Ten people were arrested for their alleged participation in a California-based drug trafficking ring that reportedly shipped $22 million worth of marijuana to different parts of New York over a two-year period. Federal agents claim that these 10 individuals were responsible for shipping more than 6,500 pounds of the drug between March 2016 and October of this year, most of which was reportedly sent via FedEx.
Drug-sniffing dogs, surveillance, and seizure of parcels shipped from San Francisco all played a role in what is called Operation Green Giant as investigators sought to gather evidence of the activities attributed to those who were arrested. In just two of the shipping boxes identified by a drug-sniffing dog as containing narcotics, federal agents found 39 vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana that weighed about 45 pounds total. The packages were being shipped to drop houses in the Bronx, New Rochelle, and other points in New York state.
Joon H. Kim is the acting Manhattan US Attorney. In a statement, he said: “As alleged, these defendants conspired to ship millions of dollars’ worth of drugs across the country for eventual sale in New York City. Searches of apartments where the defendants allegedly resided uncovered guns and ammunition, multiple kilograms of cocaine, hundreds of pounds of marijuana, and thousands of dollars in cash. Drug trafficking organizations endanger public safety, and today’s multi-agency effort has successfully halted another such alleged organization.”
All involved will face up to a lifetime prison sentence if they are convicted of high-level drug trafficking.
Legal or Not?
It is cases like these that call into question the current state of marijuana laws in California for people on both sides of the fence.
Those who are proponents of marijuana legalization for recreational use of the drug state that the money spent on costs associated with cases like these – from the cost of Operation Green Giant to court costs to the costs of imprisonment of 10 people for as much as 10 lifetimes total – would be better spent on healthcare and other areas of social need that are significantly lacking. If marijuana were not illegal for recreational use in New York, if federal trade laws were in place to protect interstate sales of the drug, and if there was a taxation system in place on wholesale interstate trade of marijuana, they say, then a business of this nature could function legally and support the economies in both states.
Those who are against the legalization of marijuana point to cases like these as a demonstration of why legalizing the substance is not a safe or effective choice. They say that the idea that there will no longer be a black market for marijuana is false. They point out that the cost of legal marijuana in dispensaries is high. Not everyone can afford it; thus, those who are interested in using marijuana will turn to cheaper options on the street, creating a situation in which black market operations and all their associated costs will continue.
What Do You Think?
As investigations into drug trafficking continue, and drug interdiction efforts by land, sea, and air are increased under the current administration, we will continue to see cases like these, not only in California but across the country. How we manage them and the people involved matters. We have finite resources – money, time, manpower – as a nation and where we choose to focus them in the face of the national drug crisis that is killing more than 144 Americans every day is important. It is time that we pause and look at the allocation of our resources, and consider what we are doing – not only with these investigations but also with the funds seized during drug busts and the individuals who are now at a turning point in their lives. We can then make conscious choices knowing that what we do today will have a direct impact on our future.
What do you think? What choices should we be making on a community, state, and/or national level when it comes to the legalization of substances and management of associated regulations? What best practices will serve to inform our choices going forward?