Getting high on the high seas?

May 08, 2012|By Peter Hermann

For the few who want to get high on the high seas, watch out for customs.

U.S. Customs officers said they've had a busy week at the South Baltimore terminal -- issuing what it called seven $500 "zero-tolerance" citations to passengers trying to board a cruise ship with marijuana.

The quantities were described as small "personal use" levels, and pale in comparison to earlier busts of Baltimore cruise line workers found, two separate times, with 2.2 pounds of heroin and 1.8 pounds of cocaine.

But marijuana is still illegal. A spokesman with U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection said the penalties are not akin to criminal charges, and the passengers were permitted to board -- without their pot. Four were from Maryland and others lived in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and California.

In six of the "busts," a dog sniffed out the contraband. One person also had a small amount of hashish, officials said.

Last year federal authorities said they issued 19 citations for drugs and collected more than $9,500 in fines. This year's numbers already surpass 2011, with 22 citations and $22,000 collected.

“The number of travelers we encounter possessing controlled substances is very small compared to the more than 335,000 passengers we inspect at the cruise terminal annually, Frances B. Garcia, acting director for the Port of Baltimore, said in a statement. "Nearly all narcotics seizures are of amounts considered to be for personal use; however, possessing narcotics remains illegal and travelers face severe consequences, from costly civil penalties up to, and including, possible arrest."

Here are details, according to customs, of the bigger arrests involving crewmen:

"On Dec. 18, 2010, CBP was involved in the arrest of ... crewmen from the Royal Caribbean ship Enchantment of the Seas, who attempted to smuggle a more than 2.2 pounds of heroin and more than one pound of cocaine into the United States." Five people have been convicted, with one getting 20 years in prison.

"On Jan. 8, 2011, a CBP narcotics detector dog sniffed out 1 pound, 8 ounces of cocaine and 14 ounces of heroin hidden in an equipment locker on board the Royal Caribbean ship Enchantment of the Seas.  No arrests were made in the case.“

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