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California Southern District Drug Threat Assessment
Publication Date: December 2000
Updated May 2002
Document ID: 2001-S0387SCA-001
Archived on: January 1, 2006. This document may contain dated information. It remains available to provide access to historical materials.
This report is a strategic assessment that addresses the status and outlook of the drug threat in the Southern District of the state of California. Analytical judgment determined the threat posed by each drug type or category, taking into account the most current quantitative and qualitative information on availability, demand, production or cultivation, transportation, and distribution, as well as the effects of a particular drug on abusers and society as a whole. While NDIC sought to incorporate the latest available information, a time lag often exists between collection and publication of data, particularly demand-related data sets. NDIC anticipates that this drug threat assessment will be useful to policymakers, law enforcement personnel, and treatment providers at the federal, state, and local levels because it draws upon a broad range of information sources to describe and analyze the drug threat in the Southern District of the state of California.
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Other Dangerous Drugs
List of Tables
Table 1. Border Crossings
Table 2. Conveyances and Individuals Cleared - Port of San Diego
Table 3. Drug Offenses, Southern California
Table 4. Methamphetamine Price and Purity, March 2000
Table 5. Precursor and Essential Chemical Prices
Table 6. Arrival Zone Seizures California-Mexico Border
Table 7. Marijuana Prices
List of Figures
Chart 1. Methamphetamine-Related Deaths, San Diego, 1995-1998
Chart 2. Heroin/Morphine-Related Deaths, San Diego, 1995-1998
Chart 3. Types of Heroin Seized at the California Border
Chart 4. Cocaine-Related Deaths, San Diego, 1995-1998
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The California-Mexico border continues to be one of the most active drug smuggling corridors in the Southwest. Although only 7 percent of the length of the Southwest Border, the California portion accounted for about 18 percent of the drugs seized there in 1999. Increasing commerce between the United States and Mexico has had an impact at the border as Mexican drug trafficking organizations continue to use the free flow of trade to facilitate their drug smuggling operations.
Mexican drug trafficking organizations remain the major threat to the Southern District, using it as both a destination and a transshipment point for drugs destined for locations throughout the United States. These organizations, working through established smuggling and distribution networks, dominate the trafficking of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and marijuana. Mexican wholesalers usually work through middlemen who move the drugs to street-level dealers.
Methamphetamine is considered the number one drug threat. After a period during which methamphetamine abuse appeared to have stabilized, abuse of the drug appears to be increasing once again. Prices are stable but purity levels tend to fluctuate, ranging anywhere from 12 to 93 percent. The volume of methamphetamine produced in Southern California has declined but seizures of laboratories and precursor and essential chemicals continue. Pressure from law enforcement has forced producers to move their operations north into Central and Northern California, east into Arizona, and south into Mexico. Most of the methamphetamine available in the region is produced in Mexico. Mexican polydrug organizations, working through middlemen, are the primary sources of supply at the wholesale level and continue to dominate the methamphetamine market. Independent dealers, organized groups, and street gangs distribute methamphetamine at the retail level.
Heroin seizures increased in 1999 and continued to increase through the first six months of 2000. Heroin use, particularly among younger users, is growing. The heroin of choice in Southern California is Mexican black tar, but Mexican brown powder and South American heroin are available in the region. Prices are relatively stable and purity levels remain high. Mexican drug trafficking organizations continue to control the heroin market in the region and are the primary sources of supply at the wholesale level. Independent dealers, organized groups, and street gangs distribute heroin at the retail level.
Cocaine is readily available, prices are relatively stable, and purity levels are high. Cocaine use increased overall in 1999, but preliminary figures for 2000 indicate that use may be stabilizing. Crack cocaine is more often encountered at the street level in San Diego than powdered cocaine. Cocaine seizures increased in the final quarter of 1999 and continued to increase through the first 6 months of 2000. Most of the cocaine smuggled across the California-Mexico border is transshipped to other locations, usually Los Angeles. Mexican drug trafficking organizations are the primary cocaine suppliers at the wholesale level, and they use middlemen to move the drug to retail dealers.
More marijuana has been seized in Southern California than all other drugs combined. Marijuana also has shown the biggest increase in the number of users, particularly among those 18 and younger. Mexican marijuana predominates in the region but domestically produced marijuana and marijuana from Canada (BC Bud) are also available. Mexican drug trafficking organizations are the primary wholesalers, and they use middlemen to move the marijuana to street-level dealers. Mexican drug trafficking organizations continue to smuggle large amounts of marijuana into and through the district, using it as both a destination and a transshipment point.
Law enforcement is increasingly concerned about the growing use of the club drugs ketamine, GHB, Rohypnol, MDMA (ecstasy), LSD, and PCP, all of which are available at the street level. Laboratory seizures indicate that GHB is being produced in the region. For the most part PCP and LSD are supplied domestically. In some cases Rohypnol, MDMA, and ketamine are being brought into the region from Mexico. Another drug that is a growing concern is clonazepam. Clonazepam is a Rohypnol-type drug that is being used in sexual assaults.
After a period of relative stability, overall drug seizures increased in the last quarter of 1999 and continued to increase during the first quarter of 2000. The amount per seizure has increased slightly even as drug traffickers attempt to minimize their risk by shipping smaller amounts. In some cases, they appear to have applied this practice to the movement of currency as well; however, bulk shipments of cash are still moved across the border into Mexico.
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National Drug Intelligence Center
319 Washington Street, 5th Floor
Johnstown, PA 15901
Tel. (814) 532-4601
FAX (814) 532-4690
National Drug Intelligence Center
8201 Greensboro Drive, Suite 1001
McLean, VA 22102-3840
Tel. (703) 556-8970
FAX (703) 556-7807
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