats Head Further and Further North

Posted By on Fri, Dec 27, 2013 at 12:32 PM

click to enlarge Drugs by sea - US COAST GUARD/YOUTUBE
  • US Coast Guard/YouTube
  • Drugs by sea

It's hard for a Northern California-spoiled cannabis connoisseur to conceive of, but there's active and substantial market demand for the kind of pot that wouldn't be considered fit for baking: Mexican brown, stemmy and seedy brick, the kind of weed that gets dumped in the Pacific Ocean.

There's more and more of it -- and the boats that are trying to bring this marijuana into what is one of America's most glutted markets for marijuana keep coming. On the two days before Christmas, authorities in San Luis Obispo County recovered an abandoned "panga" boat -- high-speed, lightweight craft -- that had unloaded more than 3,500 pounds of marijuana onto the beach.

These boats are coming further and further north, U.S. Coast Guard officials warn, with panga landings in Santa Cruz. Could this become a Bay Area occurrence?

Drug runners are turning to the sea as a result of pure market forces -- that is, tightened security along the fenced-in land border with Mexico means that the sea is now preferable, according to Capt. Gregory G. Stump, the local Coast Guard sector commander.

In this last case, the smugglers hit an area of coast that's rugged, rocky -- and not regularly patrolled. These are coves that can't be seen from the highway, according to law enforcement in SLO, which has asked for federal grants.

Increasingly, one of the Coast Guard's primary missions is being worldwide drug cops. More and more drugs are seized by the Coast Guard every year, according to statistics, with little to no sign of stopping.

That said, there appears to be little or no way the Coast Guard can put cutters at sea -- like the locally-based USS Bertholf, the first of the Coast Guard's new class of extraordinarily expensive "National Security Cutters" -- as far away as Southeast Asia while simultaneously providing search-and-rescue operations as well as drug interdiction patrols domestically.

So that means that Stump's warnings, published earlier this month in the Chronicle, that drug runners could pop up on coasts as far north as the Bay Area may ring true sooner rather than later.

We put in a request to the Coast Guard for comment and local context; we'll update as soon as we hear back.

In the meantime, a few observations: that these modern-day drug runners use rocky inlets and isolated coves used by rum-runners during Prohibition should surprise nobody, and tells the tale.

But to where is this marijuana headed? 3,500 pounds of marijuana is a lot of weed -- and this is California, where domestically grown marijuana could quite possibly get the entire country stoned. Taking such risk to get drugs to a depressed market doesn't make financial sense -- but no risk would be taken without a shot at profit.

So the war continues, and continues closer and closer to home.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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