The demands of people are expressed in the marketplace of goods and ideas, not by governments. So when considering the opportunity of a career in smuggling pot, know it is a noble calling: a craft, an art, a little bit of luck fraught with risk and more than a few pulse-racing moments.
Elite smugglers not only concern themselves with transporting, stashing and de-stashing cannabis, but also finding spots to hide all the marijuana moolah. Moving marijuana through international borders is big business. An investor prospectus advises: ?The market for marijuana is strong and stable throughout the United States and should remain so. About half the US market is domestic cannabis with the rest imported largely from Mexico and Canada.? … Wait, that?s the US Department of Justice 2005 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA), not another stoner scheme. The truth is about 40% of the pot in the US is from Mexico, no more than 5% from Canada. But demand in the US is insatiable. The Department of Justice NDTA market assessment notes there?s huge profit for those looking to cater to the well-off American tokers? taste. ?Commercial grade marijuana is the most widely available, but 25 per cent THC? ? thought to come from Canada as the so-called ?BC Bud? ? ?can be found in select markets.? The NDTA chart provided with the 2005 report demonstrates that the further into the US Canadian weed travels, the more coin there is to be made.
A pound of Quebec Gold runs $1,500 to $1,800 Canadian dollars. In the neighboring US border town, its $2,000 to $2,800 US dollars. Move that herb into the big cities and Quebec Gold easily doubles in value, $4,000 USD. Mexican brick weed is worth about $300 to $600 per pound near Texas and California border towns. It escalates to about $1,500 per pound in their major markets in the northeast and eastern seaboard.
When Robert Sabbag, author of Snow Blind and Smokescreen, interviewed a big player in the industry for Playboy Magazine, the smuggler explained to him how prices go up from the time weed leaves Canada. (Editor?s Note: Normally I wouldn?t quote this long a segment from a published piece, but I did introduce Robert Sabbag to many of the people he used in his article, including smugglers, so I feel he wouldn?t mind. ? Marc Emery) The guy getting the weed ?has got to be in Seattle. We?d rather take $2,700 to $2,900 in Seattle than $3,200, maybe $3,600 in L.A. It goes for $4,000 a pound wholesale in Vegas, $4,500 in Atlanta. We also carry other people?s stuff. We charge them $450 to $550 per unit for transportation. There are ten to 12 suppliers up here using the service.?
More grass is coming from the south than the north, which means Canadian penetration is only affecting major markets of Boston, New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco and L.A. The smuggling routes of the open plains between Manitoba and North Dakota haven?t created great places for cheap good ganja, nor a friendly toker vibe. These routes are ideal because of desolation and lack of on the ground enforcement. Canadian smuggling in this region is running small-town North Dakota sheriff departments ragged. Much of the good green going this way is destined for the aforementioned markets, but some local handlers receive safe house or stash spots payments in kind. These handlers then smoke and sell their fee on the local market. The more volume going through the route, the more the local markets benefits with access to potent pot. Canadian Gold makes the big bucks to the point where outlaw motorcycle gangs have begun to cut the good green with schwag.
Ten Things To Know About Smuggling Cannabis
1) The Mule: Who and What Is A Mule
2) Where There?s Unrest There?s Drugs
3) The Heavies: MI-6, CIA, IRA
4) The Insiders: Baggage Handlers, Diplomats & Customs Agents
5) Communication: Is this landline safe?
6) Government Mail
7) Gut Stashing: Swallowing Hashish Bullets
8) Tow Trucks & Trash Haulers
9) Do The Marijuana Marathon
10) Tunnels: The Reefer Rats
The Mule: Who & What Is A Mule
The big Canuck cannabis smugglers are simply flying from a secluded BC airstrip or lake and dumping their 300 to 500 pound loads into remote Washington State from the air. Though considered a mule, or drug runner, the pilot plays such a critical role in the operation they pull in a hefty share of the overall take.
Robert Sabbag came to British Columbia in 2004 and met up with Canadian helicopter pilots who were taking 250 pounds of primo AAA weed worth $500,000 fifty feet over trees and canyons and about forty kilometers into Washington or Idaho or Montana. Get in, drop the six 40-plus pound duffel bags at coordinates marked by a Global Positioning System (GPS) and get back into Canada all in under one hour. Pilot?s earnings: $100,000.
Sabbag noted stepped-up government patrols in effect since the fall of 2001 have made people on both sides of the border more cautious, but little more than prices have changed. ?There?s always gonna be a way to do it,? his smuggler friend told him. ?There?s a lot of border there that?s unprotected.? Continuing from Sabbag?s Playboy magazine narrative: ?The weather is clear all the way to the drop. About 40 miles into the U.S., George closes on the GPS coordinates he has been given. Below him, alone in the emptiness of upper Washington State, a pickup is parked and the driver is standing by the tailgate. Before putting the helicopter down, George executes a fly around, ?clearing the area?, circling the site to verify that it is not under surveillance. The ones most at risk in the operation are the catchers, the personnel in the States on the receiving end of the pot. Part of the pilot?s responsibility is to evacuate them in the event of trouble. ?If there?s trouble you ditch the load,? he says. ?You leave the truck and get the guys back.? After assuring himself that the landing zone is secure, George puts the helicopter down next to the truck, keeping it running while the catcher unloads the dope. ?You never leave the controls,? he says. The skids are on the ground for not even a minute. Lifting off as the truck?s tailgate goes up, George circles again, double-checking the site before heading back to Canada. Very little interrupts the efficient conduct of business. ?We run under orange alert; orange won?t stop us. Only red alert will ground our flights.? Red alert grounds ever y thing but NOR AD.? Compare Sabbag?s experience with Howard Marks? story (in his smuggling autobiography Mr. Nice), paying young teaching assistants at Oxford university in the late 60?s and early 70?s $30 (?10) for each pound of hash they delivered by car from Ireland to London, England. Carrying 50 pounds netted them $1,500 for each trip.
Young potheads graduating high school should consider careers in aviation. The mule that can fly is worth mucho more money than the one who can drive, thus paying off the student loans far ahead of schedule. Mules play an important role in moving marijuana. They?re the lowest layer on the pyramid, but sometimes the occasional mule wrongly believes they can rip off someone higher in the chain. It?s common practice to have a mule tailed at the border crossing by someone else in the organization, especially first timers. However, there?s plenty of room for promotion or making your own deals. Busts, rip-offs, deaths, and retirements create room for advancement.
If you can devise a plan to deliver voluminous amounts of high-grade cannabis from a place where it?s cheap to a place where it?s expensive, the payoff will be substantial. That?s the dream of the lowly marijuana mule. Many runners get hooked on the zeal of bluffing customs officials and the lucrative earnings, preventing many from retiring. Smuggling is simply a form of gambling. Call it ganja gambling if you will. Shaking, sweating, and stuttering are a few signs agents watch for to make a secondary inspection, so practice calming activities to ease the mind. Odds are improved when a mule acts natural. Many mules project themselves mentally to ?anywhere but the border crossing?. Tell an agent almost the whole truth when queried. ?Visiting friends.? True ? you are visiting friends with three kilos of hashish in the suitcase. ?Going to [insert local sporting team here or concert].? Make sure you know this information. It?s not going to be a good day if that team is out of town or the concert was the night before.
Those willing to ganja gamble at the US/Canada border should determine the odds, the pay out for success, and the slammer time if caught. 10 or 20 pounds hidden in car door panels, guitar amps, or false bottom suitcase require intestinal fortitude, experience in crossing borders without drugs, and a bit of luck. Don?t look at all like a stoner. No marijuana bling. A stinky car or weedy clothes equals jail time. Good gamblers have the odds figured out and know how to keep lowering them. Smugglers also know the odds of getting busted along each route and their ganja genius is used to lesson the risks.
Where There?s Unrest There?s Drugs
If you don?t like leaving your home and can?t handle nuances of other people?s cultures, smuggling is not the cannabis career for you. Original hippie flower child Naomi recalls living naked in a Moroccan commune in 1968. ?You had to,? she laughs about spending her whole time naked. ?Because of the lice and nits. But we spent so much time smuggling hash out of that commune. Like Westerners still do today, we met hash farmers from the Rif Mountain area. The two guys we lived with bought a chest and took it apart.? They removed the outer panels, cleaned out the padding, replaced the padding with hashish chunks and then put the trunk back together. Who?d they send it to? ?Their mom!?
Strange places, stranger people and near death experiences build character and are looked upon as job perks. Major smuggling routes constantly change based on government stability. Large shipments of hashish often start or travel through nations that are either failed states or suffering political instability. However, possessing cannabis in some of these fascist states can lead to a beheading, or 25 years that most likely will kill you in two.
The Khyber Pass between Pakistan and Afghanistan is a route that?s been in business for thousands of years. Smuggling is booming more than ever thanks to Afghanistan?s occupation by the West. Sixty percent of the country?s GDP is earned on the underground market, which is located high in a mountainous region. Thus, buying Afghani hashish is good for their economy! Hashish production is growing once again and available for quantity purchases to the westerner willing to risk kidnapping, extortion, and death. And the hired guide might be the person to smite you. As such it?s often someone in the country who brokers the deal for the Westerner willing, and with the ability, to move a ton.
Traveling to these regions, it?s critical that the smuggler adapt to the culture. Retain a low respectful profile. Avoid Asia?s ?Golden Triangle? connecting Thailand, Vietnam and China. The region is so heavy, even the CIA fears operating in this zone ? though it didn?t prevent them from doing business there during the 1970?s and Nicaragua during the 80?s.
The Heavies: MI-6, CIA, IRA
Many air smugglers use insiders on a specific airline to establish a route that moves from a ?failed state? to a stable (i.e. Westernized) state. If you?re the CIA you purchase a bunch of planes and start a few airline fronts of your own. Given the large and lucrative amounts of untraceable cash from smuggling and the CIA mandate to destabilize governments, it?s not surprising this rogue agency would be involved. Overthrowing a government costs money, and cannabis smuggling makes coin.
And that doesn?t just apply to the CIA; the DEA uses the War on Drugs to prop up or take down a sovereign nations? government. Venezuela?s President Hugo Chavez claimed when booting out the DEA that the agency was fostering anti-Chavez sentiment and aiding and abetting some smugglers while busting others. President Chavez stated, ?The DEA has used the pretext of fighting drug trafficking… to spy on Venezuela?s government.? The DEA is involved in alliances with Columbian death-squads and narco-traffickers, burning their own informants and lower echelon agents to let a lot of cannabis and cocaine get through.
Super smugglers have to get into bed with either the establishment (government agencies involved with smuggling) or the anti-establishment (organizations overthrowing governments). Britain?s intelligence agency, MI-6, contacted Howard Marks who was working with someone believed to be smuggling guns on behalf of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Though not considered by the West as a failed state, Ireland?s guerrilla warfare was enough to destabilize the nation. Marks determined if you can bring weapons in, you can bring hash too. An MI-6 agent who knew Marks from his Oxford days contacted him about his IRA association. Their initial meeting wasn?t about the tons of hashish coming through Ireland?s Freeport ? a zone where the country allowed shipments to pass through, as long as the goods didn?t stay in Ireland. Unconcerned with the hashish shipments, MI-6 wanted Marks to spy on the IRA.
Any change in a smuggling operation ruins the odds of the shipment getting through. Operations are a house of cards; removing one is bad. Rosie Rowbotham, Canadian super smuggler, was Canada?s longest prisoner of the drug war with 18.5 years for smuggling hashish by the boatload. He never used violence or guns in his two-decade smuggling career. Just as Rowbotham?s tanker with a ton of hashish onboard was about to depart Lebanon, Ronald Reagan ordered the east Mediterranean ports closed after the Beirut bombing in October 1983, in which a suicide bomber killed 200-plus US Marines. Through happenstance, the hashish came from a ?Christian? group based in Israel-occupied Lebanon. The ?Christians? had seized hash fields in the Bakaa valley and were using the sale of hash to fund their war against the Muslims. With the seacoast around Lebanon still blockaded by the US Navy, the tanker left the port and landed in New York City then made its way to Toronto? where Rowbotham was arrested and charged by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). One of many risks of buying from partisan political factions is you never know who else they?re connected to. Rowbotham confides someone in the Christian group informed Israel?s secret service Mossad, who informed the CIA, who passed it on to the RCMP. For that particular shipment Rowbotham got a 20-year sentence, but was out in six. It was the only time he ever worked with non-Muslims, and he regretted it. ?The Muslim Lebanese hashish was better, too.?
The Insiders: Baggage Handlers, Diplomats & Customs Agents
Orchestrating an inside job where someone ensures the packages move easily is a great challenge, but clearly not impossible. Greed and debt work to your advantage best with customs agents and baggage handlers. Cruise the airport area. As an example, Toronto Pearson International is adjacent to numerous airport hotels where many sleazy strip clubs are located. Airport workers who are fairly down-andout hang in these sleazy bars bemoaning their bad circumstances, as work is very boring and not at all glamorous. Find the disgruntled worker who has an exwife bleeding his pocket book. If he?s a Customs Agent, offer a financial opportunity he can?t turn down.
Several baggage agents can work together to ensure packages are placed in an unsuspecting mule?s luggage. This smuggling team places packages in luggage belonging to uninvolved passengers ? like Schapelle Corby, who didn?t even know the marijuana was in her bag. Unscrupulous? Yes. However, this is how millions of pounds of marijuana get shipped in the US and around the globe. It?s bad news if the unwitting mule gets jail time if the pot is intercepted ? as it was in Schapelle Corby?s case ? or if the mule figures out what?s going on and keeps the goods.
Diplomats are fantastic smugglers. Many come from a long line of family members whose partial income stream is derived from smuggling. If you?re moving goods successfully then you have plenty of power in the region. A diplomatic posting is awesome for someone in the family. Their personal effects like furniture, carpets, and papers receive diplomatic immunity, which means foreign countries can?t open their packages to inspect them. If the pounds upon pounds of pot are discovered, possibly creating a political furor, the diplomat simply blames the aforementioned baggage handlers and they get off scot-free.
Communication: Is this landline safe?
The answer is always No. Don?t discuss smuggling business at all on a landline. Use and learn the numbers of several payphones in your neighborhood so when someone calls you at home to talk business, you provide a number and a better time to call back. The only cellular phone you can use are the pay as you go variety, where your name is in no way attached to the ownership recorded at the point of sale. Change your phone at least every two months. Email is only safe with PGP encryption technology. But who would trust electronic communication when moving tons of weed? Consider everything but face-to-face contact uber dangerous ? and even then, you have to worry about being bugged or some agent snapping shots. A public place like a Tim Horton?s, Dunkin? Donuts or Starbucks can still have conversation overheard. With boom microphones and super sonic listening gear, a person can be some distance away from the discussion and still hear what?s going down. Find a private place to talk about business, where there?s no chance of being tracked or bugged.
Given the history of the postal service and the court?s respect for the traditional method in which people communicate, the laws regarding government handling of mail are very specific. All other forms of communication are compromised in respect to privacy by laws and regulations. A letter with a stamp on it cannot be opened without a warrant. Typing a letter to work out a deal is safer than using hand writing. It?s also a great way of moving small amounts of cannabis within a country and ? for the daring ? outside the country.
Those using regular mail carriers have different methods. Envelopes must move through the mail slot machine unencumbered. If an envelope jams the machine and looks suspicious, or smells, then it?ll definitely be noticed. Using a return address like I.P. Freely, M. Doobie or Mary Jane is bad; a receiving address with the same info is stupid too. Your letter should look ordinary and unremarkable, and make sure enough postage is attached. Use the most common envelope, Number 10, and a standard font such as Times Roman ? crazy styles draw attention.
Pot should always be vacuum-sealed using a household appliance like the Tilia Foodsaver Vac 1050, available for $125 to $150, and only properly dried weed or hash should be used. A vacuum sealer is very important; if not using one, you can do the following: seal two envelope-sized pieces of thin cardboard together with strong packing tape, leaving one side open to create a pouch. Grind less than an ounce of grass in a coffee grinder and stuff the pouch with pot. Close the opening and cover the whole cardboard contraption with the packing tape, then flatten it with a heavy book. Put the completely sealed cardboard pouch in the envelope; it must seem like a regular business letter identical to the tens of millions going through the US Postal Service every day. Drop in a mailbox. Do not use private carriers like UPS or FedEx; they reserve the right to open all packages, watch mailed videos on high speed, do whatever they please because they are not the US Postal Service. They also make the recipient sign for the package, something that you never want to do! UPS and Fed-Ex cooperate extensively with US Customs, moreso than the US Postal Service does.
Gut Stashing: Swallowing Hashish Bullets
Your tummy is a great place to store ganja. When you travel to Nepal (which is currently going through serious civil unrest) and into the mountains to purchase a half kilo of Nepalese hashish, make sure you bring plastic wrap. Instability in Nepal has lowered the price of hashish because tourism is very reduced and there isn?t a lot of foreign currency around. Martial law has reduced hash buyers and the price has dropped to news lows in the summer of 2006.
Condoms are used for heroin transportation, but the hashish smuggler looking to bring a stash back can stick to less rubber. Note: narcotic informers will keep an eye on foreigners making too many treks into the mountains. Beware of those whom you see too often. There are people in every hash bazaar in the world who know someone to rip you off, hold you for ransom, extort money ? or worst, call the cops to arrest ? or kill ? you and take your stash. But ninety-five percent of the time nothing out of the ordinary happens.
Once you?ve acquired hashish and it?s time to cross a border, you prepare balls of about 4.5 grams worth. Wrap them in plastic cling wrap, and down the hatch they go. No chewing! If the temple balls ?naturally? emerge at any time prior to clearing Customs & Immigration, sort the packages from your movement, remove and redo the wrap. If you puke on the plane, get in the washroom, sort that mess out and down them again. The time between swallowing and expulsion is between five and ten hours. Understanding your digestion is critical. If you?ve got a weak gut this ain?t for you. One hundred balls would be exactly one pound (454 grams), and should be swallowed within one hour. This is not pleasant at all, and when they come out it?s even worse.
Pray your flight isn?t delayed. If you get stuck somewhere for a half day and you?re not expecting it, that hashish is going to come out one way or another. If you start to feel high, it?s the wrap getting dissolved by stomach acid. Too much dissolving and you will be really high. The danger is, if you look white as a sheet, or you?re in another dimension and can?t move while going past Customs, you will be flagged and have to wait. After clearing Customs, immediately head to your ?safe house?. A friend should be prepared with rubber gloves and bowel movement medicine. Once ready to dump your load, do so in a bucket. You?ll need to rest after passing one hundred hash balls.
Now you, dear reader, must be wondering where the hash you?ve been smoking came from!
Tow Trucks & Trash Haulers
Toronto?s garbage is hauled to Michigan, making for a perfect opportunity for smuggling; it says so right in the US drug intelligence report. It?s widely accepted that those in the garbage industry have underworld ties. The 18-wheeler trash hauler heading to the Detroit/Windsor crossing is not going to get pulled over by the Ontario Provincial Police. What US customs agent is willing to dig through two trailers of trash, seeking out some weed? They?re searching for radioactive material instead.
Besides not being interested in pulling over 18-wheeler garbage trucks, the fuzz tends not to think twice about tow truck drivers. Recently it?s been revealed that the Toronto licensing department provided several Bandito gang bikers with tow truck permits. The pot was placed not in the tow tuck, but in the disabled car. On the off chance the tow is pulled over, the disabled vehicle searched and 200 pounds of grass found, the driver can say, ?That ain?t mine, man.? In one smuggling situation, several pounds of green were hidden in amongst wood shavings going from BC to Washington State. The driver was subsequently charged with the offence of trafficking, ratted out via Crimestoppers. A jury couldn?t determine if he was an unsuspecting mule or if he knew of the ganja gold.
Do The Marijuana Marathon
There?s a vast expanse of open plains between Canada and the US. The Canuck side is greatly unmanned, while the citizenry group ?The Minute Men? have taken up posts along the US side after so-called success in Mexico.
If your idea of camping is plugging the RV into an electrical outlet, then the Marijuana Marathon is not for you. Those capable of living off the land with survivalist instinct can move hundreds of pounds of pot at the same time. The hashish hiker is carrying not only camping gear, but a 40-pound backpack of cannabis too. Only those capable of working out and smoking weed at the same time can do this mighty marathon. Besides sneaking inside the border, the hiker has to have a hook-up on the other side that also knows his way in and out of the bush. Whether you are walking, snowmobiling, mountain or dirt biking, you still have to watch what kind of tracks you are leaving behind.
This isn?t a twenty-hour return home run for anybody. Many are in the bush in warm weather for at least a week. In winter you could be camping outside a few nights. Remote areas may be safe from RCMP and DEA agents, but that doesn?t mean there isn?t spyware out there. A savvy hiker is looking for the unnatural, so spotting sensors is critical to success. Tripping off an alarm might not even send the man out there to grab you ? instead, they may use satellite imagery to watch your movement and bust you at a ?better? time.
Then there?s the blatant run to the border, those smugglers jumping on snowmobiles, ATVs, motorbikes or dune buggies. Mexico?s mules are most famous for simply ganja-gunning it. Blatant and bold! These guys have 40 to 60 pounds of fresh cut bundles of marijuana strapped over their bodies, stalks and all, then they just make a mad marijuana dash into the US hoping Immigration, DEA or the Minute Men don?t shoot them. Note that the vigilante Minute Men are allowed to be armed and should be considered dangerous.
Tunnels: Reefer Rats
More and more marijuana tunnels are getting discovered leading from Canada or Mexico to the US. Watch the movie called The Great Escape with Steve McQueen before embarking on a tunneling task. It?s so expensive to do that even governments are unable to build more tunnels like the one connecting Detroit, Michigan to Windsor, Ontario. But private contractors can, and cannabis smugglers seem to be doing just fine too. Who really knows how many fully functioning tunnels are leading into the US?
Mexican brick weed was recently discovered going underground between a San Diego warehouse and a Tijuana strip club. When the raid took place the two tons of schwag was completely bound and ready to be delivered to the other side via a forklift. Their tunnel, made with concrete, had remarkable space ? a forklift was capable of driving back and forth.
Apparently, no cannabis went through the major tunnel the DEA and RCMP discovered between Canada and the US at the BC/Washington State border. Cops from both countries knew about the developing plans and waited for the tunnel to be complete before launching their raid.
An engineer or engineering dropout is awesome at figuring out how to build tunnels. Mining operations are going kaput around Northern Canada, so find someone from up north with a great understanding of tunnel reinforcement. Locating a spot to hide the dirt from the tunnel digging is going to be difficult too, so find a construction site looking for clean in-fill and you?ve got a place to unload. Construction materials for the tunnel need to be bought and disguised ? having the Home Depot show up with a flatbed of mega-supplies isn?t realistic. Hiding tunnel construction is a major challenge, as is working around the fear of cave-in. If that tunnel comes down on you while you?re digging, you can forget about worrying about going to jail; you?ll be dead. Keep it safe!
? That?s an introductory smuggling course. To build upon your romantic inclinations about trans-border cannabis shipping, read Mr. Nice by Howard Marks, or High: Confessions of A Pot Smuggler by Brian O?Day.