It could be the start of another busy season for the state troopers at the Greenwich Township weigh station on I-78. Last week, police caught a truck driver from California attempting to transport over 1,000 pounds of marijuana across the New Jersey-Pennsylvania line. The bust rivals some of the weigh station’s most historic drug seizures, all of which have occurred in the last few years. And while drug trafficking convictions are decreasing across the United States, Interstate 78 appears to be a hot spot. Or at least in that quiet stretch of highway through Still Valley and across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania, state troopers are really good at their jobs.
$5 Million Marijuana Seizure Rivals Weigh-Stations’ Biggest Busts
In 2016, there were three massive drug busts at the Greenwich Township weigh station in Stewartsville, NJ. All of them happened within a few days of each other in August. Things started small at first, with a 53-year-old driver busted for trafficking 53 pounds of cannabis. Officials estimated the marijuana was worth about $324,000, which works out to about $380 an ounce.
Then just a couple of days later, troopers found 80 pounds of heroin in another California driver’s truck. Police said it was about $2.8 million worth of heroin and other drugs. And a week later, troopers made what observers called the largest “cold-stop” heroin seizure in U.S. history. With no prior tips or knowledge, police spot-searched the truck of Henry A. Cruz Ventura and found 140 pounds of heroin and 22 pounds of cocaine worth $5.4 million.
That heroin seizure is still New Jersey’s largest drug bust. But Guangyu Wu’s recent attempt to traffic drugs across New Jersey is a close second. Wu, a 45-year-old California man, tried to bring 1,000 pounds of cannabis through the Greenwich Township weigh station. But inspectors discovered the stash in 44 cardboard boxes mixed in with the rest of the tractor-trailer’s cargo. State troopers have priced the seizure at $5.1 million, which shakes out to about $320 an ounce.
Facing charges of possession with intent to distribute more than 25 pounds of marijuana and other possession charges, Wu is currently sitting in county jail. The maximum sentence for the top charge, a first-degree felony, is 20 years in prison. If convicted, the mandatory minimum is 10 years. The charge also carries a $300,000 fine.
Marijuana Trafficking Is Down As States Eye Legalization
Guangyu Wu could spend the better part of his remaining years in prison for something that could be normal enough in the next few years. Both Pennsylvania and New Jersey are in the midst of implementing significant changes to their marijuana policy. From decriminalization to new prosecutorial methods, medical cannabis expansion and pushes for adult-use legalization, the cannabis landscape is changing dramatically in the eastern United States.
And one rarely-remarked consequence of the broader legalization of cannabis has been a steady decrease in drug trafficking charges. According to the United States Sentencing Commission, there were 2,710 marijuana trafficking offenders in 2017. Those offenses account for just 14.1 percent of all drug trafficking convictions and represent a 43.2 percent drop from the number of marijuana trafficking offenses in 2013.