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National Drug Intelligence Center
North Dakota Drug Threat Assessment
Marijuana is the drug of choice and the most readily available drug in North Dakota. Treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities for marijuana abuse nearly doubled between 1994 and 1999. Marijuana availability also is increasing throughout the state, leading to corresponding increases in investigations, seizures, and arrests. Most of the marijuana seized in the state is produced in Mexico. High potency marijuana also is produced locally, primarily in small quantities indoors. Canada-produced marijuana is available as well. Mexican criminal groups transport multipound quantities of Mexico-produced marijuana through the southwestern states into North Dakota and distribute the drug at the wholesale level. Caucasian and Native American local independent dealers are the primary retail distributors of Mexico-produced marijuana, while local producers distribute locally produced marijuana.
Marijuana abuse is a significant problem inNorth Dakota. There are more treatment admissions for marijuana in North Dakota than for any other illicit drug. According to North Dakota health officials, treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities for marijuana abuse nearly doubled overall between 1994 and 1999. TEDS statistics show a sharp upward trend in treatment admissions from 186 in 1994 to 413 in 1998, then a decline to 361 in 1999. In North Dakota in 1999, males represented 76.7 percent of treatment admissions. In the same year, Caucasians represented 76.5 percent of treatment admissions, and 19.4 percent were Native American/Alaska Native. The age groups with the highest percentage of users--ages 15 to 17 and 21 to 25--accounted for 23.5 percent and 24.9 percent, respectively, of marijuana treatment admissions.
Marijuana use reported by North Dakota studentsis increasing. The 1999 North Dakota YRBS states that the percentage of students who reported using marijuana at least once in their lifetime increased from 26 percent in 1995 to 36 percent in 1999.
Marijuana availability is increasing throughout North Dakota. Mexico-produced and, to a lesser extent, locally produced marijuana are the most common types available; however, Canada-produced marijuana also is available. Marijuana seizures by North Dakota law enforcement officials nearly doubled from 258 pounds in 1993 to 507 pounds in 1999. According to the North Dakota BCI, annual seizures of Mexico-produced marijuana averaged 400 pounds each year from 1994 through 1997, while seizures averaged 500 pounds each year in 1998 and 1999. In 2001 Cass County law enforcement officials seized 43 pounds of Mexico-produced marijuana located in a storage facility in Fargo. The Cass County State's Attorney reported that this was one of the largest marijuana seizures in the past several years.
Marijuana-related arrests in North Dakota also indicate increasing availability. According to the North Dakota BCI, marijuana arrests increased overall from 48 in 1995 to 275 in 1999. Of those arrests, 14 in 1995 and 111 in 1999 occurred in the jurisdiction of the Minot Task Force, which reported the largest increase among all seven North Dakota task forces.
Increases in cannabis cultivation in Canada have begun to impact marijuana availability throughout North Dakota. Officials from the Burke County Sheriff's Department report that Canada is a source of marijuana transported primarily by private vehicles and tractor-trailers into their jurisdiction.
Relatively low and stable marijuana prices in North Dakota indicate the ready availability of marijuana in the state. The North Dakota BCI reports that marijuana prices statewide remained stable from 1998 through 2000. Officials from the DEA Fargo Resident Office also reported that prices for marijuana remained stable from 1998 through the second quarter of 2001: $8 to $10 per gram, $100 to $120 per ounce, and $800 to $1,000 per pound.
Although rare, violence associated with cannabis cultivation presents a concern for North Dakota law enforcement officials. Domestic cannabis growers often are armed and use booby traps and warning devices to protect grow sites from law enforcement authorities and intruders. During 2000 officials from the Cass County Sheriff's Department discovered countersurveillance equipment and booby traps associated with outdoor grows in their jurisdiction.
Most of the marijuana available in North Dakota is produced in Mexico. Marijuana is also produced on a limited basis in the state. Canada-produced marijuana is available as well. According to the North Dakota BCI, local independent producers are the primary cannabis cultivators in the state. In addition to cannabis that is cultivated, feral hemp, also known as ditchweed, grows wild throughout North Dakota. During World War II hemp was cultivated in the state, and it continues to grow undetected in many parts of North Dakota. Ditchweed lacks sufficient levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the compound that gives marijuana its potency, to have value as an illicit drug; however, ditchweed is routinely harvested and mixed with higher-grade marijuana.
Most of the locally grown cannabis is cultivated indoors. Officials from the North Dakota BCI report that cannabis cultivated indoors accounts for 80 percent of all seizures in the state. Williston Police Department officers report that most of the cannabis they seize is grown indoors, primarily in basements equipped with grow lights. Stutsman County Task Force officers also report that most of the plants seized in their jurisdiction are from indoor grows. In 2000 officers from the Cass County Sheriff's Department reported that they had seized sophisticated hydroponic grows in their jurisdiction. In June 1999 a Fargo physician was arrested for cultivating cannabis indoors. Law enforcement officials confiscated over 80 cannabis plants from the physician's home. In January 2001 Dickinson Police Department officers uncovered the largest indoor cannabis operation yet in their jurisdiction; the investigation netted 40 cannabis plants.
Mexican criminal groups transport most of the marijuana available in the state. These groups primarily use private vehicles to transport the drug from Mexico through the southwestern states into North Dakota, according to respondents to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2001. They also use Chicago, Denver, and Minneapolis as distribution centers and receive direct shipments of pound, multipound, and kilogram quantities from Laredo, Brownsville, and Crystal City, Texas. An OCDETF investigation in 2000 targeted a Mexican criminal group that transported large quantities of marijuana in private vehicles from Denver into Bismarck, Devils Lake, and Grand Forks.
Local independent dealers transport small quantities of Mexico-produced marijuana into North Dakota. These dealers combine their resources to purchase the drug from Mexican criminal groups in Colorado and Washington. They then transport the marijuana into North Dakota, primarily by private vehicle. Northwest Narcotics Task Force and Williston Police Department officers report that Caucasian and Native American local independent dealers transport marijuana into their jurisdictions. Stutsman County and Metro Area Narcotics Task Force officers note that Caucasian local independent dealers are the primary marijuana transporters in their jurisdictions. According to Northwest Narcotics Task Force officers, the typical transportation method in their jurisdiction usually involves teams of five individuals who pool their money, send one member of the team to Denver to purchase marijuana, then divide it among the members for distribution in North Dakota.
In addition to private vehicles, local independent dealers also use package delivery and mail services to transport marijuana into the state. All North Dakota respondents to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2001 reported that package delivery services are used to transport marijuana into North Dakota. Officers from the Metro Area, Northwest Narcotics, and Ward County Task Forces report that Caucasian and Native American local independent dealers transport marijuana from Colorado and Washington, primarily by private vehicles and package delivery services. In December 2000 Walsh County Sheriff's officers seized a package containing 25 pounds of marijuana after a tip from U.S. Postal Service officials.
Tractor-trailers, buses, and passenger train services provide alternative means of transporting marijuana into North Dakota.
Marijuana also is transported into North Dakota from Manitoba, Canada. Burke County Sheriff's Department officers report that Canada is a source of marijuana transported into their jurisdiction, primarily via private vehicles and tractor-trailers. Law enforcement officials throughout the northern states report that couriers are known to transport marijuana across the border in backpacks as well as seabags, duffel bags, and hockey bags. Couriers typically are paid $100 per pound of marijuana smuggled. Criminal groups operating from Canada make several trips a week transporting marijuana into the United States and return to Canada with money, and, to a lesser extent, with cocaine and weapons. The extent to which this is occurring in North Dakota is unknown.
Mexican criminal groups are the primary wholesale marijuana distributors in North Dakota. These groups transport the bulk of the marijuana available in the state and distribute the drug to Caucasian and Native American local independent dealers throughout the state. Federal and state law enforcement officials report that these groups use the same networks that distribute methamphetamine to supply wholesale amounts of marijuana to local independent dealers for retail distribution.
Caucasian and Native American local independent dealers are the primary retail distributors of Mexico-produced marijuana, while local producers distribute locally and Canada-produced marijuana. Metro Area Narcotics Task Force and Bismarck Police Department officers report that Caucasian local independent dealers are the primary distributors of Mexico-produced marijuana, and local producers distribute locally produced marijuana in their areas. Officers from the Williston and Mandan Police Departments report that in their jurisdictions, Caucasian local independent dealers and, to a lesser extent, Native American local independent dealers are the primary distributors of marijuana at the retail level.
Law enforcement officials also report that Mexican criminal groups and Native American local independent dealers cooperate in marijuana retail distribution efforts. Their methods are similar to those associated with methamphetamine distribution--Native American local independent dealers distribute Mexico-produced marijuana to Caucasian abusers in cities such as Bismarck, Fargo, and Grand Forks. Caucasian abusers also go to the reservations to purchase marijuana.
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