ARCHIVED Graphic Version PDF Version To Publications Page To Home Page
Pennsylvania Drug Threat Assessment
Publication Date: June 2001
Update: October 2003
Document ID: 2001-S0379PA-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 Pennsylvania. 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 Pennsylvania.
Your questions, comments, and suggestions for future subjects are welcome at any time. Addresses are provided at the end of the page.
Flag image © Stockbyte.
Other Dangerous Drugs
List of Tables
Table 1. Powdered Cocaine Prices, Pennsylvania, 2001
Table 2. Crack Cocaine Prices, Pennsylvania, 2001
Table 3. Heroin Prices, Pennsylvania, 2001
Table 4. Marijuana Prices, Pennsylvania, 2001
Chart 1. Marijuana Seizures, Pennsylvania, 1995-1999
Illegal drugs pose a significant threat to the safety and security of Pennsylvania citizens. Philadelphia, the largest city in Pennsylvania and the fifth largest city in the United States, is the epicenter of drug-related activity in the commonwealth. More drugs are sold in Philadelphia than in any other city in Pennsylvania, and most midlevel, and possibly some retail distributors throughout the state obtain their drug supply from traffickers in Philadelphia. Illegal drugs are brought to the state along major highways in commercial trucks, private vehicles, rental vehicles, and commercial buses, and some drugs are transported to Pennsylvania via maritime and air conveyances as well.
Cocaine is the primary drug threat in Pennsylvania, and crack cocaine, in particular, is a serious threat due to the drug's low cost, wide availability, and strong association with violent crime. Cocaine is transported into the state by Colombian and Dominican drug trafficking organizations, local and statewide independent transporters, some members of street gangs, and to a lesser extent, Mexican and Jamaican criminal groups and outlaw motorcycle gangs. These groups transport cocaine from sources of supply in California, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Texas, Mexico, and Puerto Rico and, to a lesser extent, from Michigan and Ohio. Most cocaine is transported into Pennsylvania in private or rented vehicles along major highways, via public transportation (buses, trains, and commercial air carriers), and by way of express mail. Colombian and Dominican drug trafficking organizations are the primary cocaine wholesale and midlevel suppliers throughout Pennsylvania. Loosely formed retail distribution groups and some members of street gangs dominate the retail drug trade in the state's urban areas, and local independent dealers, who obtain much of their drug supply from urban areas, dominate the retail market in most midsize cities and smaller towns.
Heroin poses an increasing threat in Pennsylvania, and it may surpass cocaine as the primary drug threat in Pennsylvania because highly pure, low-cost heroin has led to rising numbers of new users, particularly among the young. An increasing number of heroin users reside in midsize and smaller towns, no longer simply in metropolitan areas. Drug treatment data indicate that as heroin abuse has risen in Pennsylvania, cocaine abuse has gradually declined, and law enforcement in some areas now ranks heroin as a greater threat than cocaine. High-purity heroin is available in many parts of the state, and heroin in Philadelphia is among the purest and cheapest in the country. Most heroin transported into Pennsylvania is brought first to Philadelphia and then is transported to midsize cities and smaller towns throughout the state. Colombian and Dominican drug trafficking organizations predominate in Philadelphia, and Dominican criminal groups are the primary intrastate transporters. Local independent dealers, who obtain much of their drug supply from urban areas, are the prevalent retailers in most midsize cities and smaller towns. Heroin distributors from New York and Philadelphia are expanding operations to midsize cities, which provide more profitable markets.
Marijuana remains the most widely available and commonly abused drug in Pennsylvania, but it is generally regarded as a lower threat than cocaine or heroin. Marijuana users generally do not commit violent crimes while under the influence or to support their habit. Treatment data indicate that abuse has been high for many years, including among the state's youth. Despite large seizures, the drug continues to be readily available throughout the commonwealth. Most marijuana sold and used in Pennsylvania is transported from outside the state, although in-state cultivation operations, both indoor and outdoor, are quite widespread. Jamaican and Mexican criminal groups are the predominant transporters, wholesalers, and midlevel retailers, but a variety of other criminal groups are involved in marijuana transportation and distribution as well.
The methamphetamine situation is in a transitional stage in Pennsylvania. Production, distribution, and abuse are limited, although there is some evidence of an increase in production in some areas of the commonwealth. Most of the increase has occurred in rural areas, suggesting that abuse has risen there as well. The Pennsylvania State Police and the U.S. Attorneys in the Middle and Western Districts of Pennsylvania report that methamphetamine production, distribution, and abuse are emerging problems, and law enforcement officials in various locations reported a rise in methamphetamine activity in 2000. The production, availability, and abuse of higher-purity d-methamphetamine have been rising, and that of lower-purity dl-methamphetamine has been dropping in the state. Most methamphetamine is distributed in ounce to multiounce quantities; larger quantities are available primarily in the Philadelphia area. Local independent dealers and outlaw motorcycle gangs are the state's primary methamphetamine distributors.
The abuse of other dangerous drugs, including club drugs and illegally diverted pharmaceuticals, poses an increasing threat to the state of Pennsylvania. The abuse of MDMA, GHB, ketamine, and LSD continues to rise, and diverted pharmaceuticals are readily available in the state. Oxycodone abuse has increased sharply during the past year throughout Pennsylvania. Although ODDs pose less of a threat than cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine, their increasing distribution and abuse are an ongoing cause for concern.
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
To Top To Contents To Next Page
To Publications Page To Home Page
End of page.