Arizona is now a gateway for much of the marijuana coming into the United States. Smugglers have pinpointed the state's border as a place where they can bring vast quantities of the drug through with relative ease. "They're not dummies," said Sgt. Ernie Renfro, of the state Department of Public Safety. "They know the weaknesses in our border better than we do, and they're exploiting that." More than 86 percent of marijuana brought into the country comes through the Southwest border region that stretches from California to Texas, and officials say Arizona has become the no. 2 spot in the country for marijuana trafficking. The only place where more marijuana is smuggled in is south Texas according to the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. [zombienote: If they know exactly how much comes in why dont they catch it all? The allegation of 86% is just a guess.] The dope is driven up Interstate 10 to stash houses in Phoenix, where it is repackaged and distributed across the country. As a result, police are increasingly finding larger and larger stashes of marijuana in neighborhoods across the Valley. This week, Phoenix police seized more than 4,000 pounds of marijuana in a home in an upscale historic district next to Encanto Park. The pot was stacked everywhere inside a well-maintained brick home with a perfectly manicured front lawn in a neighborhood where home prices easily reach $300,000. Oscar Lyon, 85, said he never suspected the home was a stash house. "I didn't think anyone lived there," said Lyon, a retired civil engineer. "It's shocking. It's two houses from where I live. I'm not concerned about safety but that kind of activity could have a lot different ending." Earlier this year, nearly a ton of dope was found in an Avondale home, and more than 5,000 pounds of marijuana was discovered in west Phoenix. Renfro said DPS seizes marijuana on a weekly basis from the all parts of the Valley. In fiscal year 2003, DPS seized 91,831 pounds of marijuana, a 32 percent increase from the previous year. Phoenix police seized about 25,000 pounds of marijuana last year. "We're seeing it everywhere," Renfro said. "It doesn't matter where you're at. You're not immune to having a stash house." While seizures and arrests mean officers are keeping some drugs off the streets, law enforcement is aware that far more drugs get through then get stopped. Despite a massive push by the Department of Homeland Security to control Arizona's 350-mile border, illegal immigration is reaching levels not seen since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the flow of marijuana also is spiking. Marijuana seizures along the Southwest border increased more than 45 percent between fiscal years 1998 and 2002, according to the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. In the Tucson sector, marijuana seizures this year are already on pace to surpass last year's record. Through Wednesday, federal agents had seized 287,632 pounds of marijuana in the Tucson sector, up 22 percent from last year at this time, said Rob Daniels, spokesman for the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection in Tucson. "What we continue to see is every time that we respond in a certain way to trafficking in a given area, the smugglers will attempt to relocate their efforts to another area," Daniels said. Renfro estimates that for every load that is interdicted, another five get through. [zombienote: Objection: speculation.] Marijuana is big business in Arizona. The dope is cheap and easy to get and is used by more people than other drugs like cocaine and heroin, perhaps because it is seen as "the lesser drug." A pound of marijuana sells for about $500 in Phoenix. Dealers, who come here from across the country to buy it, can get three times as much as that per pound on the East Coast. [zombienote: Schwag. That stuff is just better than biomass. It whould be woven into doormats and brewed into biodiesel - not smoked.] "Do I expect to see more of this? Yeah, I do," said Phoenix police Cmdr. Joe Klima, who oversees the city's drug enforcement bureau. "You're going to see it keep coming until we tighten up the borders." [zombnote: Translation - we want more money. More, more more more...] Federal agents say they want to make it as difficult as possible for drug traffickers to do business in Arizona. In March, a major operation, the "Arizona Border Control Initiative," launched and reinforcements are on the way: By June, there will be more than 2,000 agents, four helicopters and two unmanned aircraft patrolling the state's border. Russell Ahr, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the efforts are necessary even if trafficking is never completely stopped. "I don't think we're going to stop people from killing each other, but that doesn't mean you stop arresting them for murder," Ahr said. "You do the best that you can." [zombienote: Reefer madnes: Attempting to equate marijuana smuggling with murder. A major league stupid analogy. Again, they simply want funds. Making dramatic statements like that helps, I suppose.] Said Daniels: "Without any doubt, any time we're able to make a significant seizure, whether it's in Phoenix or in Tucson or along the border, we're keeping that much narcotics off the streets and out of our neighborhoods." [zombienote: And that statement is intended to allege that all this wasted effort actually does some good. At most, they inconvenience people who want to smoke. That's it.] Includes information from reporter Quynh Tran.