More marijuana arriving in Gainesville via mailbox
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 2:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 3:58 p.m.
More and more, officials say, high-grade marijuana is being smuggled into the Gainesville area in plain sight — by package-delivery trucks.
Dealers are increasingly using the Postal Service and commercial mail carriers to move their pot across the country, said Lt. Matt Nechodom of the Gainesville-Alachua County Drug Task Force.
"It's always been a problem," Nechodom said, but in recent years, the problem has exploded.
So far this year, the task force has intercepted 36 mailed marijuana packages — up from five in 2010 and 13 in 2011, records show.
The increased number of seizures, Nechodom said, comes from both an increase in the number of packages being sent to the Gainesville area as well as a crackdown by authorities.
That includes the task force, a collaboration among the Gainesville Police Department, Alachua County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Packages containing illegal drugs are identified through special investigative techniques, which include the use of drug-sniffing dogs and tips from confidential informants, he said.
Sheriff's spokesman Lt. Todd Kelly said dealers are getting more clever in the ways they try to evade detection.
"The drugs are often hidden inside of other products, such as electronics," he said, "and (senders) are careful to stay consistent with what the product would actually weigh."
Nechodom said investigators have found pot — often pounds at a time — hidden in furniture, such as footstools, and in sealed cans. The most common way to send the pot, he said, is in vacuum-sealed freezer bags.
Kelly said dealers might see mailing marijuana as a better alternative to driving the pot across the country because it lowers the risk of getting robbed, going to prison or losing the weed.
Mailing weed might lower the sender's risks, but it raises the exposure for those on the receiving end, he said. The recipients, however, can simply tell authorities they had no idea someone was sending them drugs.
Nechodom said several factors are involved in the rising incidence of mailed marijuana.
He pointed to changes in California's marijuana laws, such as Mendocino County's Measure B, which went into effect in 2008 and allows medical marijuana patients to possess as many as six mature plants.
In some cases, California pot growers might be purposely overproducing in order to have pot to send, he said.
As for the carriers, they were reluctant to discuss the situation.
Officials with the U.S. Postal Service could not be reached for comment. UPS spokesman Dan McMackin said via email, "We do not share security procedures for illegal shipments, as it would be detrimental to those very efforts."
FedEx spokeswoman Paula Bosler said via email, "Employees are trained to be aware of their surroundings, report any unusual or suspicious activities and to follow the company's security procedures.
"FedEx takes any security threat seriously and works closely with local, state and federal authorities on an ongoing basis and in investigations of incidents involving our network and property," she said.
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.