Here’s How Colombia Is Trying To Keep Cocaine Out Of Your Valentine’s Day Flowers

Image courtesy of Muffet

When you stick your face into a fresh bouquet of Valentine’s Day flowers and take a deep whiff, you’re not expecting to inhale a bunch of cocaine. That would be a huge problem, and one that flower exporters in South America are working hard to prevent in order to protect their business (and your noses).

Police and growers in Colombia have to keep a careful watch on the 330,000 pounds of flowers that leave the country on jumbo cargo planes every year in late January, destined for Valentine’s Day bouquets in the U.S., reports the Chicago Tribune.

Those boxes of roses are prime real estate so far as drug smugglers are concerned.

“Without a doubt we’re a target,” Augusto Solano, president of the Colombian flower exporters’ association, told the Tribune.

Because of that, the flower industry relies on security protocols — developed with law enforcement — that start as soon as refrigerated truckfuls of roses leave dozens of flower farms.

Once the flowers arrive at the airport, 100 police officers with 15 drug-sniffing dogs and electronic scanners go over each and every shipment.

Those efforts resulted in almost 200 pounds of cocaine discovered in flower boxes last year.

“We have to guarantee that our flower exports aren’t contaminated by criminal gangs,” a police colonel told the Tribune.

It’s a very serious business for the country: It can’t afford to lose its Valentine’s Day business, which amounts to about 500 million stems shipping each season, especially with rivals like Ecuador and Kenya trying to muscle in.

“It requires a big effort because if another country finds drugs they can ban flower imports from Colombia and that would be disastrous,” Solano told the Tribune.

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