Police in New Jersey arrested three men and seized six pounds of marijuana that arrived aboard a commercial flight from California, authorities said.
The bust started with a traffic stop by two state troopers, police said. The troopers pulled over a Mazda with tinted windows along a highway in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., police said.
The officers allegedly noticed “a strong odor of raw marijuana” as they approached the car. Two other troopers arrived and searched the vehicle. Inside, they allegedly found seven large bundles of cannabis weighing six pounds.
The three men were arrested after denying the California pot belonged to them. They were identified as Jeffrey Haas, 21, of New York; Roger Hess, 20, also of New York; and Tyler Paez, 24, who allegedly flew the marijuana from California to JFK International Airport in New York.
Marijuana taken through California airport security
The flight reached New York City in March, and the men were driving it to Newburg in Upstate New York, police said. Pass, a Bakersfield resident, allegedly took illegal cannabis and carried it on the flight. California airport officials failed to detect the drugs in Paez’s luggage as it left the state.
The TSA, both in California and elsewhere, usually focuses on terrorism concerns and airplane security. They occasionally come across marijuana and alert local police at the airports, but that is not a key part of the agency’s mission.
“TSA’s screening procedures, which are governed by federal law, are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers,” said Lisa Farbstein, an agency spokeswoman. “TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other drugs.”
California cannabis is routinely shipped to other parts of the United States; the state provides 60 percent of the country’s illicit marijuana supply. It’s easy to grow here and surprisingly easy to transport to other states, whether by plane, train, or car.
Statewide legalization could ultimately hit illegal growers and dealers hard. Many marijuana farms across California could go legal if residents vote to legalize, and a new regulatory system would make it harder for others to cultivate the drug.
Experts say voters are likely to approve legal cannabis in the November election: Polls show support hovering around 60 percent, and a well-funded group of activists is pushing to get the question on the ballot. They are expected to succeed.
Marijuana is legal in New Jersey only for medical use, and authorities there are strict when it comes to illegal cannabis. The state imposes a five-to-ten year prison sentence for possession of between five and 25 pounds, while cultivation and possession with intent to distribute carry a penalty of 20 years in prison.
Should the police bother with people who transport cannabis? Why? Post a comment below.