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Spicy With A Twist: Nearly 4 Tons Of Pot Found In Jalapeno Shipment

U.S. officers found nearly four tons of marijuana in a shipment of peppers in San Diego.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. officers found nearly four tons of marijuana in a shipment of peppers in San Diego.

When U.S. officials opened a trailer full of jalapeno peppers last week, they found something a bit more illicit tucked among the spicy chiles.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized nearly four tons of weed mixed in with a large shipment of red and green jalapenos at the Otay Mesa cargo facility in San Diego.

"I am proud of the officers for seizing this significant marijuana load," Otay Mesa Port Director Rosa Hernandez said in a statement. "Not only did they prevent the drugs from reaching our community, they also prevented millions of dollars of potential profit from making it into the hands of a transnational criminal organization."

The drugs seized were valued at $2.3 million, CBP officials said.

CBP says its officers pulled over the vehicle driven by a 37-year-old Mexican man on Thursday around 6:15 p.m. local time. It's not clear why the vehicle was flagged for secondary screening. The officers used a dog, which indicated there might be more inside the truck than just peppers.

"CBP officers probed the shipment and discovered a leafy-green like substance that field-tested positive for the properties of marijuana," the statement added.

Photos from the scene show a stack of bulky green packages surrounded by chiles. They found 314 packages of pot, weighing 7,560 pounds.

This isn't the biggest recent marijuana bust at the cargo facility. Two days prior to this find, officers seized more than 10,000 pounds of pot hidden in an auto parts shipment.

Marijuana is by far the most common drug seized by CBP officials. From October 2018 through the end of July, they've seized more than 225,000 pounds of pot nationwide. The second-most common drug seized is cocaine, at more than 81,000 pounds during that same period.

Concealing drugs in produce shipments appears to be a common strategy for drug traffickers. Banana shipments, for example, seem to be a favored hiding place by traffickers of cocaine.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.