Mexican police seized 44 tons of marijuana in a raid just across the border from San Diego May 1.
Mexico’s attorney general said the Tijuana police, along with the military, conducted one of the country’s largest weed busts to date. The largest, in 2010, netted about 150 tons of pot.
According to a statement by the attorney general’s office, authorities found almost 4,000 packages of cannabis in the Granjas Familiares del Matamoros neighborhood of Tijuana while executing a federal warrant. There were no arrests.
Tijuana is a major launching point for smuggling operations because of its proximity to the border. Industrial-scale marijuana busts are common there but rarely make a dent in the overall drug trade.
The raid in 2010 collected 148 tons of weed. Two years later, authorities discovered more than 40 tons of pot at the entrance to a tunnel beneath the border.
Such tunnels are common. A “super tunnel” was found in October connecting Tijuana with San Diego. It was 35 feet deep and 600 feet long. Like other smuggling tunnels, it was elaborate and well built.
This kind of smuggling operation can be very expensive for drug cartels, but it’s more than worth the cost. A single tunnel, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take months to build, allows cartels to smuggle many millions of dollars of weed in a matter of hours. They can then abandon the tunnel and move on to another.
Last year, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy promised to make it too expensive for drug smugglers to move their product underground.
“If you continue to build and attempt to use these tunnels, we are determined to make this a big waste of your dirty money,” Duffy said. “Not only will we take your drugs and shut down your tunnels before you even get an opportunity to use them, but we’re now in a position where we’re going after your management.”
Of course, the marijuana captured by authorities on both sides of the border is a tiny fraction of the weed that gets through unmolested. International smugglers manage to get about 25 million pounds over, under, or around the border every year. And that’s not counting cannabis grown in one state and smuggled to another.
In fact, Duffy’s threat to the contrary, in April federal agents discovered two new, highly complex tunnel systems connecting Mexico with San Diego. Both included railways for quickly moving pot.