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National Drug Intelligence Center
New York Drug Threat Assessment
Marijuana is the most widely available and frequently abused illicit drug in New York. Most of the marijuana available in New York is produced in other states or in Mexico, Jamaica, and Canada; however, marijuana produced in New York also is available. Mexican and Jamaican criminal groups transport marijuana from southwestern states into New York usually using trucks, private vehicles, and package delivery services. Colombian DTOs and criminal groups and Jamaican criminal groups, among others, typically use the same methods to transport marijuana north from Florida into New York and often use couriers or cargo shipments on commercial airlines to transport marijuana from overseas. Jamaican criminal groups are the most prominent wholesale, midlevel, and retail distributors of marijuana in New York; however, no specific organization or group controls the distribution of marijuana. Marijuana is typically sold at open-air markets and from apartments. Some law enforcement reporting indicates that Jamaican criminal groups sell marijuana from smoke shops (tobacco shops), bodegas (small grocery stores), and other small businesses, although distribution at these locations occurs at a significantly lower rate and is less overt than in the past.
Marijuana is the most commonly abused drug in New York, and the rate of abuse is comparable to the national average. According to the 1999 NHSDA, 4.9 percent of New York residents reported having abused marijuana at least once in the month prior to the survey, compared with 4.7 percent nationwide. NHSDA data also indicate that New York residents abused marijuana more than any other illicit drug.
New York has a significant number of marijuana-related treatment admissions. Marijuana-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities increased steadily from 23,453 in 1997 to 32,448 in 2001, according to TEDS. (See Table 3 in Overview section.) The number of marijuana-related treatment admissions per 100,000 population in New York (179) significantly exceeded the number per 100,000 nationwide (103) in 1999, the most recent year for which these data are available.
The rate of marijuana-related ED mentions--the number per 100,000 population--was higher than the rate nationwide every year in Buffalo and every year except 2001 in New York City. In New York City the total number of marijuana-related ED mentions fluctuated from 3,839 in 1997 to 3,501 in 2001, according to DAWN. In Buffalo marijuana-related ED mentions fluctuated from 472 in 1997 to 561 in 2001. The rate per 100,000 population was higher than the nationwide figure each year during that period.
New York high school students are less likely than high school students nationwide to abuse marijuana. According to YRBS, in 1999--the most recent year for which data representative of high school students in the entire state are available--41.3 percent of New York high school students reported having abused marijuana at least once during their lifetime, compared with 47.2 percent nationwide. In 1999, 23.4 percent of the New York high school students reported that they abused marijuana in the 30 days prior to the survey, compared with 26.7 percent nationwide. Additionally, 7.9 percent of New York high school students reported that they had tried marijuana before age 13, compared with 11.3 percent nationwide.
Marijuana is the most widely available illicit drug in New York. Most of the marijuana available in the state is produced in other U.S. states or in Mexico, Jamaica, or Canada. Marijuana produced in New York also is available. According to FDSS data, federal law enforcement officials in New York seized more marijuana (approximately 16,677 kilograms) than any other drug except cocaine from 1998 through 2001. The annual amount seized fluctuated but was relatively stable from 1998 (2,852 kilograms) through 2001 (2,713 kilograms). (See Table 1 in Overview section.)
The price of marijuana available in New York varies and is dependent on the type of marijuana sold, the buyer's familiarity with the seller, the location of the sale, and the quantity involved. According to DEA, in New York City commercial-grade marijuana sold for $200 to $2,000 per pound and $100 to $200 per ounce during the first quarter of FY2002. Hydroponically grown marijuana sold for $1,000 to $5,000 per pound and $300 to $1,200 per ounce. In Upstate New York commercial-grade marijuana sold for $350 to $2,000 per pound, $100 to $150 per ounce, and $25 per one-quarter ounce. Hydroponically grown marijuana sold Upstate for $1,500 to $4,200 per pound and $250 to $300 per ounce. "Purple Haze," a new form of marijuana, reportedly more potent than hydroponically grown marijuana, sold for $300 per ounce in Upstate New York.
Arrestees in New York often test positive for marijuana. According to ADAM data, 40.6 percent of adult male arrestees in New York City tested positive for marijuana abuse in 2000. In Albany 44.7 percent of adult male arrestees tested positive for marijuana abuse in 2000.
The percentage of federal sentences related to marijuana in New York was significantly lower than the national percentage from FY1996 through FY2000. According to USSC, 8.7 percent of all drug-related federal sentences in New York in FY2000 were marijuana-related, compared with 31.2 percent nationwide. (See Table 2 in Overview section.)
Violent crime is not frequently associated with the abuse of marijuana in New York. Marijuana abusers generally are characterized as nonviolent, and the drug's effects typically depend upon the user's personality and expectations. Low doses of marijuana tend to induce relaxation, and high doses may cause image distortion, loss of personal identity, fantasies, and hallucinations. Marijuana occasionally is laced with other drugs, including PCP (phencyclidine). Adulterants such as PCP substantially alter the effects and toxicity of the product, making it more likely that abusers will become violent.
Marijuana distributors, particularly Jamaican posses, engage in violent crimes to protect their turf. Law enforcement agencies in Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse have reported an increase in drug-related violence resulting from an influx of Jamaican criminals who are challenging drug distribution areas long controlled by local marijuana distributors.
Cannabis cultivation occasionally is associated with violent crime in New York. Typically, growers cultivate cannabis outdoors with booby traps situated among and around the plants. Reports indicate that traps closer to the cultivation site are more dangerous and sophisticated and target those who might steal the cannabis. Law enforcement officials have seized two types of booby traps--one intended to scare away and the other to injure or kill intruders. The first type of trap is placed on trails and paths leading to the cultivation site, but usually some distance away, and includes trip wires strung across trails, shallow holes concealed on the trails, animal traps, and electric fences. These devices discourage hikers and sportsmen from using the trails, thus preventing discovery of the cannabis. The second type of trap generally is placed closer to the cannabis, and the intent is to injure or kill potential thieves or competitors. These traps include boards with exposed nails, punji pits (camouflaged pits that contain sharp instruments meant to impale individuals who fall into the pit), fish hooks attached to tree limbs or strung on fishing line, devices designed to fire small arms ammunition, firearms attached to trees and positioned to fire, and explosive devices ranging from blasting caps to dynamite.
Most of the marijuana consumed in New York is produced in other U.S. states or in Mexico, Canada, or Jamaica. However, a limited amount of cannabis is cultivated locally, especially in Upstate New York. Cannabis plants are cultivated both indoors and outdoors in the state; the trend has shifted from large outdoor grows to indoor grows and smaller, more widely dispersed outdoor grows. The number of outdoor cultivated cannabis plants eradicated in New York decreased from 9,386 plants in 1999 to 8,576 plants in 2000, according to the DEA Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program. However, the number of indoor cultivated plants eradicated increased substantially from 3,128 plants in 1999 to 8,511 plants in 2000. According to federal and local law enforcement officials in Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, large parcels of land are no longer being used for outdoor cannabis cultivation. Smaller parcels are still being used, but indoor grows are increasing at an accelerated rate with a definite shift towards hydroponic cultivation in an attempt to enhance quality and avoid detection. In the Finger Lakes region, indoor hydroponic cannabis cultivation has become more widespread and reportedly yields marijuana with a higher THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content.
Marijuana from foreign and domestic sources is transported into New York by a variety of groups and methods. Law enforcement authorities report that most marijuana available in New York City and in some Upstate areas is transported from southwestern states and Florida in private vehicles, trucks, via package delivery services, and by couriers or in cargo on commercial airlines. According to the New York/New Jersey HIDTA, Mexican DTOs and criminal groups and Jamaican criminal groups transport marijuana from southwestern states into New York primarily using trucks, private vehicles, and package delivery services. Colombian DTOs and criminal groups and Jamaican criminal groups use the same methods to transport marijuana north from Florida into New York and use couriers or cargo on commercial airlines to transport marijuana from overseas. According to EPIC Arrival Zone Seizure Statistics, law enforcement officials in New York seized approximately 10,089 kilograms of marijuana transported on commercial aircraft from 1997 through 2001. (See Table 6 in Cocaine section.)
DTOs and criminal groups occasionally transport marijuana directly into the Port of New York/New Jersey aboard commercial maritime vessels. Jamaican and Mexican criminal groups and Colombian DTOs and criminal groups, with assistance from traditional organized crime members, sometimes smuggle marijuana into the port hidden in shipments of bananas, plantains, automobiles, furniture, vegetable oil, tile, truck batteries, and other commodities. In July 2001 federal law enforcement officials seized 14 kilograms of Jamaica-produced marijuana aboard a commercial vessel in Newark, New Jersey. According to EPIC Arrival Zone Seizure Statistics, law enforcement officials in New York seized 11 kilograms of marijuana aboard commercial vessels from 1997 through 2001--all of which was seized in 1999. (See Table 6 in Cocaine section.)
Canada-produced marijuana is transported into New York in tractor-trailers, private vehicles, and buses usually through the St. Regis Mohawk Indian Reservation. Members of Canadian chapters of OMGs such as Hells Angels and associated groups control most of the marijuana smuggling from Canada into the United States.
New York City is a distribution center for wholesale quantities of marijuana within the state and other states as well. New York City-based criminal groups supply distributors in Upstate cities such as Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton, Rochester, and Syracuse. Street gangs and local independent dealers frequently travel to New York City to purchase marijuana from suppliers, usually Jamaican criminal groups, and then transport the marijuana, sometimes with other drugs, in private vehicles. According to responses to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2001, law enforcement officials in 11 states identified New York as a supply area for marijuana available in their jurisdictions.
Jamaican criminal groups are the most prominent wholesale distributors of marijuana in New York; however, no specific organization or group controls the distribution of marijuana. Mexican criminal groups, members of traditional organized crime, and members of OMGs such as Hells Angels also distribute wholesale quantities of marijuana in New York. Traditional organized crime members distribute significant wholesale and midlevel quantities of marijuana in the New York City area. According to DEA, traditional organized crime members perceive the distribution of marijuana as a steady, high-profit undertaking with less risk than heroin, powdered cocaine, or crack cocaine distribution.
Jamaican criminal groups are also the primary midlevel and retail marijuana distributors in New York. Law enforcement reports indicate that retail quantities of marijuana usually are sold as joints or in small paper bags. Some marijuana is sold from smoke shops, bodegas and other small businesses, although distribution from these locations occurs at a significantly lower rate and is less overt than in the past. Due to law enforcement pressure, most retail marijuana distribution now occurs indoors in apartments and other dwellings. Street gang members also distribute retail quantities of marijuana in New York. These gangs protect their turf but to a lesser extent than in the past, and they often purchase marijuana from multiple sources rather than a single source. Bloods, Latin Kings, and Mara Salvatrucha are the more prominent street gangs that distribute marijuana in New York, although several smaller gangs also distribute marijuana in the state.
Upstate distributors usually purchase marijuana in New York City, although an increasing number of distributors in cities such as Albany, Rochester, and Syracuse purchase marijuana directly from distributors in southwestern states. Federal law enforcement officials in Syracuse report that Arizona is a source for marijuana; federal and local law enforcement officials in Albany and Rochester report that Texas and Arizona remain sources for marijuana to augment the domestically grown crop.
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