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Drug Threat Overview

Ice methamphetamine trafficking and abuse pose the most significant drug threat to the Hawaii HIDTA region because of high levels of abuse and the drug's association with much of the violent and property crime in Hawaii. Methamphetamine is identified more often than any other drug, including alcohol, as the primary substance of abuse for treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities in Hawaii. Four of the five state and local law enforcement agencies in the region that responded to the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) National Drug Threat Survey (NDTS) 2010d identify methamphetamine as the greatest drug threat to their jurisdictions.

Mexican DTOs are expanding their methamphetamine distribution operations into the region, leading to increased availability and lower wholesale-level prices, which decreased from $25,000-$50,000 per pound in 2008 to $28,000-$42,000 per pound in 2009. HIDTA law enforcement officers seized more than 245 pounds of ice methamphetamine in 2009, a significant increase from the 90 pounds seized in 2008. Most of the ice methamphetamine available in the area is smuggled from Mexico via the mainland's West Coast and from traditional production areas in California. High-potency d,-methamphetaminee is the predominant type of the drug available in Hawaii; however, HIDTA officials reported several seizures of lower-potency dl-methamphetaminef in 2009, particularly on the Big Island.

Illicit cannabis cultivation along with marijuana trafficking are significant and ever-present drug threats to the region. Illegal cannabis cultivation operations are pervasive throughout the Hawaii HIDTA region, particularly on the Big Island and Maui. This situation is driven by the growing demand for high-potency marijuana, high levels of abuse, and the continued exploitation of Hawaii's medical marijuana laws by illegal marijuana producers and drug traffickers. Current illicit cannabis cultivation is unable to meet rising demand for high-potency marijuana, and HIDTA officials report that increasing amounts of the drug are produced in California, Oregon, Washington, and Canada and regularly transported into the region by Mexican and Asian DTOs and local Pacific Islander and Caucasian criminal groups. In 2009, HIDTA law enforcement officers eradicated nearly 65,000 pounds of marijuana with an estimated wholesale market value of more than $311 million.

Funding and operating limitations placed on cannabis eradication programs, particularly on the Big Island, have resulted in an overall decrease in the number of plants seized from outdoor grows. (See text box in Production section.) The number of outdoor plants eradicated in the state fell from 131,355 in 2007 to 102,398 in 2008 and 47,159 in 2009. This situation has prompted illicit growers relocating from the West Coast of the U.S. mainland and local independent growers to establish more cultivation sites in Hawaii. These individuals perceive that Hawaii has marijuana-friendly laws, resulting in a low risk of prosecution for illicit cannabis cultivation.

The availability and abuse of other illicit drugs and controlled prescription drugs (CPDs) vary throughout the Hawaii HIDTA region. Mexican polydrug organizations and criminal groups supply multipound quantities of black tar heroin and powder cocaine to the area. Powder and crack cocaine are available on Oahu, primarily in the Chinatown area. Crack cocaine is converted on a limited basis at or near distribution sites on an as-needed basis, typically in ounce quantities, by local street-level distributors. Powder cocaine is more frequently sold and abused on other islands, including the Big Island and Maui. MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine, also known as ecstasy) is distributed primarily in nightclubs within the Waikiki district of Honolulu by Asian criminal groups and street gangs. The drug is also distributed at electronic music festivals and raves. Over the last year, HIDTA officials reported several incidents involving the abuse of other drugs, including the hallucinogen Salvia divinorum, synthetic cannabinoids commonly referred to as "K2" and "Spice," and mephedrone, also known as 4-MMC. (See text box.) CPDs are most easily and frequently obtained locally from unscrupulous physicians and pharmacies that prescribe and dispense large quantities of these drugs to customers who have no legitimate need. CPD abuse typically involves prescription opioids, primarily oxycodones, and crosses all demographic categories.

Other Drugs

Salvia divinorum is a perennial herb in the mint family native to certain areas of the Sierra Mazateca region of Oaxaca, Mexico. Salvinorin A, also called Divinorin A, is the ingredient responsible for the hallucinogenic effects of Salvia divinorum. Street names include Maria Pastora, Sage of the Seers, Diviner's Sage, Salvia, Sally-D, and Magic Mint. Currently, neither Salvia divinorum nor any of its constituents, including salvinorin A, are controlled under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

"K2" and "Spice" are the brand names of synthetic cannabinoid products sold as "herbal incense" in independently owned retail stores (herbal stores and smoke shops) and on Internet web sites and online auction sites. Packaging usually indicates that they are "not for human consumption," to evade federal law enforcement scrutiny. A common street term for synthetic cannabinoid products is "legal marijuana." Users have indicated on Internet forum posts that highs last between 30 minutes and 2 hours and describe out-of-body experiences. Aside from the typical "high," other effects may include vomiting, seizures, and breathlessness.

Mephedrone, also known as 4-methylmethcathinone (4-MMC) or 4-methylephedrone, reportedly causes effects described as a cross between those of methamphetamine and MDMA, producing euphoria, stimulation, and empathy. Some users report that crashes are more severe than with MDMA. Mephedrone is most commonly sold as a white powder or as capsules containing the powder but is also available in tablet form. It is imported mainly from China and is sold as a plant fertilizer over the Internet. It is sometimes sold mixed with methylone, often known as "Bubbles" or "Miaow Miaow."

Sources: Drug Enforcement Administration; Honolulu Police Department; South Florida High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Intelligence Center.


d. NDTS data for 2010 cited in this report are as of March 3, 2010. NDTS data cited are raw, unweighted responses from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies solicited through either NDIC or the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) HIDTA program. Data cited may include responses from agencies that are part of the NDTS 2010 national sample and/or agencies that are part of HIDTA solicitation lists.
e. D-methamphetamine (dextro-methamphetamine) is clandestinely produced using ephedrine/pseudoephedrine reduction methods. Highly addictive, d-methamphetamine is the most potent, widely abused form of methamphetamine.
f. D,l-methamphetamine (dextro-levo-methamphetamine) is clandestinely produced using the P2P method, the preferred methamphetamine production method in the late 1970s and early 1980s. D,l-methamphetamine is less potent than d-methamphetamine.

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