Certain inter-State courier services could be inadvertently abetting large-scale smuggling of marijuana from the drug-growing regions in rural Andhra Pradesh (AP) to ganja peddlers in the city, according to Excise Department enforcers.

They said the AP-based drug smugglers often couriered marijuana to their agents here from Andhra Pradesh by deliberately declaring their consignments as processed tamarind, rice bran, chilli powder, cloth, or blankets.

Investigators have since advised courier companies to check the contents of suspect consignments before accepting them for delivery or handing them over to receivers.

Courier companies should accept packages of only those senders who were willing to provide photograph-imposed documents as identity proof, they said.

The apparently prevalent method of operation came to light following the arrest and interrogation of an alleged drug smuggler from Pattom here on September 16.

Excise officials seized nearly 10 kg of high-grade marijuana from the suspect. “The drug was compressed and shaped in the form of bread loaves and packed in a carry-bag”, an enforcer said.

According to them, the accused, now in judicial custody, had fled the city in 1997 after the police named him as a suspect in a drug smuggling case registered at the Pangode police station.

He subsequently settled in Andhra Pradesh and gained a different identity, including a driving license and electoral identity card. Drug enforcers said the accused was one among the ‘known' large-scale marijuana smugglers in the district. He ran a large network of peddlers in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, and Pathanamthitta districts.

Officials said much of the marijuana peddled here was sourced from Naxalite-dominated forests bordering Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. Intelligence agencies had reported last year that the street-sale of marijuana in Kerala could be benefitting armed Left wing extremist groups operating in such regions.

Sources said drug smugglers purchased marijuana for Rs.750 per kg in AP, chiefly Anakapalle, a town known for its sugarcane industry in Visakhapatnam district, and sold it for Rs.10,000 and above here.

The price of marijuana at source often increased to Rs.2,000 per kg when the drug became scarce after the November-January harvest season. Enforcers said the costliest variant of AP-sourced marijuana was known by the local trade name ‘Sheelavathy.' Even during harvest season, it sold for Rs.1,500 a kg.

Entry-level drug

The particular variety reportedly had higher tetra hydrocannabinol content, a psychoactive compound, than that of its Kerala counterpart ‘Neelachadayan.' Enforcers viewed marijuana as an ‘entry-level drug' and said its abuse could lead users to more potent and highly addictive intravenously administered drugs such as heroin, brown sugar, and buprenorphine, a widely abused pain killer.