U.S. Coast Guard Officers Destroy Giant Bahamian Pot Farm After Claiming They Smelled Weed "From the Air"

U.S. Coast Guard
In a case that illustrates America's bizarre and quasi-colonial relationship with the Bahamas, the U.S. Coast Guard announced today that, while its officers were just buzzing around in Bahamian airspace over Andros Island, about 154 miles from Miami, they "smelled" marijuana. It turns out they were flying over a sprawling marijuana farm. So they burned down the farm, even though it sits in a different country.

"On Wednesday Feb. 6, 2019, a Coast Guard forward deployed MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Operation Bahamas, Turks & Caicos (OPBAT) recognized what appeared to be a strong smell of marijuana while flying over Andros Island on a joint narcotic interdiction patrol," the Coast Guard announced. "The Coast Guard helicopter transported United States DEA agents and Royal Bahamas Police Force Officers from the Drug Enforcement Unit to the area to identify and eradicate over 200,000 marijuana plants."

All told, the American military destroyed 460,000 pounds of Bahamian weed.
(Multiple TV news stations first reported on the press-release earlier today.)

According to the Coast Guard Aviation Association, the U.S. government began Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos, or OPBAT, in 1982 during the height of then-President Ronald Reagan's War on Drugs. The Coast Guard reportedly started the project after two infamous drug lords, George Jung and Carlos Lehder, had set up a huge cocaine-smuggling business in the island nation. (The men would later be profiled in the 2001 movie Blow, in which Johnny Depp played Jung.) The U.S. Army then stationed members of its 101st Airborne Division on the island from 1986 to 2007.

Even in 1990, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) criticized OPBAT as being needlessly complicated and expensive.

"U.S. agencies are expanding air interdiction efforts in the Bahamas, including acquisition of additional radars, helicopters, and bases," the GAO wrote to Congress. "These acquisitions will improve capabilities for detecting and apprehending airborne drug smugglers and may further deter air smuggling. However, they will be costly and will not eliminate limitations in the interdiction system."

But the Coast Guard is still apparently flying around the Bahamas to hunt for drugs.

"The efforts put forth by the Coast Guard, DEA, and the Bahamian Police Force is another success story highlighting the effectiveness of OPBAT's counter-drug operation," OPBAT Director Mike Benson said today in a media release.

Congrats on finding all of that scary pot!
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.