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Indiana Drug Threat Assessment
Marijuana remains the most readily available, and health officials report, the most commonly abused drug in Indiana. Multikilogram amounts of marijuana are transported to Indiana from the Southwest Border by Mexican DTOs using the interstate system and the same decoy vehicle methods used to transport cocaine.
In 1999, the U.S. Attorneys for the Northern and Southern Districts of Indiana reported that marijuana was the most widely abused drug throughout the state. According to the Indiana Division of Mental Health, treatment admissions for marijuana abuse increased from 2,526 in 1998 to 3,928 in 1999. In 1998, the Federal-wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS) reported the amount of marijuana seized in Indiana (1,062 kg) more than doubled from 1997 (497 kg).
Marijuana abuse by Indiana youth decreased for most grade levels and for most measures of prevalence (previous 30 days, previous year) in 1999. The largest decreases occurred among eighth and tenth graders reporting marijuana use at least once in the previous year. From 1997 to 1999, the percentage of eighth graders decreased from 21 to 17, while the percentage of tenth graders decreased from 35 to 32. High school seniors using marijuana at least once in the previous year remained at 37 percent. Daily marijuana use did not change significantly for any grade level between 1997 and 1999, suggesting that the abuse reductions are occurring among infrequent and casual users but not among those who use the drug more frequently. Overall, the number of marijuana users among sixth- through twelfth-grade students increased from 89,100 in 1992 to 131,900 in 2000.
Young people from rural areas of Indiana abuse marijuana more frequently than urban or suburban youth. Marijuana is the drug most commonly abused by youth in rural Indiana, according to Drug Strategies, a nonprofit research institute promoting effective approaches to the nation's drug problem. The Drug Strategies report also indicates that marijuana's popularity is rising. In 1993, 13 percent of rural teenagers reported using marijuana in the previous year; in 1997, that figure increased to 23 percent.
Marijuana use among Indiana arrestees is increasing. There was a significant increase in the number of juvenile arrestees, those 15 to 20 years old, testing positive for marijuana between 1990 (29 percent) and 1998 (76 percent). This may be related to increases in gang activity and juvenile arrests in Indiana. The Indianapolis Police Department reports that two out of every three people arrested in 1998 tested positive for drugs--mostly marijuana. Most arrestees across the state test positive for marijuana.
The availability of marijuana in Indiana has increased since 1995 as indicated by declining prices and rising numbers of Indiana Crime Laboratory cases and related law enforcement actions. Retail prices for marijuana have dropped from $180 per ounce in 1995 to $160 in 1999. Marijuana samples examined by the Indiana State Crime Laboratory increased 17 percent from 6,217 in 1998 to 7,323 in 1999. All Indiana respondents to the 2000 National Drug Threat Survey report the ready availability of marijuana and increases in marijuana-related investigations, arrests, and seizures. The Benton County Sheriff's Department reports that cannabis grows wild along fence lines and in ditches, readily accessible to roadway pickers. The Indianapolis Police Department reports that marijuana distribution has increased significantly, indicating increased availability. The department believes that because the penalties associated with marijuana are much less severe than those associated with cocaine, some drug organizations are switching to marijuana trafficking. The DEA Merrillville Resident Office reports that Mexican commercial grade as well as domestically grown marijuana is prevalent throughout its area. The DEA Chicago Field Division indicates that marijuana is readily available from local cultivators as well as from groups active near the Southwest Border.
An increase in the number of indoor and outdoor marijuana grow operations in the state has contributed to the rise in marijuana availability. The DEA estimates that as much as 25-30 percent of the marijuana consumed in Indiana might be grown domestically. There are opportunities for growers to cultivate cannabis in rural areas, augmenting marijuana supplies transported from the Southwest Border. Fourteen county sheriffs report that indoor cannabis grow operations increased in their areas. Factors influencing the growth of indoor operations are the wealth of information on new growing techniques available on the Internet, and the production of higher THC content marijuana, which commands a higher price.
Violence associated with the distribution of marijuana, including gang competition for distribution areas, is evident throughout rural and urban Indiana. The Kokomo Police Department reported that a group of marijuana distributors robbed competitors of money and drugs through home invasions. One incident resulted in the murder of a marijuana distributor and the gang rape of his girlfriend. The department further reports that marijuana-related violence is increasing. South Bend police arrested a resident after seizing a considerable amount of marijuana, scales, packaging materials, a loaded tech 9 automatic weapon and a loaded semiautomatic shotgun, and in another instance, they arrested a man and a woman after seizing marijuana and two handguns from their home.
Violence associated with cannabis cultivation is another concern of Indiana law enforcement officers. Domestic cannabis growers often are heavily armed and commonly use booby traps and warning devices to protect grow sites from law enforcement authorities and the public. The U.S. Forest Service reports that visitors to public forests may come in contact with booby traps, explosives, trip-wire firing devices, hanging fishhooks, and buried punji stakes if they venture too close to cannabis plots. According to the DEA, the number of weapons seized during cannabis eradication program operations nationwide has more than doubled over the past decade. The Fort Wayne Police Department confiscated guns, drugs, a gas mask, and a bulletproof vest during a house raid, and officers were forced to shoot and kill a pit bull dog guarding a marijuana grow in the basement. A Kimmell, Indiana, man was arrested when drug task force officers found an indoor marijuana grow at his residence. Police removed 18 firearms from a bedroom and found other weapons throughout the house.
Local independent dealers, primarily Caucasians in their early twenties, cultivate most of the cannabis in Indiana; Mexican DTOs and the Outlaws Motorcycle Club also cultivate cannabis, although to a lesser extent. The Benton County Sheriff's Department reports that although Caucasian independent distributors cultivate most of the cannabis, Mexican criminal groups also operate marijuana grows in its area. The Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Department reports that Caucasian criminal groups cultivate cannabis and supply a large portion of the marijuana used in the county. The Evansville, South Bend, Lexington, and Owensboro Police Departments and the Delaware County Sheriff's Department report local independent dealers are the primary cannabis cultivators but that Mexican criminal groups also cultivate cannabis in their areas.
Local marijuana production is steadily increasing. The DEA reports that as much as 25-30 percent of the marijuana distributed in Indiana is domestically grown. The South Central Narcotics Task Force reports that approximately 50 percent of the marijuana available in the area is grown locally, usually in wooded areas or national forests to camouflage the operations. A Vigo County Drug Task Force detective reports that at least 30 percent of the marijuana in the area is domestically grown.
Most of the respondents to the 2000 National Drug Threat Survey report an increase in cannabis cultivation. The Indiana State Police reports that cannabis cultivation is so prevalent that they find cannabis every time they search from the air. Police routinely use helicopters equipped with infrared detection devices to locate cannabis grows in homes as well as those hidden in cornrows. The Evansville, South Bend, Owensboro, and Lexington Police Departments and the Delaware County Sheriff's Department report that they have seized outdoor and indoor grows as well as hydroponic operations in their areas. The Benton County Sheriff's Department reports that both indoor and outdoor grow operations have been detected and that cultivators are growing plots in the middle of cornfields, usually close to a water source. The Warren County Sheriff's Department reports seizures of indoor and outdoor grows, noting that most of the outdoor marijuana grows seized were camouflaged and hidden in cornfields. The Allen County Sheriff's Department reports that indoor and outdoor grows are prevalent and that indoor cultivators often use false walls in their residences to hide the marijuana.
The number of indoor grows is increasing throughout the state, and several seizures of indoor grow operations occurred in 2000. The Auburn Police Department raided a large indoor marijuana grow which netted 120 cultivated plants, the Anderson Police Department netted 2 pounds of marijuana after raiding a residence which housed an indoor grow operation, and Berrien Springs Police raided a home and found 40 marijuana plants worth $40,000. Also in 2000, a former Muncie, Indiana, police officer was convicted of growing marijuana at his home. State police found 110 marijuana plants growing in a storage shed
Mexican DTOs are responsible for transporting marijuana into Indiana. The Lake County HIDTA and the DEA, as well as many state and local law enforcement agencies, report that Mexican DTOs are the primary transporters of marijuana, most of which originates near the Southwest Border. An Indianapolis police detective and the AUSA of the Southern District of Indiana report that Hispanic organizations are the primary transporters of marijuana shipped directly from the Southwest Border and to a lesser extent, through Chicago to Indianapolis. The same groups responsible for transporting bulk shipments of cocaine to Indiana also supply marijuana. These groups maintain family and business ties to the Southwest Border area (primarily Texas) and ship bulk marijuana using the interstates and the same vehicle decoy methods used to transport cocaine. Larger marijuana quantities are transported to the area from Texas or are shipped by common carrier from other states, according to numerous county sheriffs.
Local independent dealers, primarily Caucasian males in their early twenties, OMGs, and the Latin Kings transport large quantities of marijuana to Indiana. The South Central Narcotics Task Force and the Vigo County Drug Task Force report that independent groups, primarily Caucasian males, are the predominant marijuana transporters, while an Indianapolis police detective identifies Caucasian independent dealers as secondary transporters. The Warren and Evansville County Sheriff's Departments report that local independent dealers transport marijuana into their areas. The Marion County Sheriff's Department reports that both local independent dealers and OMGs transport marijuana into its area. A Gary, Indiana, police detective reports that the Latin Kings control all aspects of the marijuana trade in Gary. Gang members obtain marijuana primarily from sources in East Chicago and Hammond, Indiana, as well as from Mexican DTOs based primarily in Texas.
Marijuana transportation groups use various methods to ship the drug into Indiana. Marijuana shipments frequently are hidden in private vehicles, tractor-trailers (usually hidden among legitimate cargo), and utility trucks. Two people were arrested in South Bend after law enforcement officials found a duffel bag that contained 18 kilograms of marijuana in the bed of their truck. Investigators suspect the marijuana was part of a larger shipment being transported north from Texas. In another case that was part of a larger investigation of a South Bend businessman operating a marijuana ring, Illinois police intercepted 495 kilograms of marijuana found in a truck bound for South Bend from Texas. The Vigo County Drug Task Force reports that transportation groups primarily use tractor-trailers and car-haulers (the marijuana is secreted in the trunks of new cars). They also use parcel delivery services. The Evansville Police Department reports that transportation groups use vehicles, tractor-trailers, and parcel delivery services to ship marijuana into the area. Anderson police detectives tracked a 34-kilogram marijuana shipment through the postal service to the home of an Anderson marijuana dealer. In Terre Haute, police seized 725 kilograms of marijuana and 2 kilograms of cocaine as part of a multijurisdictional task force investigation. Police found the drugs during a routine inspection of overnight packages being shipped to Terre Haute.
Most of the marijuana in Indiana is transported from the Southwest Border area. Law enforcement and intelligence sources report that Mexican marijuana is smuggled into the United States primarily through Texas and Arizona. The Vigo County Drug Task Force and the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Department report that California, Arizona, Texas, and Mexico are marijuana source areas. The Evansville Police Department reports that the marijuana available in its jurisdiction comes from McAllen and Odessa, Texas. The Wayne County Sheriff's Department conducted two marijuana transportation investigations in 1999: in one, marijuana was shipped from the Southwest Border area to Philadelphia and then transported by vehicle to Wayne County; in the second, marijuana was shipped in parcel packages from the Southwest Border area to Wayne County. A Harlingen, Texas, Special Investigation Unit uncovered a marijuana distribution group that used various parcel delivery companies to transport marijuana from the Southwest Border area. Agents found dozens of package receipts at the transporters' residence indicating that from 1997 to 1999 the group mailed at least 96 packages weighing 3,639 pounds. The packages were shipped via parcel post from Harlingen, Texas, to recipients in Indiana and 14 other states.
Mexican criminal groups are the primary marijuana wholesalers in Indiana according to the Lake County HIDTA and most of the Indiana respondents to the 2000 National Drug Threat Survey. Law enforcement authorities including the Indianapolis, Evansville, Fort Wayne, and South Bend Police Departments and the Marion and Vigo County Drug Task Force confirm that Mexican criminal groups are responsible for marijuana wholesale distribution operations in Indiana. An Indianapolis police detective reports that these criminal groups ship the drug into Indianapolis and place it in storage facilities where another Mexican criminal group packages it for retail sale.
The Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, and the Latin Kings, as well as local independent dealers primarily in rural areas, conduct wholesale marijuana distribution operations in Indiana. A Gary narcotics detective reports that the Latin Kings control marijuana wholesale distribution operations in Gary. The Fort Wayne Police Department reports that OMGs distribute wholesale marijuana in its area, while the Marion County Sheriff's Department reports that street gangs, OMGs, and local independent dealers wholesale marijuana in its jurisdiction. The Evansville Police Department reports that local independent dealers dominate marijuana wholesale operations, although street gangs and Mexican criminal organizations also wholesale marijuana in Evansville. The South Central Narcotics Task Force and the Vigo County Drug Task Force report that local independent dealers, primarily Caucasian males, are the primary marijuana wholesalers in their areas.
Chicago- and Detroit-based gangs as well as local independent dealers are the principal marijuana retail distributors in Indiana's urban areas. In rural areas, local independent dealers, primarily Caucasian males in their early twenties, and Mexican criminal groups control marijuana retail operations. The Outlaws Motorcycle Club most likely controls some marijuana retail distribution, primarily through its puppet clubs. The Fort Wayne Police Department and the Marion County Sheriff's Department report that local independent dealers, street gangs, Mexican criminal groups, and OMGs retail marijuana. These organizations have connections to Los Angeles-, Chicago-, and Detroit-based street gangs as well as to other motorcycle gangs. The South Central Narcotics Task Force reports that local independent dealers, predominantly Caucasian males, are the primary marijuana retailers in its area. The Allen County Sheriff's Department reports that local independent dealers, Mexican criminal groups, and OMGs are responsible for retail marijuana distribution in its area. The Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Office and the Evansville Police Department report that local independent dealers with ties to the Mexican Mafia retail marijuana in their areas. A 1999 OCDETF investigation uncovered an Indianapolis-based organization distributing large quantities of marijuana from Mexico throughout the United States but primarily in the Southern District of Indiana. The group had OMG contacts in Indianapolis.
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