The amount of smuggled marijuana seized at the Arizona border dropped 91 percent so far this past fiscal year while seizures of other, harder drugs have increased. It appears from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) data that hard drugs like methamphetamine, fentanyl, and cocaine supplanted marijuana as smugglers’ preferred substances.
The decreased seizures correlate somewhat with Arizona’s marijuana legalization through Prop 207, or the “Smart and Safe Arizona Act,” during the 2020 election. Arizona’s marijuana seizures dropped about 35 percent from fiscal years 2019 to 2020, and 71 percent from 2020 to 2021. (The CBP fiscal year runs from October to September).
Arizona’s seizures of meth dropped from nearly 20,800 pounds to nearly 18,900 pounds, nine percent, from 2019 to 2020, then increased by three percent from 2020 to 2021. It appears that this year’s meth seizures will remain within margin, though at present agents have seized 1,100 pounds less than this time last fiscal year.
Conversely, the state’s fentanyl seizures grew over the past three fiscal years. From 2019 to 2020, seizures increased 79 percent, then 65 percent from 2020 to 2021. If seizure rates continue as they have this year, there will be more fentanyl seized than in 2021: over 2,600 pounds.
Fentanyl, one of the deadliest street drugs per CDC overdose data, comes in the form of a pill to resemble its legal counterpart prescribed by doctors. Cartels like the notorious Sinaloa Cartel mark the synthetic opioid with an “M30” stamp to disguise it as the painkiller oxycodone, which is manufactured by pharmaceutical companies.
Overdoses may occur with as low as two milligrams of fentanyl. The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that fentanyl accounts for the majority of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S.
According to the CDC, Arizona has one of the leading overdose death rates in the country.
Cocaine seizures dropped off in fiscal year 2021, but they’ve remained consistently high over the past three years. Seizures increased from over 1,800 pounds to a high of nearly 2,200 pounds, 19 percent, from 2019 to 2020 before falling by 59 percent in 2021. This year, however, cocaine seizures have rebounded at rates that may surpass 2019 levels and fall slightly behind or run even with 2020 levels.
Heroin seizures have dropped significantly since 2020.
John Modlin, chief patrol agent of Border Patrol (BP) Tucson Sector, last posted about the seizure of personal use marijuana in February, and a major seizure of marijuana in January 2021.
By comparison, Modlin has posted frequent updates about meth and fentanyl busts over the past year.
The chief patrol agent for BP Yuma Sector, Chris Clem, hasn’t posted about a major marijuana seizure since last March. However, Clem’s offered more frequent updates on meth, fentanyl, cocaine, and heroin seizures.
According to CBP data, the number of drug seizures across all border sectors have dropped consistently since 2013. The reduced seizures appear to correlate with marijuana legalization across numerous states, considering the vast majority of drug seizures were marijuana in eight of the past 10 years. All border states except Idaho, Indiana, Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes.
In addition to Arizona, the following states have legalized recreational marijuana usage: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Additionally, recreational marijuana is legal in Washington, D.C.
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) announced Tuesday that they gave equipment seized in an illegal marijuana growing operation to a local high school for their agriculture classes. The seizure occurred in 2017, approximately three years before marijuana legalization in the state.
“Back in 2017, PCSO seized these lights and other hydroponic equipment as evidence in an illegal marijuana grow operation bust outside of Maricopa,” wrote PCSO. “We recently donated it all to a nearby high school so it can have a second (legal) life teaching agriculture students.”
In November 2020, Arizona legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over through the voter initiative Proposition 207, the “Smart and Safe Arizona Act.” Voters approved the measure by 60 percent of the vote. Additionally, Proposition 207 allowed individuals to petition courts to seal their marijuana-related criminal records dated before November 30, 2020. Applicable records included possession, consumption, or transportation of 2.5 ounces or less of marijuana or 12.5 grams of marijuana concentrate; possession, transportation, cultivation, or processing up to six marijuana plants at a primary residence for personal use; and possession, use, or transportation of paraphernalia related to cultivating, manufacturing, processing, or consuming marijuana.
Prior to the passage of Proposition 207, several similar proposals failed when brought to the ballot: Proposition 203 in 2002 and Proposition 205 in 2016. Advancements in marijuana legalization occurred in 1996 with the legalization of medically-prescribed marijuana in Proposition 200, and an expansion of that through the passage of Proposition 203 in 2010.
As AZ Free News reported, health officials mentioned during Monday’s House Health Committee hearing how recreational marijuana has shadowed fentanyl overdoses and deaths — especially in rising pediatric cases.
On Wednesday, the Arizona Department of Health Services announced that some Arizona marijuana establishments and dispensaries are initiating a voluntary recall of specific marijuana products due to possible contamination with Salmonella or Aspergillus.
14g Pre Pack Indica Flower (Glazed Apricot Gelato)
14g Pre Pack Sativa Flower (Tiger Haze)
3.5g Pre Pack Indica Flower (Orange Acai)
Plant, Flower – Cured, Greenhouse
Sol Flower Dispensaries and Establishments
Plant, Flower – Cured
EHF (Elephant Head Farms)
HAT Trick #17 Flower
Plant, Flower – Cured
LAB #454 PR
Plant, Preroll, Indoor
Tru Infusion Flower
Caked Up Cherries
Plant, Flower – Cured indoor
Chemistry #1 (HD 3/24/21)
Chemistry #1 1 B15B.R1-10
Plant, Flower – Cured, Greenhouse
The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) is advising purchasers to dispose of the products described in the table above, which were found in laboratory tests to be positive for Salmonella or Aspergillus.
To date, no illnesses have been reported. This announcement is being made out of an abundance of caution. Patients who have purchased potentially contaminated products should not ingest, inhale, or otherwise consume them and should dispose of them. If you have already consumed any of the products and have any of the symptoms described below, please contact your healthcare provider or seek emergency care in the event of an emergency.
The ADHS laboratory auditors determined during routine inspection of an independent third-party laboratory that marijuana samples that tested positive for Salmonella were reported to dispensaries and marijuana establishments as free of contaminants. In addition, marijuana samples that tested positive for Aspergillus were reported to dispensaries and marijuana establishments as free of contaminants.
Once ADHS discovered the positive test results, the establishments involved were notified and took immediate action to work with all distribution and retail partners to remove any potentially impacted products.
Salmonella: Symptoms from ingesting salmonella usually start within 6 hours–6 days after infection and last 4–7 days. Ingestion can happen inadvertently after handling Salmonella-contaminated products. Symptoms include:
Diarrhea (that can be bloody)
Some people may also have nausea, vomiting, or a headache.
Aspergillus: Aspergillus can cause allergic reactions or infection, usually in people already sick with something else. Symptoms range from asthma or cold like symptoms to fever and chest pain among many others. A full list of symptoms can be found on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website: https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/aspergillosis/symptoms.html