Five Bizarre Marijuana Smuggling Busts

Cannabis Leaf and Handcuffs
Photo by: jimi Hera/Shutterstock

As many anti-cannabis advocates like to point out, legal weed has not managed to stamp out the black market marijuana trade. Since most states have no access to legal, regulated cannabis, marijuana smuggling continues to flourish. It seems smugglers are busted every other day, but certain cases bear more examination than others. Here are five recent cases of marijuana smuggling that are definitely worth a double-take.

Baggage Handling Blunder

This case makes the list for the sheer audacity of its perpetrator. Keith Mayfield was a longtime baggage handler for Southwest Airlines, and he used that to his drug-smuggling advantage. He was charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute marijuana, as well as one count of "entering an airport area in violation of security requirements."

This was the scheme: Mayfield grabbed certain baggage he was told contained marijuana from passengers who had already cleared TSA's security checkpoints. He snuck the baggage around the screening machines, and the passengers simply continued on to their destinations with bags full of pot to be sold upon arrival.

Mayfield admitted he "conspired with others to violate airport security requirements for the purpose of narcotics trafficking," to the tune of at least 250 kilograms (over 550 pounds) of weed, worth more than one million dollars. Somewhat surprisingly, Mayfield is only getting a 21-month sentence, which he was ordered to begin serving on April 2.

A Cannabis-Slinging Cop

Alex Chapackdee was a Seattle cop for 16 years. During that tenure, it seems Chapackdee was swayed by the idea of dollar signs. His brother-in-law was spearheading a smuggling operation, and Chapackdee figured he'd use his police power to get in on it. He worked as the muscle for the operation, which involved both growing the weed and transporting it out of Washington.

Not only did he get paid $10,000 a month to "keep an eye on" multiple grow houses, he also got paid an extra $15,000 for each trip he made to Baltimore, where he would collect money from the East Coast sales and bring it back to Seattle.

It seemed like a sweet gig, and it went pretty smoothly for a while. But in 2015, a confidential source approached the FBI about the smuggling operation. The FBI launched a drug investigation, and a public-corruption investigation alongside it. They placed Chapackdee under intense surveillance, which included phone tapping and a hidden camera on a utility pole outside his apartment.

After the story broke and Chapackdee was placed on unpaid leave, he ended up resigning. It took the FBI three years to gather enough evidence to shut down this marijuana smuggling ring, but Chapackdee and three others were finally charged. Chapackdee, with his relatively minor role, was sentenced to six years in prison.

A Gummy Situation

Bowl of Gummy Bears
Photo by: HandmadePictures/Shutterstock
When you think of marijuana smuggling, you probably imagine shipping containers full of weed and guys in black ski masks. But often, these operations are a lot more mundane than you'd expect. Take 32-year-old Jeremy Freeman for example. The Connecticut resident attempted to transport a huge number of marijuana-infused gummies all the way from California... via the mail!

Thanks to an anonymous tip that a large-scale marijuana smuggling operation was shipping out of Corona, California, to Freeman's address, the authorities were able to snag a search warrant to intercept one of the suspicious packages.

In that one package, the cops counted 339 THC gummies, individually wrapped. They were even branded, revealing them to be made by Infused Creations and containing 300 mg of cannabis. The police also found four additional shipments, putting the total number seized at over 1,500 gummies.

The gummy packets sell for around $25 in legalized California, but go for upwards of $50 in Connecticut. This would have been a tidy little profit, and a huge source of revenue had Freeman succeeded.

Trouble with Teenagers

This case is a bit of a mystery. Border Patrol agents in Fort Brown, Texas, spotted a vehicle coming from the Rio Grande at breakneck speed. As soon as the agents tried to make a traffic stop, it seemed that the driver panicked and lost control. The vehicle rolled, and agents found 52 packages of weed inside.

The packages totaled an astonishing 1,200 pounds of cannabis, an amount just shy of a million dollars in street value. It's clear this was a huge smuggling operation, but what remains a mystery is how this situation came about. Since the teens were underage, information isn't available on them.

The patrol agent in charge of the Fort Brown station noted, "Juveniles are viewed as cheap and disposable labor, a means for cartels to push their illicit product."

Operation Toker Poker

This headline sounds like a joke, but Operation Toker Poker was a real marijuana smuggling group, and they made a ton of money before they were caught. This was a full-service operation that grew and packaged marijuana in Colorado before distributing it for sale in other states.

It took the cops three full years to investigate the multi-million-dollar smuggling ring after they received a tip-off in 2014, due to the sheer number of individuals involved. They executed almost 150 search warrants over the course of 11 months and indicted 74 individuals for their involvement. The full extent of the operation still isn't known, but the cops seized at least 2,600 illegal marijuana plants and over 4,000 pounds of cannabis. Investigators estimate that the operation made $200,000 in revenue each month.

A Changing Market

Although legal cannabis is quickly gaining support and legitimacy, the black market will probably always exist. In places like Washington, where weed is legal, cheap and plentiful, smugglers know they can make money by transporting goods to non-legal states. When more busts happen, as they inevitably will, come back here to read all about them! And in the meantime, make sure to buy your cannabis from a licensed retailer. You don’t want to end up on this list.