'Nightline' Granted Exclusive Access to U.S. Drug Enforcement Officials, Learns Mexican Drug Cartels Trying to Expand Marijuana Shipments to the U.S.

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U.S. Officials Burn Several Tons of Marijuana Siezed From Mexican Drug Cartels

About $59 million worth of marijuana and every other drug you can imagine being captured coming in from Mexico is stored in this secret vault: cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, heroin. An agent pointed to a pack of 31 pounds of black tar heroin. "Estimated street value about $1 million," he said.

We were granted a ride-along with a DEA caravan transporting confiscated drugs, with armed guards behind the wheel. Assistant special DEA agent Mel Rodriguez explained that the particular load we were traveling with was 320 pounds of drugs that was passed off to the DEA by Border patrol.

"They encountered six individuals who had just crossed over with duffel bags," he explained. "As soon as Border patrol approached them, they wound up dropping the duffel bags and jumping back into the river and swimming back to Mexico."

At some point the U.S. government has to destroy the drugs. DEA officers took "Nightline" inside another top-secret location where the agency was in the process of destroying 50,000 pounds, or 25 tons, of marijuana. Just like with the other vault, we were not allowed to disclose its location nor identify who worked there.

The vault is well protected with cement and steel. Surveillance cameras are everywhere, not to mention the throngs of armed DEA agents all over the place. Each cache of marijuana must be accounted for and is given a number as it is brought inside. There is so much marijuana in the facility that the drugs have to be moved by a forklift.

When it is time to destroy a haul, the marijuana is carried by forklift, then dumped into a large shredder before being fed into two huge incinerators and burned at more than 1,800 degrees. Some of the agents have even nicknamed the incinerators Dorothy and Bong 1.

After the marijuana is burned to ash, it is placed into barrels. Only steam from the heat of the incinerators is released into the atmosphere as millions and millions of drugs go up in smoke.

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