Local News

Wednesday, Jul 09 2014 08:40 PM

Police seize more than 3 tons of pot at traffic stop

  1. 1 of 3

    By BPD photo

    Bakersfield police stopped a U-Haul at Bernard Street and Wendell Avenue at 5:32 a.m. Wednesday and found 6,732 pounds of marijuana inside wrapped and ready for sale.

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  2. 2 of 3

    By BPD photo

    After Bakersfield police seized more than 3 tons of pot during a traffic stop Wednesday, they stacked it in neat piles. Police estimated the pot's street value at $76.4 million.

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  3. 3 of 3

    By BPD photo

    This is the U-Haul truck allegedly stopped by Bakersfield police early Wednesday morning for running a red light. When officers forced their way into the cargo area, they found more than 3 tons of marijuana.

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BY RUTH BROWN Californian staff writer rbrown@bakersfield.com

Bakersfield police agree the seizure of more than 3 tons of marijuana Wednesday morning was the largest in memory.

And if police estimates are correct, the marijuana's value of $76 million would make it among the most expensive pot ever confiscated.

The bust occurred after two officers saw a U-Haul truck run a red light about 5:30 a.m. at the intersection of Bernard Street and Wendell Avenue in east Bakersfield.

The officers, Jessica Amos and Travis Brewer, smelled marijuana in the truck and called in a police K-9.

The dog alerted officers to the drugs in the locked cargo area of the truck. Officers cut the lock off, lifted the door and stared at 252 bales of pot, each about 1-foot-by-1-foot-by-2-foot in size, wrapped in tape and plastic, and ready for sale.

Police estimated the 6,732 pounds of pot had a street value of more than $76.4 million. If so, that would mean each ounce of pot was worth about $709, nearly three times the current price of an ounce of "high quality" marijuana sold in California, according to several websites, including priceofweed.com.

It's the difference between a $76.4 million bust and a $26.4 million bust.

The U-Haul had an Arizona license plate but police are unsure that's where the pot originated, BPD spokesman Sgt. Joe Grubbs said. Police also do not know where the drugs were grown.

Two Bakersfield men, driver Daniel Ruiz, 22, and passenger Jose Alcarez, 24, were arrested on suspicion of possession of marijuana for sales, transportation of marijuana and conspiracy. They were booked into the downtown jail.

Kern County has had other marijuana seizures in the past few years, but none challenging Wednesday's discovery. In August 2011, 149 pounds of marijuana were found in a Delano home, for example.

Large county busts have involved marijuana farms, where plants have not yet been harvested and prepared for use. In August 2012, 460 pot plants and 12 pounds of harvested pot were found in Lake Isabella. In June 2011, a growth of 2,464 plants was found off Highway 65, north of Sherwood Avenue and east of McFarland.

Nationally, the rate of marijuana seizures has decreased, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

According to DEA statistics, 1.59 million pounds of pot were seized in the U.S. in 2010. It dropped to 1.26 million pounds in 2011 and 780,620 pounds in 2012, the last year for which numbers were available.

Those numbers include everything from misdemeanor amounts of pot to trafficking the drug in large quantities.

While Wednesday's Bakersfield bust was impressive in size, it's relatively small compared to others in California.

A July 2009 marijuana farm bust in Fresno County found at least 330,000 marijuana plants, worth about $1 billion.

And nearly 30 years ago in November 1984 about 150 miles off the coast of San Diego, 13 tons of pot were seized.

Still, anyone with additional information on the case is asked to call the BPD at 327-7111.

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