While the announcement that the Drug Enforcement Administration was looking for someone to burn the massive amounts of marijuana they need to destroy in Texas is still making laps on the web, not much has been noted about the fact the DEA has now awarded the contract to a Tuscon, Arizona company.
The awarding of the contract was a scoop from KJZZ, Phoenix’s NPR affiliate. They reported that the Houston Division of the DEA had selected Tucson Iron & Metal as the only viable vendor in the area where they need to send the weed.
At the very least, the Arizona company will be destroying four tons of marijuana a day. But that was just the baseline for entry into the running, so who knows what the facility is entirely capable of. When we reached out, Tucson Iron & Metal quickly rejected our queries into how they got the gig and said they had no comment.
The DEA, however, did respond to our inquiries about how the agency made the decision to go with Tucson Iron & Metal as the vendor to burn thousands of pounds of cannabis.
From the Lion’s Mouth
DEA Special Agent Sammy Parks told Cannabis Now that the office wasn’t able to describe the process, mainly because the awarding part is handled by a separate entity. “There is a process for how contracts are awarded government-wide, it’s for everything we do. It doesn’t just stand alone for a vendor looking to dispose of our evidence,” Parks said.
But the DEA will be the one executing the operation. According to the prior notice, agents and armed contractors will be onsite to supervise the burns that will go for a minimum of eight hours at a time.
We asked Parks how large the backlog of marijuana the division needs to destroy is.
“We’re not structured to store thousands and thousands of pounds of drugs. It builds up and it builds up, then we eventually have to dispose of it, right?”
“It varies,” he replied. “This is bulk drugs, significant seizures.” After speaking on the actual size of the area covered by the Houston field office, Parks noted, “There is no set standard to how much drugs we seize per quarter. There is no mechanism in place for that. It varies every time.”
Parks said the DEA works to destroy the cannabis evidence as soon as the cases are adjudicated.
“We’re not structured to store thousands and thousands of pounds of drugs. It builds up and it builds up, then we eventually have to dispose of it, right? Which may sound odd, but it’s a part of our job,” Parks said.
We asked if the Houston Division of the DEA saw more confiscations than other places further west along the border. Parks said he couldn’t speak to those exact kinds of comparisons, but he said they certainly have some of the hot spots for marijuana trafficking on the border where a lot if the seizures are happening on almost a daily basis.
Parks mentioned the ongoing media blitz around the initial announcement they were looking for a vendor. “If you just query ‘DEA burning marijuana,’ there are so many results. We got an influx of calls. There was a lot.”
According to the DEA’s 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment, despite the tons of weed being taken off the street by the Houston field division, the availability of marijuana remains high locally. The report also noted the scale of the amount of marijuana flowing into Texas. In 2016, the seizures in Laredo were up 22 percent, totaling over 68,000 kilos. Right next door in the Rio Grande Valley district, where Houston is located, they took in over 140,000 kilos.
If the DEA wanted to destroy all that marijuana in one go, given the requirements set forth in the initial announcement, they would have to run the furnace for roughly 458 hours straight, or 19 days.
TELL US, we spoke to the DEA about burning cannabis. What would you ask them about?