On Tuesday, the New York Daily News reported the confiscation of a powerful, homemade pot-launcher by Mexican border police near the town of Mexicali. The improvised air-powered cannon was strapped into the back of a pickup truck for easy mobility. Police officials report the launcher was used to catapult bags of pot over the border fence into various US locations.
Drug dealers in Mexico don’t intend to let their illegal pot-growing enterprises lose profit, just because it is becoming more legalized for medical and recreational purposes in the United States. They have simply gotten craftier in their delivery systems that exceed the drudgery of digging tunnels from Mexico into the United States.
Numerous versions of the marijuana cannon have been discovered in recent years, from barebones to more sophisticated devices. They are capable of blasting 30-pound bags of weed over great distances. It beats crawling through musky underground tunnels, but the challenge is making sure they are picked up by the right people on the other side, which has been a bit tricky. US officials have found numbers of packets on the ground after being misfired for whatever reason.
According to an International Business News report, similar cannons were used in 2010 to launch 30 cans of pot into Yuma, Ariz., with a street value of $42,000. Drug traffickers have also resorted to less hi-tech means, like T-shirt catapults in the effort to move their illicit goods. Whatever the scheme, it is clear the aerial method helps evade border security measures and reduces the risk.
Border officials could see more resourceful drug activities as the legalization of marijuana becomes more prevalent in the United States. There are currently 18 states that allow use of pot for medicinal purposes, and last fall Washington and Colorado’s voters passed broad-ranging bills to decriminalize the recreational use of small amounts of marijuana. Oregon is expected to put another pro-pot bill on the ballot in 2016.
The Obama administration is working on a process for federal handling of new marijuana state laws. Attorney General Eric Holder, under pressure from officials in Colorado and Washington, has promised a decision “soon.”
“We’re still in the process of reviewing both of the initiatives that were passed,” Holder told the National Association of Attorneys General annual conference in Washington D.C., as quoted in Politico. "We’re in the last stages of that review, and we’re trying to make a determination as to what the policy ramifications are going to be, what our international obligations are—there are a whole variety of things that go into this determination—but the people of Colorado and Washington deserve an answer, and you will have one soon.”
Medical marijuana has been viewed as a limited encroachment on federal policy, but the passage of state initiatives that will legalize the production, wholesale and retail sales of recreational pot through an intensive licensing process is far more complex.
Meanwhile, Mexican drug dealers have to raise the bar on imaginative ways to move their wares. Hot air balloons are too big and carrier pigeons too small, but they will likely come up with something before legalized pot becomes so common that US markets for Mexican-grown weed goes up in smoke.