Southwest Arizona’s Wellton Station Catches Much of the Pot Trade

On Thanksgiving Day 2010, Customs & Border Protection (CBP) agents pulled a pickup truck over at the Wellton Station, a CBP station located on Interstate 8, about 40 miles east of the California border. The pickup had been flagged by the CBP’s canine team, and it proved to be correct – agents found marijuana with an estimated street value of $90,880 hidden in the door panels, the back seat, and the truck’s ceiling.

The location of the Wellton Station makes it the first CBP station that anyone headed east encounters after entering the country from San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico (just over the border from Yuma). The area is part of the CBP’s Yuma Sector, an area covering 126 miles of border running from California’s Imperial Sand Dunes to the Yuma-Pima county line in Arizona. The CBP says that the Yuma Sector is one of the fastest growing Border Patrol Sectors in the country, having doubled in size since 2004. Since 2005, illicit cross-border activity has decreased in the area more than 94 percent, according to the Yuma Sector CBP.

To the south of I-8 is the Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range and the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, which forces all traffic in the area to funnel through the Wellton Station. In July, news reports indicated that agents at the Wellton Station had seized more than $15 million in marijuana in the months since October 1, 2009. And while much of this figure comes from smugglers picked up off the highway, some of it comes from stops made at the Wellton Station of drivers entering Arizona from California or Mexico – as the driver of the pickup truck learned.