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California Border Alliance Group Drug Market Analysis
June 2007


Mexican DTOs produce significant quantities of high-potency marijuana at large-scale, outdoor cannabis grow sites on private ranches and public lands in northern San Diego County as well as at indoor grow sites. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program (DCE/SP), San Diego County ranked second in the state for the number of cannabis plants eradicated at outdoor and indoor grow sites in 2006. The number of plants eradicated from outdoor grow sites in San Diego County decreased 37 percent from 2004 through 2005. (See Table 1.) This decline can be attributed to extensive soil damage throughout the major cannabis cultivation areas in the region caused by the largest forest fire in San Diego County's history in 2003. Mexican DTOs, aware of this situation, increased the amount of Mexican marijuana smuggled into the region. The number of plants eradicated from outdoor grow sites increased 43 percent from 2005 through 2006; however, anecdotal evidence suggests that a sizable portion of cannabis is cultivated outside the CBAG region in areas south and east of Tijuana, Mexico.

Table 1. Number of Cannabis Plants Seized at Indoor and Outdoor Sites in San Diego County, 2004-2006*

Year 2004 2005 2006
Indoor 11,266 13,981 13,443
Outdoor 270,619 169,452 243,044
Total 281,885 183,433 256,487

Source: Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program, as of January 23, 2007.
*Historically, law enforcement officers have seized very few cannabis plants in Imperial County. No plants were seized in Imperial County in 2004, 2005, or 2006.

Powder methamphetamine production is limited in the CBAG region as a result of the ready availability of ice methamphetamine produced in Mexico. Mexican DTOs operate large-scale laboratories in Mexico, where they can obtain precursor chemicals more easily than they can in the United States. Mexican DTOs previously operated these laboratories in southern California but have since transferred operations to Mexico because of the stringent precursor chemical control laws enacted in California in 2003. Moreover, small-scale, domestic powder methamphetamine producers in the CBAG region have also decreased their operations; most of these producers now purchase ice methamphetamine from Mexican DTOs instead of producing the less-potent powder form of the drug. The limited amount of powder methamphetamine that is produced in the area is generally manufactured in small-scale laboratories and is intended for personal use or limited distribution. Ice conversion laboratories--in which powder methamphetamine is converted to ice--exist in the area but are limited because ice methamphetamine is commonly smuggled into the CBAG region from Mexico. Additionally, precursor chemical smuggling from Mexico through the CBAG region to large-scale laboratories throughout the United States has decreased as a result of a nationwide decline in large-scale, domestic powder methamphetamine production.

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