Tamil Nadu residents hugely prefer ganja produced in other states: Police

Recent arrests in Karur for cultivation of ganja plants in fields was cause for much concern and some amusement.
Tamil Nadu residents hugely prefer ganja produced in other states: Police

Recent arrests in Karur for cultivation of ganja plants in fields was cause for much concern and some amusement. Officials say this case is an outlier as Tamil Nadu does not produce much marijuana, but admit the State’s residents are huge consumers of the drug, which is grown in other states.

Hungry for that high

  • According to senior police officials, in a November 26 meeting convened by Narcotics Intelligence Bureau, Tamil Nadu DGP J K Tripathy said in recent years ganja consumption in TN had increased by 1,500 per cent.

  • In 2018, the NIB-CID seized 900kg of ganja entering the State and the Narcotics Control Bureau seized 550kgs.

  • The street value of ganja is 20 times higher than the farming value. This means that 1kg ganja, grown at a cost of just Rs 1,000, is sold for Rs 22,000.

  • The drug enters through Chennai, Coimbatore, Erode and Vellore. Smugglers enter Chennai via Andhra Pradesh, Erode via Karnataka and Coimbatore via Kerala.

  • The ganja is from Andhra Pradesh and Odisha which are major cultivators of weed.

Which weed why?

  • Two varieties of marijuana are most common in Tamil Nadu and south India, namely Cannabis indica (broad leaf) and Cannabis sativa (longleaf).

  • Experts say indica is used for its sedative and relaxive effects, and for a goodnight’s sleep. 

  • Reportedly sativa is used for increasing cerebral function and pairs well with physical activity and social interaction.

  • Officials say youngsters prefer a hybrid variety or just sativa.

  • Those in the age group of 30-45 and above have started to specifically ask for indica. Some have even started to grow it on their own.

How Ganja enters TN

Method 1

  • In 2018, four people carrying 50kg of ganja were caught at Chennai Central railway station. Police found a man had handed over the package, paid them Rs 2,000 and given them a mobile number. 

  • “He told them the package would be collected from their homes. It was after they were caught that it was learnt that this man had given such packages to 100 people reaching Chennai from Andhra by 20 different trains over four days,” a senior Chennai cop said.

  • The man would collect the packages and sell them to another dealer in the city.

Method 2

  • In October 2018, based on a tip-off, Narcotics Control Bureau sleuths nabbed an ambulance driver who had taken a dead body to Andhra Pradesh and was returning. 

  • The ganja network had people in all the government hospitals and if any person from Andhra or Telangana died in Tamil Nadu, the network would contact the ambulance driver and strike a deal, said A Bruno, Zonal Director of NCB, Chennai unit.

  • After leaving the body in either Telugu state, the ambulance would return with a sack of at least 200kg of ganja. 

  • Sometimes, private ambulances would be hired at huge costs and be sent to ply between Chennai or Kancheepuram and Andhra Pradesh. “Since it is an ambulance even police wouldn’t question them,” said a senior police officer.

Then Madurai Commissioner of Police Mahesh
Kumar Agarwal inspecting seized ganja at
Mandapam in Rameswaran | file photo

Method 3

  • Six months ago the Kotturpuram police arrested a man who had hired a ‘Zoom’ car and was seen distributing ganja to people 

  • Every new method takes at least three months to be identified and stopped. A police officer said, in this case, a huge number of people hired Zoom cars from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and visited Chennai and Puducherry 

  • “Such cars easily crossed the checkposts at State borders as Zoom cars were rarely stopped or checked lest they affected tourism,” police sources said

  • Using this loophole, the smugglers travel from Andhra Pradesh to Bengaluru and then Coimbatore before reaching Chennai

Method 4

  • Recently Customs officials, over three months, caught 31 consignments of foreign postal parcels used to smuggle marijuana and other drugs into India. 

  • The parcels came from Canada, the UK, and the US and contained dried green leaves of marijuana, packed in multiple layers of vacuum compressed sealed plastic bags.  

  • The substance was packed along with coffee powder, to conceal the fragrance.

  • “In most cases, the consignee names provided to book the parcels were fake. In some others, the consignees said their names were misused to book parcels,” said Customs sleuths.

From TN to Lanka

  • In 2018, the Narcotics Intelligence Bureau and NCB seized and destroyed over 50,000 kg of ganja which was to be smuggled into Sri Lanka. 

  • This is excluding efforts of local police, railway police, airport authorities and Sri Lanka Special police.

  • “The usual route for ganja to be smuggled into Sri Lanka is either by Kollam or Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala or Thoothukudi, Kanniyakumari or Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu,” said a NIB-CID official.

  • Every year, hundreds are arrested in Tamil Nadu as well as in Sri Lanka at the airport or the Port. 

  • Vedaranyam block in Nagapattinam district is considered a major hub of drug trafficking to Sri Lanka. 

  • Ganja from across south India is smuggled to Sri Lanka on fishing boats across Indian Maritime Border Limit. 

  • On December 1, CB-CID police stopped a consignment of 692kg of ganja smuggled in a tourist van near Vadugur towards Vedaranyam. 

  • This May, a four-member group was caught in Naluvethapathi, near Vedaranyam, holding a 25-year-old Sri Lankan from Jaffna for non-settlement of payment from the Lankan’s elder brother for the transfer of ganja.

  • A fisher representative said that although the community had been warned against being involved in smuggling, some still assisted in trafficking.

  • Last June, a man from Kodiyakadu and three fishers from Pushpavanam were near the shores of Periyakuthagai as they were allegedly waiting for Sri Lankan procurers.

  • However, marine police in Vedaranyam do not have mechanized interceptor boats to tackle ganja smuggling.

  • The two interceptor boats functioning from Nagapattinam have to travel 27 nautical miles (50 kilometres) to patrol waters near Vedaranyam. Marine police hire fibreglass boats to confront suspects at mid-sea. 

  • The issue is lack of harbour near Vedaranyam to facilitate berthing of an interceptor boat, said an official from Coastal Security Group.

By: Sahaya Lobo Novinston (Chennai) & Antony Fernando (Nagapattinam)
With inputs from S Raja (Theni), MP Saravanan (Tirupur), Vinodh 
Arulappan (Madurai), S Sivaguru (Krishnagiri), R Kirubakaran (Coimbatore), 
M Thanaraj (Tiruchy), Chandhini Rajesh Kannan (Erode) and Aravind Raj (Karur)

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