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Illicit drug abuse levels in the Hawaii HIDTA region are high, particularly for ice methamphetamine. Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) reveal that methamphetamines/amphetamines were identified more often than any other drug, including alcohol, as the primary substance of abuse for treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities in Hawaii during the period 2002 through 2006 (the latest year for which data are available). (See Table 5.) Cocaine, heroin, and ODDs are also abused throughout Hawaii, but to a lesser extent. The abuse of prescription narcotics, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and methadone, occurs at lower levels than the abuse of other drugs; however, prescription narcotics abuse is increasing and is a growing concern in Hawaii.

Table 5. Drug-Related Treatment Admissions to Publicly Funded Facilities in Hawaii, 2002-2006

Drug 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Methamphetamine/amphetamines 2,241 2,570 2,381 2,624 2,181
Marijuana/hashish 1,432 1,391 1,215 1,577 1,618
Cocaine 338 317 279 222 302
Heroin 221 181 156 162 160
Other opiates 102 181 112 155 134

Source: Treatment Episode Data Set.

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Illicit Finance

Various money laundering techniques are commonly used by traffickers in the Hawaii HIDTA region to mask the origins of their drug proceeds. Drug traffickers primarily use package delivery services but also employ couriers aboard commercial flights to transport drug proceeds in bulk from Hawaii to drug source areas. Traffickers also launder drug proceeds through the use of wire remittance services, money services businesses, and structured bank transactions. Moreover, a number of traffickers, particularly retail-level traffickers, launder drug proceeds through the purchase of expensive consumer items such as automobiles, clothing, and jewelry.

Woman Receives 130 Months in Prison and Ordered to Forfeit $1 Million

In November 2007 the U. S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii announced the sentencing of a woman to 130 months in prison and the forfeiture of more than $1 million on drug trafficking and related money laundering charges. According to court records, the defendant admitted that between September 2001 and December 2006 she arranged for coconspirators to receive mail parcels containing multipound quantities of methamphetamine from California. The defendant also traveled to California with others to obtain methamphetamine from sources. The defendant used her business and personal bank accounts at different bank branches to launder the drug proceeds and to reinvest funds for future drug purchases.

Source: U.S. Attorneys Office, District of Hawaii, press release dated November 16, 2007.

Mexican and Asian DTOs are the most prominent drug money launderers in the region. Mexican DTOs send drug proceeds primarily by package delivery services, U.S. mail, air couriers, or maritime freight from locations throughout Hawaii, either directly to Mexico or through major collection sites on the U.S. mainland--Arizona, California, Nevada, and Texas--en route to Mexico. Asian DTOs frequently use drug proceeds to purchase commercial and residential property both in their home countries and throughout the state.

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Ice methamphetamine will continue to represent the most significant drug threat to the Hawaii HIDTA region. Declining local production has allowed Mexican DTOs and criminal groups to strengthen their position as the principal suppliers of wholesale quantities of high-purity ice methamphetamine. Mexican traffickers will also continue to supply most of the powder cocaine and heroin abused in the region.

The full scope of ice methamphetamine trafficking from Oceana and Pacific Rim countries to Hawaii is unknown at this time. Limited investigative resources and intelligence preclude a full assessment of the threat. However, anecdotal law enforcement information indicates that ice methamphetamine is being shipped to Hawaii from these countries, and recent seizure activity suggests there is potential for ice methamphetamine from this area to challenge the market share now held by Mexican DTOs. Furthermore, the transit of ice methamphetamine from Oceana and Pacific Rim countries to the U.S. mainland is a growing concern among federal, state, and local law enforcement in Hawaii.

Despite effective law enforcement aerial surveillance and eradication programs, illegal cannabis cultivation will continue to meet the demands of abusers in the state. Over the next year, outdoor cultivation will most likely continue to trend downward; however, public lands in more remote areas of the state will increasingly be used by cultivators. Illegal cannabis cultivators will continue to exploit state medicinal marijuana laws and increase their activities in large-scale indoor cannabis cultivation operations within the HIDTA region in order to capitalize on high profit margins associated with higher-potency marijuana.

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