Marijuana trade rife on highway

National, Normal


AT least 10 people are arrested every day for allegedly transporting dried marijuana leaves at police road blocks at the Yonki section of the Okuk Highway in Eastern Highlands province.
Police said they had arrested 50 smugglers and confiscated more than 10kg of the drug since Nov 11 when the road block was set up by 15 policemen from the Mt Hagen-based police mobile squad 07.
Those arrested were transporting their marijuana from the Highlands to either Lae, Morobe province, or to Madang.
Yonki police station commander, Ambrose Mara, and MS07 commander, Sgt Patrick Waldo, said they were making at least 10 arrests a day.
Sgt Waldo said that 37 of the smugglers had been convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment, which is the maximum penalty for drug offenders.
He said that the others had pleaded not guilty and had been remanded in custody to appear at various dates at the Kainantu District Court.
“Since our deployment, we confiscated more than 10kg of dried and packed marijuana placed inside traveling bags, mixed with fruits and vegetables and were being transported. Some smugglers, on seeing police at the road block, slip away quietly from the vehicles they are in,” Sgt Waldo said.
Commander Mara said that at every road block, they would pick up marijuana suspects.
He said they picked up more smugglers at night, between 10pm and 3am, adding that the trade was flourishing along the Okuk Highway.
Assistant commissioner for police in the Highlands, Simon Kauba, made a special visit to the Yonki road block and was impressed with the progress of his officers.
“Excellent police operation, especially the road block on the highway, resulting in the confiscation of substantial amounts of marijuana,” he said.
Mr Kauba said most of the smugglers hid the illegal substance in fruits and vegetables but his policemen knew where to look for the drug.