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New Jersey Drug Threat Assessment
Marijuana is the most readily available illegal drug in New Jersey, often used in combination with other illegal substances. Law enforcement officers in the state seize ton quantities of marijuana transported from countries such as Jamaica or Mexico, as well as domestically grown cannabis. Mexican, Jamaican, and Caucasian criminal groups dominate the distribution of marijuana, some of which is transported in tractor-trailers from the Southwest Border to New Jersey.
Marijuana is the most commonly abused illegal drug in New Jersey. The number of marijuana ED mentions in Newark was less than 10 per 100,000 in 1991 but increased to 43 per 100,000 by 1995.
One-third of all drug treatment admissions in the state in 1997 reported using marijuana, although it is more frequently listed as a secondary or tertiary drug of abuse rather than the primary substance abused. Thirty-eight percent of treatment admissions reported they used the drug daily. Marijuana users in New Jersey are usually young, single, Caucasian men who never graduated from high school and still live with their parents. More men (83%) than women (17%) were admitted to treatment for marijuana abuse in New Jersey in 1997. Of those in drug treatment in 1997, Caucasians most frequently reported using marijuana (45%), African Americans were second (37%), and Hispanics third (16%). Most marijuana users (90%) were single, over half (62%) lived with one or both parents, and over two-thirds (69%) never graduated from high school. Typically, marijuana users were younger (22 years of age) than other drug users. In 1997, most marijuana users receiving treatment (72%) were under 25 and many (43%) were under 18.
New Jersey high school students increasingly are using marijuana. In 1991 and 1999, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed over 15,000 New Jersey students in grades 9 through 12 and reported a significant increase during that period in the number of students reporting having used marijuana at least once in their lifetimes and in the month prior. Approximately 47 percent of the students surveyed in 1999 reported they used marijuana at least once, compared with 31 percent in 1991. About 26 percent of students surveyed in 1999 said they used marijuana regularly, compared with 14 percent in 1991.
Marijuana is the most readily available illegal substance in New Jersey. Law enforcement officers seized more marijuana than any other illicit drug in New Jersey between FY1995 and FY1999, according to the FDSS. (See Table 3.) Of the 32,741 kilograms of all drugs seized by law enforcement officials in the state, 60 percent (19,672 kilograms) were marijuana. The quantity of marijuana seized during that period peaked in FY1996, and decreased substantially in FY1997, before gradually increasing each subsequent year. Several county narcotics commanders and officials from Middlesex and Monmouth Counties reported an increase in the availability of marijuana in their areas in 2000.
Intelligence reports indicate that purchases of bulk quantities of marijuana in New Jersey are priced based on the level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical unique to the cannabis plant that causes psychoactive effects. "Brickweed" or "regs" is the least potent variety of marijuana in New Jersey and is sold for approximately $200 per pound, according to DEA. "Middies" is marijuana that has a midlevel potency, and costs about $400 per pound in bulk. "Killer Buds" or "KBs" is the top quality marijuana, and costs $600 per pound.
Marijuana prices are significantly higher for single pound quantities. For instance, marijuana in Camden averages $900 per pound for regs; $1,600 per pound for middies; and $2,500 to $6,000 per pound for KB. A joint containing the highest quality marijuana is called "hydro" and costs $20 on the street. Burlington County officials reported that Killer Buds averaged $400 to $500 per ounce, compared with $100 to $150 per ounce for regular marijuana in the county.
The price of marijuana in New Jersey depends on location and quantity sold. Price variations between northern and southern New Jersey indicate two distinct drug markets in the state. (See price chart.) The distance between the distribution site and the source is one factor that might explain why prices are higher in southern New Jersey. According to DEA and the MAGLOCLEN Regional Drug Price and Purity Report, commercial grade marijuana prices were stable per joint and ounce, but decreased 11 percent per 1/8 ounce, 12 percent per 1/4 pound, and 14 percent per pound between August 1997 and September 1999. Sinsemilla prices increased 43 percent per joint, 18 percent per 1/8 ounce, 39 percent per ounce, 28 percent per 1/4 pound, and decreased 2 percent per pound.
Table 8. Marijuana Prices (in Dollars)
Source: Drug Enforcement Administration, Newark Field Division, Trends in the Traffic 4th Quarter FY2000.
There is very little violence associated with marijuana distribution and use. Marijuana users are generally characterized as nonviolent. The effects of the drug often depend upon user expectations. While low doses of marijuana tend to induce relaxation, high doses might cause image distortion, a loss of personal identity, fantasies, and hallucinations. Marijuana is occasionally laced with other drugs, including PCP (phencyclidine). These adulterants substantially alter the effects and toxicity of the product, making it more likely that a user will become violent.
On the other hand, cannabis cultivation can lead to violence. Typically, growers cultivate cannabis outdoors, with boobytraps in and around the plants. Reports indicate traps closer to the cultivation site are more dangerous and sophisticated and target those who might steal the cannabis. Law enforcement officials have seized two types of booby-trap devices, one intended to scare away and the other to injure or kill intruders. The first type of trap is placed on trails and paths leading to the cultivation site, but usually some distance away, and includes trip wires strung across trails, shallow holes concealed on the trails, animal traps, and electric fences. These devices discourage a hiker or sportsman from using the trail, thus preventing discovery of the cannabis. The second type of trap is generally placed closer to the cannabis, with the intent to injure or kill potential thieves or rivals. These traps include boards with exposed nails, punji pits (camouflaged pits that contain sharp instruments meant to impale individuals who fall into the pit), fish hooks attached to tree limbs or strung on fishing line, devices designed to fire small-arms ammunition, firearms attached to trees and positioned to fire, and explosive devices ranging from blasting caps to dynamite.
Jamaican posses have been the most violent marijuana distribution groups in New Jersey and the United States since the 1980s. Jamaican marijuana distributors have frequently resorted to violence to control drug distribution markets and to control and intimidate witnesses. They tortured victims--set them on fire, shot them in the face, dismembered them, or slashed their throats. Jamaican criminal groups murdered entire families to maintain control of distribution markets in New Jersey. During the 1990s, the number of posse-related homicides dropped. Territorial conflicts diminished as posses became established. New alliances among competing posses replaced the old Jamaican political rivalry and the motive to distribute marijuana changed from funding Jamaican political parties to making a profit.
Gangs that distribute retail quantities of marijuana often distribute cocaine and heroin as well and commit violent crimes. Investigations of criminal organizations indicate that polydrug distributors commit murder and intimidation as a part of doing business. In response to the NDIC National Gang Survey 2000, the North Brunswick Police Department reported that gangs such as Manor for Life, OKLs, and Da Wood distribute marijuana and other drugs and commit assaults. The Hudson County Prosecutor's Office reported that gangs such as the Latin Kings and Queens, Bloods, and Ņetas, and the cultural group Five Percenters distribute marijuana and commit assaults and homicides. The Trenton Police Department reported that gangs such as the Almighty Latin Kings distribute marijuana and commit assaults. The Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office reported that the Latin Kings and Ņetas distribute heroin and commit assaults, robberies, and homicides. The Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office reported that the Eastern Hammer Skinheads distribute marijuana, carry weapons, and commit hate crimes.
Law enforcement officers have identified indoor and outdoor cannabis-grow operations throughout rural New Jersey. Atlantic, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Warren County authorities reported local cannabis cultivation. In response to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2000, the Warren County Prosecutor's Office reported that cannabis is grown both indoors and outdoors in its area. Drug distributors often hide cannabis plants in farmers' fields by replacing corn stalks with cannabis plants or by planting the cannabis between the rows of corn.
Many cannabis plants cultivated indoors and outdoors have been seized in New Jersey. Law enforcement officers in Atlantic County seized 300 outdoor plants in August 1997. On May 26, 2000, investigators from Cumberland County eradicated the largest indoor cannabis grow ever discovered in New Jersey, seizing over 400 indoor plants and nearly 300 outdoor plants. On March 5, 2000, a Haddon Township man was charged with growing and selling high-grade marijuana. Police seized 70 plants (averaging $2,000 a piece), 2 pounds of cultivated marijuana (approximately $4,000), and equipment used to grow it. In response to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2000, the Essex County Sheriff's Office reported that although it conducted 48 marijuana-related investigations, cannabis is not grown in its area. Essex County growing conditions are not suitable for outdoor cannabis cultivation, unlike the rural farmlands in southern New Jersey.
Most marijuana in New Jersey originates in Jamaica and Mexico. Mexican marijuana is smuggled across the Southwest Border in private vehicles, mail parcels, and on commercial airlines. Marijuana is transported from Jamaica to the eastern and southeastern states in commercial maritime vessels and aircraft and through express mail services. However, some Jamaican marijuana is transported in private and commercial vehicles once in the United States.
The Warren County Prosecutor's Office reported in the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2000 that Los Angeles, California, is the primary domestic source area for marijuana produced outside New Jersey. "Krypto," short for kryptonite, is hydroponically grown marijuana that is supplied by Philadelphia-based criminal groups who transport the drug to Atlantic City.
Although Jamaica- and Mexico-based criminal groups may be the most dominant transporters, no particular group controls the transportation of marijuana to New Jersey. In response to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2000, the Essex County Sheriff's Office and Warren County Prosecutor's Office reported that local independent distributors, Caribbean and Jamaican criminal groups, and various street gangs are the primary marijuana transporters in their counties. The Bloods and Cash Money Boys are two gangs that transport large quantities of marijuana from New York City to Warren County and other areas in New Jersey.
Law enforcement agents seize more marijuana on commercial maritime vessels, particularly cargo vessels, than on commercial aircraft, but the aircraft threat is evident. Law enforcement agencies in New Jersey seized over 12,991 kilograms of marijuana from commercial maritime vessel offloads and 504 kilograms of marijuana on commercial aircraft between 1995 and 1999.
Mexican marijuana is frequently transported in multiton shipments, inside tractor-trailers from Arizona, California, and Texas destined for New Jersey. Mexican marijuana as well as hashish has been commingled with legitimate cargo including produce, which is rarely inspected because it spoils quickly. Law enforcement officers stopped a tractor-trailer in Troup County, Georgia, and seized 550.9 kilograms of marijuana concealed under crates of frozen broccoli in May 1999. The truck originated in McAllen, Texas, and was destined for Vineland, New Jersey. In January 2000, law enforcement officers at Port Elizabeth seized 4,545 kilograms of hashish concealed in 714 cartons of wet dates. The hashish, sealed in burlap bags, was hidden between two layers of dates. The container originated in India and was shipped via Rotterdam. The consignee was a business in Montreal, Canada.
Marijuana is sometimes secreted in luggage and transported by couriers to New Jersey or concealed within small parcels sent by mail. West Coast distribution organizations commonly use express mail and commercial package delivery companies to ship marijuana to the state. The DEA Atlantic City Resident Office indicated mail shipments containing marijuana increased during the third quarter of 2000. Law enforcement officers estimate that express mail services transport about 45 kilograms of marijuana every week. In April 2000, law enforcement officers arrested key members of a large-scale Jamaican marijuana distribution organization and seized 1,955 kilograms of marijuana. This organization used an employee of an overnight package delivery service to distribute marijuana in Newark.
Although Jamaica- and Mexico-based criminal groups may be the most dominant distributors, no single ethnic group controls the wholesale distribution of marijuana in New Jersey. Jamaican criminal groups or posses primarily use aircraft or maritime vessels to smuggle marijuana to the state. For example, law enforcement officers seized a Jamaica-registered vessel at the Port of Newark in December 1995 and discovered 1,000 kilograms of marijuana on board. As mentioned previously, a Mexico-based DTO attempted to transport marijuana in a tractor-trailer from Texas for distribution in New Jersey.
Local Caucasian cannabis growers also distribute marijuana at the wholesale level in New Jersey. In response to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2000, the Essex County Sheriff's Office and the Warren County Prosecutor's Office reported that local independent Caucasian criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of domestically grown marijuana in their area.
Many different groups distribute marijuana at the retail level in New Jersey. DEA believes Bandana members and Pagan OMG members formed an alliance to finance marijuana distribution in New Jersey. In response to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2000, the Essex County Sheriff's Office reported that local independent dealers dominate marijuana distribution at the retail level. The Warren County Prosecutor's Office reported that gangs such as the Bloods and Cash Money Boys dominate marijuana retail sales in its area, and African American, Dominican, or Jamaican gangs control the marijuana trade in other counties, including Camden. African American criminal groups based in New Jersey often work as street-level distributors for Jamaican and Mexican criminal groups.
At least 13 street gangs distribute marijuana in and throughout the state from Jersey City, Irvington, Camden, Atlantic City, Asbury Park, Trenton, New Brunswick, and Middlesex, according to responses from the NDIC National Street Gang Survey 2000. The Latin Kings and Ņetas reportedly distribute more marijuana than any other gang.
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