Smugglers use cannon to hurl marijuana over U.S.-Mexico border

PHOENIX, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Mexican smugglers used a

pneumatic-powered cannon to propel cans packed with 85 pounds

(38kg) of marijuana into the air and over a fence at the Mexican

border near San Luis, Arizona, authorities said on Wednesday.

"We haven't seen this before," said Kyle Estes, a U.S.

Border Patrol spokesman. "We've seen catapults, but nothing like

this. That's for sure."

He estimated the marijuana's value at $42,500.

The plot was foiled when U.S. Border Patrol agents

discovered the 33 pot-filled cans last week before they could be

picked up by smugglers in an area about 500 feet (150 metres)

from the border fence, on the United States side, Estes said.

Agents searching the area about 200 miles (320 km) southwest

of Phoenix recovered a carbon dioxide tank used to propel

objects from the cannon, he said.

Smugglers have become increasingly inventive in trying to

move contraband into the U.S. in light of stepped up efforts to

crack down on border smuggling, Estes said.

U.S. authorities have added more fencing, agents and

technologies including unmanned surveillance drones to tighten

security along Arizona's border with Mexico in recent years.

Drug traffickers have responded with a variety of ruses

including strapping marijuana loads to low-flying microlight

aircraft and hurling it over the border fence using

medieval-style catapults.

No one was arrested in connection with the latest scheme.

(Reporting By David Schwartz, Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and

Cynthia Osterman)