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National Drug Intelligence Center
Guam Drug Threat Assessment
Methamphetamine, specifically high purity crystal methamphetamine, poses a serious illicit drug threat to Guam. Authorities report that crystal methamphetamine abuse has increased on Guam during the past decade. Half of the individuals admitted for substance abuse treatment in 1997 and 1998 (the most recent data available) were methamphetamine users. The increase in abuse of the drug is attributed to multiple factors including its ready availability, low cost (less than heroin or cocaine), and the duration of its euphoric effects, which can last 12 hours or more--considerably longer than the effects associated with many other illicit drugs. Crystal methamphetamine is often called poor man's cocaine due to its relatively low cost and similar effects.
On Guam crystal methamphetamine is known as shabu and typically is smoked in a glass pipe or glass vial. Users heat the glass pipe or vial with a lighter and inhale the methamphetamine vapors.
The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (DMHSA) and law enforcement officials report that crystal methamphetamine abuse is evident throughout Guam's population. Methamphetamine abuse spans all ethnic, cultural, and age groups--some abusers are as young as 12. Of the students in grades 7 through 12 who completed a 1999 drug use survey conducted by DMHSA, more than 7 percent reported having used methamphetamine at least once in their lifetime.
Crystal methamphetamine is readily available on Guam in gram to kilogram quantities because of a steady supply of the drug from the Philippines as well as from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and South Korea. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that the price of crystal methamphetamine at the retail level--while still high by mainland standards--decreased during the past few years. The price of 1 gram of crystal methamphetamine decreased from a range of $600 to $1,000 in fiscal year (FY) 1999 to $250 to $500 in FY2000 and FY2001, according to DEA. Ounce prices for crystal methamphetamine remained stable at around $8,000 from FY1999 through FY2001, and kilogram prices ranged from $180,000 to $200,000 during that period. Purity ranged from 97 to 100 percent.
The significance of the methamphetamine problem on Guam is reflected in the number of drug-related arrests and the number of drug samples submitted to laboratories for analysis. Methamphetamine-related arrests increased from 47 in 1994 to 333 in 1999. In 1999 methamphetamine-related arrests constituted nearly 75 percent of the 447 adult drug-related arrests in the territory. Of the 558 drug samples submitted to the Guam Police Department Crime Laboratory by all law enforcement agencies in 1999, 335 were analyzed as methamphetamine. In addition, the Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency (CQA) seized 7,423.22 grams of amphetamines in 2001, more than any other drug that year and an increase from 3,994 grams seized in 2000.
The Guam CQA conducts more investigations related to amphetamines than to any other drug type except marijuana. In 2001, the agency conducted 12 amphetamine-related investigations, which represented 17 percent of all investigations conducted. In 2000, the agency conducted 26 amphetamine-related investigations, which represented 15 percent of all investigations conducted.
Methamphetamine accounts for the majority of drug-related federal sentences on Guam. Each year from FY1997 through FY2001, methamphetamine-related federal sentences constituted over 90 percent of all drug-related federal sentences on Guam, according to U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) data. Of the 188 drug-related federal sentences during this period, 178 were methamphetamine-related. During the same period methamphetamine-related federal sentences nationwide accounted for a much smaller percentage. (See Table 1.)
Guam law enforcement authorities believe that the increase in drug abuse and distribution, most of which is related to crystal methamphetamine, has contributed to rising levels of violent crime. The number of robberies involving the use of a firearm increased 228 percent, from 32 in 1990 to 105 in 1998--the most recent year for which data are available. Since January 1993 Guam Police Department officers have seized over 75 firearms and 10 hand grenades in drug-related incidents. Authorities, through undercover drug purchases, have confiscated additional firearms from drug distributors. Law enforcement authorities believe that crystal methamphetamine abuse also has contributed substantially to increases in domestic violence.
There is no evidence to suggest that crystal methamphetamine is produced on Guam. The Philippines, which serves as both a production and transshipment area, remains the main source of the crystal methamphetamine available on Guam; however, the drug also is produced in and transported from Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and South Korea. DEA reports that the transportation of crystal methamphetamine from these locations is increasing; however, as of the second quarter of FY2002, there had not been any recent significant seizures of crystal methamphetamine being transported from these countries. According to DEA, Asian organized crime groups are suspected of transporting multikilogram quantities of crystal methamphetamine to Guam from Hong Kong, and smaller quantities from other Asian countries.
The primary means by which crystal methamphetamine is transported to Guam is by couriers or "mules" bodycarrying the drug on commercial airline flights. The drug often is wrapped in duct tape and plastic, smeared with a topical analgesic to evade canine detection, and strapped to the body with gauze. Couriers transport 1 to 6 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine per trip. Other methods by which crystal methamphetamine is transported to Guam include shipment in U.S. mail, express service parcels such as FedEx and UPS, concealment in air and sea cargo, and smuggling by private vessels operating between Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).
Direct airline flights from the Philippines to Guam provide distributors on Guam with easy access to crystal methamphetamine suppliers in the Philippines. In addition, in April 2000 an Asian airline expanded service by opening a new route from Taipei to Guam, providing a direct connection to suppliers in Taiwan. Crystal methamphetamine transporters also transship the drug via commercial airlines through Saipan, the capital city of the CNMI, en route to markets on Guam, Hawaii, and other locations in the Pacific, according to law enforcement authorities in the CNMI.
Limited quantities of methamphetamine also are transported into Guam via package delivery services. U.S. Customs Service (USCS) officials on Guam report that the Korean and Japanese criminal groups that employ this method of transportation are becoming increasingly sophisticated. These criminal groups ship liquid methamphetamine in medicine bottles, liquor bottles, and canned goods, all of which appear to be factory-sealed. USCS also reports that packages sometimes are sent from the Philippines to European countries where they are repackaged and sent to Guam so that they do not appear to have been shipped from a known methamphetamine source country.
Mexican criminal groups based in California occasionally transport crystal methamphetamine to Guam. According to the DEA Guam Resident Office, in the second quarter of FY2002 there were three significant seizures of crystal methamphetamine on Guam totaling approximately 8 kilograms. The crystal methamphetamine was transported via commercial airlines from two sources in California.
Asian criminal groups dominate all levels of crystal methamphetamine distribution on Guam. Wholesale distributors usually sell to individuals within their own ethnic group; however, midlevel and retail distributors will sell to those outside their own ethnic group. Midlevel distributors typically purchase kilogram quantities of crystal methamphetamine; however, they occasionally purchase 100- to 500-gram quantities.
Midlevel distributors frequently accept items of value instead of cash in exchange for crystal methamphetamine. They provide gram quantities of crystal methamphetamine to retailers in return for merchandise such as guns, television sets, cars, collectible coins, stereos, and computers. In one case, a retail distributor attempted to trade a pit bull for crystal methamphetamine.
Crystal methamphetamine is not cut with other substances at any level of distribution; thus, purity remains very high. The drug typically is distributed in clear straws or small plastic resealable bags called plates. A clear straw, which is heat-sealed at both ends, contains 1 to 2 grams of crystal methamphetamine. A plate is available in two sizes: 0.05 gram, which costs $50, or 0.1 gram, which costs $100.
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