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DIGGING DEEPER: Nearly a ton of drugs go up in smoke

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Nearly a ton of dangerous narcotics and marijuana is off the streets – for good.

Some of those drugs were seized from dealers, while others came from the Pima County Sheriff’s Dispose-a-Med program.

News 4 Tucson’s Digging Deeper team was able to get exclusive access, and got a first-hand look at exactly how the drugs were disposed of.

In October we got an exclusive in-depth look at the sheriff’s department vault, where drugs are stored until they can be destroyed.

This week, those drugs were taken out of that vault, and went up in smoke.

Each of several dozen boxes containing dangerous narcotics such as methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and  prescription pain medication were marked off as they make their way out of the vault, and into a Sherriff’s Department vehicle. 

All 1,400 pounds of hard drugs, including medications from the public Dispose-a-Med program are heading to an undisclosed disposal site.

Each mile along the way, they are guarded by the Pima County Regional SWAT team.

Only 400 pounds of marijuana made the cut on this trip. It goes to the Drug Enforcement Administration, where they will dispose of it at no cost to Pima County taxpayers.

Last year alone, the Sheriff's Department handed over nearly 7,000 pounds of marijuana.

SWAT team members know the vehicle carrying the drugs could be targeted for a heist, so the keep a close eye on the vehicle carrying the cargo of narcotics.

The ultimate destination is an incinerator, where the items are burned.

The company that operates it asked we not identify them, or show their equipment or their employees, to protect everyone involved. 

Authorities say this is just a dent in the problem of illegal drugs, but it’s a good start.

Paul Birmingham

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