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8,500 Pounds Of Pot Seized Off LA Coast In Panga Boat

SAN PEDRO (CBS) — Approximately 8,500 pounds of marijuana was discovered about 150 miles west of Los Angeles and now it's in the hands of U.S. Coast Guard officials.

On Thursday, it took teams of officers in San Pedro to unload the 340 bales seized off the San Francisco-based Coast Guard Cutter Aspen. The four tons of pot is worth nearly $8 million dollars.

"It's the most that's been seized off the California coastline historically and again that's because we're getting better at interdicting it. We're pushing it further and further offshore to make the smugglers work harder and harder," Capt. Jim Jenkins, of the U.S. Coast Guard said told CBS2/KCAL9 reporter Amanda Burden.

The marijuana bust happened Wednesday during a routine patrol on the water. Officers noticed a suspicious boat and began to investigate.

"There was a short chase. When the pursuit boat caught up to the small vessel, they boarded it and at that time, they found six individuals on-board, as well as marijuana on-board, " Jenkins said.

The marijuana was packed in a 33-foot panga boat, onboard were six suspects who are now in custody.

It's unclear where the suspects are from and where they were going, but Jenkins says they were putting their own lives at risk in this small vessel.

The small boats, known as pangas, are popular among smugglers for moving loads of marijuana and undocumented immigrants from the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

This incident was one of 56 marijuana seizures since last October and is four times the amount seized in the same area last year.

The street value of the 50 tons of marijuana taken in the last seven months is about $90 million dollars, according to law enforcement officials.

"It's not just the street value that matters, it's keeping the drugs off the street and keeping the proceeds from funding further criminal activity by the drug trafficking organizations, " Jenkins said.

The six suspects are now under custody with the Department of Homeland Security. The marijuana will be held at a holding facility and eventually be destroyed.

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