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Minnesota Drug Threat Assessment
August 2001


Marijuana remains the most readily available and most widely abused illicit drug in Minnesota. Abuse by young people has increased dramatically since the early 1990s. Most marijuana is transported from the Southwest Border area by Mexican DTOs, but the rural areas of Minnesota provide an adequate environment for the domestic cultivation of cannabis.


Marijuana remains the primary drug of abuse in Minnesota. It accounted for more treatment admissions than cocaine and remained the most prevalent drug found among Minneapolis male arrestees in 1999. Marijuana accounted for 22.7 percent of treatment admissions in 1999, up from 20.3 percent in 1998. Of those admitted to treatment in Minneapolis/St. Paul in 1999, 78.4 percent were male and 68.8 percent were Caucasian. Of Minneapolis arrestees tested, 44.3 percent of males and 26.8 percent of females were positive for marijuana in 1999, as compared with 45.4 percent of males and 22.6 percent of females in 1998.

Marijuana use is particularly prevalent among youth and is increasing. In 1998, marijuana abuse among juveniles continued the upward trend, although at a slower pace than in previous years. Marijuana use reported by twelfth graders in the Minnesota Student Survey increased from 20.4 in 1993 to 30.3 percent in 1998. This rate, however, remained below the national rate of 37.5 percent in 1998. More than half the treatment admissions for marijuana abuse in Minnesota were under age 18. Among arrestees in 1999, the average age of first marijuana use was 15. According to the 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 5.9 percent of Minnesotans admitted use of marijuana in the past 30 days, ranking the state fifteenth. When comparing 12- to 17-year-olds and 18- to 25-year-olds, Minnesota ranks eighth in the nation in both age categories. (See Table 4.)

Table 4. Marijuana Use, Past Month, United States and Minnesota, 1999

  United States Percent Minnesota Percent Minnesota Rank
All Age Groups 5.2 5.9 15
12-17 7.9 10.8 8
18-25 14.7 18.9 8
26 or Older 3.2 3.0 28

 Source: 1999 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. 

The increasing abuse among youth is particularly troubling because marijuana use often leads to the use of other drugs. A 1994 study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reported that children who use marijuana are 85 times more likely to use cocaine than nonusers.

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Marijuana is the most widely available drug in Minnesota. In 1999, nearly 65 percent of all drug arrests were marijuana-related. In FY1998, the Federal-Wide Drug Seizure System reported 301 kilograms of marijuana seized in Minnesota, up from 106.6 kilograms seized in FY1997. Thirty-seven percent of Minnesota's multijurisdictional drug task force cases in 1998 involved marijuana, resulting in 1,528 arrests and the seizure of more than 3,138 pounds. Task force seizures increased to over 8,200 pounds in 1999. The St. Paul Police Department seized 362 pounds of marijuana and made 265 marijuana arrests in 1999, both increases from the previous year. The average quantities of cannabis seized were 1,000 plants at outdoor grows and 100 plants at indoor grows in the St. Paul area. The largest seizure was 55 pounds. Marijuana submissions to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's forensic science laboratory in 1999 constituted 32 percent of the total number of drug submissions, down from 37 percent in 1997, but still the highest percentage.

Marijuana prices remain stable with the price of sinsemilla at $6,000 to $7,000 per pound and the price of Mexican marijuana at $2,500 to $3,000 per pound in the Minneapolis area. Locally produced marijuana is available in Duluth for $1,500 per pound.



Marijuana abuse is not normally tied directly to violent behavior. However, ADAM statistics for Minneapolis reveal that 44 percent of males arrested for violent crimes in 1999 tested positive for marijuana.

Domestic cannabis growers are often heavily armed and commonly use boobytraps and warning devices to protect their cultivation sites from law enforcement authorities and the public. The U.S. Forest Service reports that visitors to public lands may be endangered by the presence of cannabis cultivation sites, which routinely are booby-trapped with explosives, trip-wire firing devices, hanging fishhooks, and punji sticks buried around the cannabis plots. Nationwide, the number of weapons seized during cannabis eradication program operations more than doubled during the 1990s.

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 The Southwest Border is the primary source area for marijuana available in Minnesota. Local cultivation, particularly indoors, is increasing. Caucasians and OMGs grow cannabis indoors and outdoors in St. Paul. Local cannabis growers are the primary source of marijuana in Duluth, according to the Duluth Police Department.



 Mexican DTOs are the primary transporters of marijuana into Minnesota. Transportation methods are similar to those used for cocaine and methamphetamine. Parcel post and private vehicles are the primary methods used to convey marijuana to Minnesota. The DEA reports that 40- to 200-pound shipments are being transported into the state from the Southwest Border. Operation Pipeline seizures reported by EPIC for 1999 show that over 1,700 kilograms of marijuana were seized en route to Minnesota from the Southwest Border. Most marijuana in St. Paul comes from Mexico and is primarily transported by Mexican and Jamaican criminal groups with connections to DTOs in Texas and California.



Mexican DTOs are the primary wholesale distributors of marijuana in Minnesota. There were six OCDETF investigations into Mexican DTOs’ distribution of marijuana in Minnesota in 1999. Mexican and Jamaican groups are the principal distributors in the St. Paul area. The Ramsey County Sheriff's Department reports that Mexican criminal groups are the dominant wholesale distributors in the county.

African American and Hispanic street gangs are the primary street-level distributors of marijuana. Law enforcement agencies across the state report that gangs dominate the retail drug trade. These gangs survive financially through the distribution and sale of drugs. Street gangs typically sell marijuana and other drugs in low-income areas such as public housing projects. Gang members who sell drugs on the street corners are frequently in their teens or younger.

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