Police raided a Minneapolis warehouse on New Year’s Day and hauled away more than $1 million of marijuana hidden among a shipment of produce.
The raid went down after police received a tip from workers at a grocery distribution warehouse in the city’s Seward neighborhood. The workers said they had uncovered a large amount of cannabis hidden in a shipment of fresh lettuce addressed to Steven Lee Yang.
“At the bottom of the containers, under the cucumbers and lettuce, there were sealed packets of marijuana, a lot of it, and it was ready to hit the street,” said Hennepin County prosecutor Mike Freeman.
The shipment came in 260 individually wrapped packages, according to Freeman’s office, each containing about a pound of “high-potency” marijuana. The bud tested positive as cannabis in a field test, Freeman said.
Like many anti-pot government officials, Freeman used the opportunity to sell the nonsense idea that dangerously strong marijuana is threatening the youth of America.
“This is not your grandfather’s pot that he had in the ’60s,” he said. “This stuff is really strong.”
Cannabis is only marginally stronger
In reality, black market cannabis is only marginally stronger than it was in the 1960s. The strongest strains contain roughly 30 percent THC, which is high, but contrary to popular belief, THC content wasn’t regularly below 5 percent mid-century.
In fact, every strain available today descends directly from a strain available in the ’60s and ’70s. Selective breeding has increased THC levels, but not dramatically so. And there is no conclusive evidence suggesting today’s pot is any more dangerous than that sold 50 years ago.
Inflated street value
Freeman’s office said the marijuana weighed about 260 pounds and was worth more than $1 million on the street. Yang, a 26-year-old resident of suburban Brooklyn Center, was arrested at the warehouse and charged with first-degree marijuana possession and sale. He could face as many as 30 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines.
“This guy isn’t hauling 100 kilos of marijuana to smoke it himself,” Freeman said. “He is selling it to make money. This is a lot of stuff that is going to mess up a lot of people.”
Like most marijuana busts, this one was probably blown out of proportion. Law enforcement officials routinely use fuzzy math to inflate the street value of the drugs they seize, and they often portray mid-level distributors as major kingpins when they in fact answer to multiple higher-ranking traffickers and cultivators.
Naturally, there’s a way to prevent this kind of incident, though it’s one Freeman opposes: make marijuana legal. The state has already taken a good first step by legalizing medical cannabis, but full legalization would go a long way toward erasing the large illegal trafficking routes and distribution networks that drain law enforcement resources across Minnesota.