Morning Read I: Lawlessness on the northern border

The Albany Times Union and Hearst newspaper chains focused over the weekend on the growing wave of smuggled narcotics coming in through the North Country.

They suggest that drug-runners from Canada are beginning to use the same tactics now common on the US-Mexican border, including a deliberate effort to intimidate law-enforcement.

But the story also gets at the small-town intimacy of the crime.

Aware he was being followed, the driver pulled into a parking lot in a small town 50 miles inside U.S. territory and walked away. Agents caught up with him and searched the vehicle, popping the trunk to find 119 pounds of extra-strength hydroponic pot.

An everyday occurrence along the U.S.-Mexico border? Maybe. But this incident unfolded in the village of Saranac Lake, an hour’s drive from Canada.

The driver was not an average “mule.” Lee Marlowe, 57, was a former Elks Lodge exalted ruler from the border community of Malone, Franklin County, who worked occasionally as a plumber after losing his job at the nearby General Motors engine plant in Massena that closed in 2009. Much of the marijuana had been stashed in hockey equipment bags.

Read the full article here.


13 Comments on “Morning Read I: Lawlessness on the northern border”

  1. Thomas R. Rhode says:

    Pretty lop-sided and narrow view of the “lawlessness” of the northern border. Thought this is what they called The War on Drugs.

    Just how has this “war” gone since Nixon muttered those words back in ’71?

    Presently the United States has the highest documented prison population in the world. Since 1980 the population of our prison system have quadrupled. The noteworthy thing is, violent crime isn’t responsible for the quadrupling of the prison population. Violent crime rates have been relatively constant or declining over these decades.

    Basically our prison system is littered with non-violent drug offenders. Each year, take 2008 for example, 1.5 million Americans were arrested for drug offenses. 500,000 of which were imprisoned. To put it in scale a little, in 2008 we had about 2.4M incarcerated. In the years between 1990-2002 just about half of all drug arrests were dealing with marijuana.

    In other words, we are spending a lot of money, going after the wrong people and yet there’s still plenty of weed to go around. Perhaps we should re-think things? What’s the definition of insanity again ..

    It’s expensive to incarcerate (not to mention all the cops and other government agencies essential hunting down every dime bag that is transacted). In 2001 it cost, on average, about $22,000 annually for EACH inmate to be in our federal and state pens. The corrections industry spends nearly 100 billion annually and employ 1 and 9 state workers. The system is soo screwed up.

    A recent Boston Globe article outlined what has occurred in Portugal.

    Nine years ago, faced with rampant drug use Portugal decided to decriminalize the possession of all illicit drugs — from marijuana to heroin — but continue to impose criminal sanctions on distribution and trafficking.

    The goal: easing the burden on the nation’s criminal justice system and improving the people’s overall health by treating addiction as an illness, not a crime.

    The result: nearly a decade later, there’s evidence that Portugal’s great drug experiment not only didn’t blow up in its face; it may have actually worked. More addicts are in treatment. Drug use among youths has declined in recent years.

    Maybe we could learn a thing or two from what Portugal is doing and apply it not only to our lawless northern border but to our basic thinking to how we approach our War on Drugs.

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  2. verplanck says:

    OMG! high powered maryjuana! It’s so much worse than that regular-powered maryjuana.

    Sorry, cannabis running has a long running history in the north country. The only news here is that he got busted. How is this like the US-Mexico border? I read precisely two incidents that involved shooting since 2008, so I think this is a sensationalistic headline.

    So glad that with our budget problems, we have plenty of money to burn fighting the useless war on (some) drugs.

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  3. Mervel says:

    I find it interesting though how organized crime which is well established along the Norther border and on the reservation co-exists with everyday life in the North Country. Things seem pretty quite then you have a guy get snuffed in Stockholm by the Russian mob. It is kind of fascinating.

    If it wasn’t pot it would be cocaine or human beings or whatever works for a profit, I don’t think the issue is pot but organized criminality. Legalizing pot would change nothing along the northern or southern border.

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  4. Bret4207 says:

    People, drugs, guns. Nothing new, just something the powers that be choose to ignore.

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  5. Pete Klein says:

    Organized crime, disorganized crime – what’s the difference?
    Anything can be made a crime. All you need to do is pass a law.
    Sex could be made a crime. Oh, wait, some sex is a crime.
    Both organized and disorganized criminals resort to violence for one simple reason. They can’t take each other to court for stealing or not paying bills. The violence in the drug trade is due primarily to the drugs being illegal. Make them legal and you take away the violence.
    Will some people die due to overdose? Sure. And some people die because they drink too much.

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  6. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    Sadly, I think we’ll be seeing more and more individuals entering the illicit drug trade as our economy worsens here in upstate, NY. If and when NYS makes the proposed job cuts, many people will have no choice but to seek “alternative” ways to make a living given the private sector in upstate, NY is in no shape to provide new employment. As mentioned in the article, for some at least, it’s easy money.

    What I find particularly interesting is that there was hardly any mention of the underground marijuana economy that exists separate of the smuggled Canadian marijuana. It’s been long known by many, including local and state law enforcement, that there’s ample supply of high grade marijuana grown and distributed right here in the North Country. It’s been that way for a long, long time.

    The cynic in me wonders if this latest “spin” surrounding the cross border smuggling isn’t timed to coincide with the talk of legalization, reform of our drug laws, and budget issues in Washington, etc…In other words, utilize this relatively small amount of violence to justify the continued funding of the entities that benefit from our interdiction policies. I mean, really, it’s not as if we don’t know prohibition causes these ills. We’ve been down this road before and we know how to solve the problem. But that would threaten certain interests on both sides of this “war.”

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  7. Pete Klein says:

    If Clampton…
    Be more cynical. Could more “drug enforcement” be a way to fill up the prisons and maybe hire more guards?
    The war on drugs has always been a make work program for the criminal justice system.

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  8. Pete Klein says:

    Oh, one more thing. I read something recently where the new drug to be target and made illegal is bath salts.
    I kid you not.

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  9. If Clapton is God, Warren Haynes is Jesus says:

    I read about the bath salts as well….The drug war is not unlike any other we create. We’ve got to have a boogie man somewhere in the world at all times. Whether it be marijuana, bath salts, or Al Quada. At this point, I’m beginning to wonder how I can profit of this gigantic scam. How about a private “security force” specializing in drug interdiction? After all, someone started Black Water the same way, right? Maybe that’s the answer to our economic ills, a huge, private security company specializing in cross border drug smuggling. Based right here in the North Country. In a year or two we’ll expand across the northern border. Then we’ll move south. Then Central America…..It’s a growth industry, baby!!!

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  10. Mervel says:

    So we don’t need any laws? The fact is much of this smuggling is not victimless, it involves trafficking men and women for slavery it involves bringing in illegal guns for the express purpose of killing people, and yes even some drugs are illegal for good reasons.

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  11. Mervel says:

    I do wonder though about the lawlessness aspect. For our various problems up here the border area is not full of crime, in fact we live in a pretty low crime area when compared to other parts of the country and state. Yet we have this going on right under our noses.

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  12. Pete Klein says:

    The guns leave the USA to go to other countries. They also move across state boarders from where they are easy to buy to places where they are not as easy to buy.

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  13. Mervel says:

    I wonder though to me just on a gut level, smuggling along the northern border seems to be an issue for someone else. I don’t see any big day to day problems from it just on a personal selfish level. I lead my life I don’t worry about crime that much. If some guys drives 200 pounds of pot through the rez and on downstate right past my house; well it does not really impact me. Sure interdiction may be important but I don’t see it as a burning issue for most North Country residents.

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