|National Drug Intelligence
Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis
Strategic Drug Threat Developments
The Appalachia HIDTA was established in 1998 to address the threat posed by cannabis cultivation and marijuana distribution in 68 counties located in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia.2 (See Figure 1.) Although marijuana is its primary focus, the Appalachia HIDTA responds to the threat posed by the illicit trafficking of other drugs to the region.
The Appalachia HIDTA region has a combined population of approximately 2.5 million; Knoxville, Tennessee, is the largest metropolitan area (population 173,890). Most residents of the region are Caucasian (94%), followed by African American (4%), and Hispanic, Asian, and other races (2%). The number of Hispanics residing in the Appalachia HIDTA region tripled from 9,178 in 1990 to 27,454 in 2000 (the year for which the latest data are available). According to Appalachia HIDTA sources, this increase is largely due to illegal immigrants who came to the area seeking employment in the agricultural, construction, mining, and poultry-processing industries.
The Appalachia region is one of two primary outdoor cannabis cultivation regions in the United States; the other is the Western region.3 The Appalachia region consistently sustains high levels of outdoor cannabis cultivation because of its favorable climate and rich soil. As a result, Caucasian DTOs and independent growers have established long-standing growing operations. A relatively high poverty rate in these areas contributes to a cultural acceptance of cannabis cultivation and other illicit activity by many local residents. In some Appalachian counties, more than 30 percent of the population lives in poverty, and in impoverished communities some residents regard marijuana production as a necessary means of supplementing low incomes. In these communities cannabis cultivation is often a multigenerational trade, since young family members are introduced to the trade by older members who have produced the drug for many years.
Knoxville is the primary metropolitan drug market in the Appalachia HIDTA region. DTOs in Knoxville, primarily Mexican DTOs, supply wholesale quantities of powder cocaine, Mexican marijuana, and high-purity ice methamphetamine to midlevel and retail-level traffickers for local distribution. Mexican traffickers also distribute these drugs as well as crack cocaine and Mexican black tar heroin at the retail level. These traffickers obtain most of the illicit drugs that they distribute from Mexican DTOs based in Atlanta, Georgia. In fact, law enforcement officials report that Atlanta has emerged as a key distribution center for illicit drugs available throughout much of the Appalachia HIDTA region.
1. Some law enforcement
officials in the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA)
region refer to drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) operating in the area
as criminal groups or traffickers.