What happens next to alleged Canadian smugglers of a quarter-ton of pot?

PORT ANGELES — Two Canadian men arrested early Monday morning following a high-speed chase on the Strait of Juan de Fuca were charged Tuesday with conspiracy to import an estimated $1 million to $2 million of marijuana known as “B.C. bud” into the United States.

Customs and Border Protection agents on marine patrol apprehended the Canadians unloading 547 pounds of “B.C. bud” marijuana off the Deep Creek area about halfway between Port Angeles and Neah Bay at about 1:30 a.m. Monday, authorities said.

Kyle Grayson Gadsby, 25, and Colin Charles Crowe, 26, both of Maple Ridge, British Columbia, were charged in Federal District Court in Tacoma on Tuesday with conspiracy to import marijuana.

They were ordered to remain incarcerated at the federal detention center in SeaTac until a detention hearing at 2 p.m. Monday next week.

At that time a judge will determine if they can be released on their own recognizance, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Emily Langlie said late Tuesday.

“The judge will set conditions, if appropriate, for release, such as no travel outside of B.C. or no coming to the U.S.,” Langlie said.

Gadsby and Crowe would be released under a personal recognizance bond.

If they violate that bond, they could be imprisoned up to 10 years.

Their preliminary hearing is set for June 15.

The marijuana was high-grade “B.C. bud,” according to the Border Patrol.

Its street value — if parceled down to quantities under a pound — would be $2 million, said Lorie Dankers, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is investigating the incident.

Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict pegged the wholesale, per-pound price at closer to $1 million, or $1,000 to $1,500 a pound.

Gadsby and Crowe were apprehended after a vessel with the Border Patrol’s Office of Air and Marine observed them coming ashore.

Benedict said the location is about halfway between Port Angeles and Neah Bay off state Highway 112.

Border Patrol spokesman Adan Gonzales said the two were spotted “coming ashore with large bales.”

Once discovered, Gadsby and Crowe allegedly tried fleeing in their inflatable boat, which Gonzales said had been painted gray.

The Border Patrol boat chased the pair, apprehending them in about three minutes, Gonzales said.

Gadsby and Crowe were then handed over to Border Patrol agents waiting on Highway 112, which skirts the shoreline.

The agents had been radioed when Gadsby and Crowe were discovered, Dankers said.

Agents aboard the patrol boat plucked out of the water eight bundles of marijuana weighing about 68 pounds each.

The Border Patrol, assisted by the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team, transported the men to Clallam County jail in Port Angeles, where they were briefly interrogated, Benedict said.

The men’s boat and a truck — and the marijuana — are being held by the sheriff’s office as evidence, Benedict said.

The boat and vehicle “probably will be forfeited to the federal government because they were used in a drug trafficking crime,” Langlie said.

The coastal nooks and crannies along Washington shoreline between the state’s border and Canada have long provided havens for smugglers, said John C. Bates, chief of the Blaine Border Patrol Sector, which includes the North Olympic Peninsula.

There were four marijuana busts of pot-laden boats over a five-month period around 2005 and 2006, Benedict recalled.

In recent years, though, marijuana smuggling “went way down to nothing,” he said.

“All indications I got was that pot was moving by land borders, which are less fortified,” Benedict said.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-417-3536 or at [email protected]

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