Indian reservations at the Mexican and Canadian borders with the U.S. are becoming vital pipelines for funneling marijuana, ecstasy, and other drugs into the country, the Montreal Gazette reported June 18.
According to the National Drug Intelligence Center's 2010 drug threat assessment, as much as 20 percent of the high-potency marijuana grown in Canada passes through the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, which runs 20 miles along the border. The Tohono O'odham Reservation in Arizona runs 75 miles along the border with Mexico and reportedly is a conduit for five to 10 percent of all Mexican-produced marijuana smuggled into the U.S.
Underfunded and undermanned tribal police, poverty, and simmering resentment with U.S. policies and federal law-enforcement agencies have created an ideal environment for reservation residents willing to buck the law for quick money. A 45-minute drive could net $2,000, one O'odham reservation resident claimed.
The trend shows no signs of slowing. Tribal law-enforcement agents made 292 seizures totaling 67 tons of marijuana in 2005; in 2009, that rose to 1,066 seizures totaling more than 159 tons.
The burden of enforcing the law, some say, shouldn't fall to tribal police.
“It is primarily a federal responsibility,” said Kevin Washburn, the dean of the University of New Mexico law school in Albuquerque. “And the federal government's commitment has been weak.”