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National Drug Intelligence Center
Georgia Drug Threat Assessment
Marijuana is the most widely available illicit drug in Georgia; however, the drug is considered a lower threat than cocaine because it is less often associated with violent crime. Most of the marijuana available in the state is produced in Mexico, although marijuana produced in Georgia and surrounding states also is available. A limited amount of marijuana produced in Colombia and Jamaica is available as well. Mexican criminal groups using tractor-trailers and private vehicles are the dominant transporters of the Mexico-produced marijuana available in Georgia and are the primary wholesale distributors of Mexico-produced marijuana. Colombian criminal groups are the primary transporters and wholesale distributors of marijuana produced in Colombia, and Jamaican criminal groups are the primary transporters and wholesale distributors of marijuana produced in Jamaica. Caucasian and Mexican criminal groups and Caucasian local independent dealers are the primary wholesale distributors of marijuana produced locally in Georgia and surrounding states. African American and Hispanic gangs and African American and Caucasian local independent dealers are the primary retail distributors of marijuana in Georgia.
Marijuana is commonly abused in Georgia, and survey data indicate that the percentage of the state's population that abuses the drug is comparable to the percentage nationwide. According to NHSDA data, in 1999--the most recent year for which these data are available--4.2 percent of Georgia residents abused marijuana in the month prior to the survey compared with 4.7 percent nationwide. The highest percentage (12.1%) of past month marijuana abuse in Georgia was among 18- to 25-year-olds.
Treatment data indicate that marijuana is commonly abused in the state. The number of marijuana-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities was second only to the number of cocaine-related treatment admissions from 1997 through 2001, according to TEDS. Marijuana-related treatment admissions increased from 2,672 in 1997 to 4,636 in 2001. (See Table 1 in Cocaine section.)
Marijuana frequently is mentioned in drug-related ED episodes in Atlanta. According to DAWN, the number of marijuana-related ED mentions in Atlanta in 2001 (3,486) was more than double the number in 1997 (1,577). The rate of marijuana-related ED mentions per 100,000 population likewise was higher in 2001 (96) than in 1997 (58). Of the 21 metropolitan areas reporting to DAWN in 2001, Atlanta ranked fourth in the rate of marijuana-related ED mentions per 100,000 population (96), which was more than twice the rate nationwide (44).
Marijuana was detected frequently among adult male arrestees in Atlanta. In 2000 approximately 38 percent of adult male arrestees tested positive for marijuana abuse in Atlanta, according to ADAM data.
Marijuana is the most readily available illicit drug in Georgia. Most of the marijuana available in the state is produced by Mexican DTOs and criminal groups in Mexico, although marijuana produced in Georgia and surrounding states also is available. Most cannabis is cultivated outdoors in Georgia; however, indoor cultivation also occurs. Marijuana produced in Colombia and Jamaica also is available but to a much lesser extent.
Marijuana prices vary widely throughout Georgia. According to the DEA Atlanta Division and law enforcement responses to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2001, marijuana produced in Mexico sold for $600 to $1,500 per pound in the state. DEA reports that in 2002 marijuana in Georgia sold for $100 to $350 per ounce and $10 to $20 per gram.
Seizure data reflect the ready availability of marijuana in Georgia. According to FDSS data, federal law enforcement officials in Georgia seized 425 kilograms of marijuana in 1998, 5,536 kilograms in 1999, 5,587 kilograms in 2000, and 5,055 kilograms in 2001. (See Table 2 in Cocaine section.)
The number of cannabis plants seized and destroyed by the Governor's Task Force on Drug Suppression increased from 1999 through 2000, and the number of cannabis growers arrested by local and federal authorities nearly doubled during the same period. The Governor's Task Force seized and destroyed 27,063 cannabis plants in 1999 and 33,669 cannabis plants in 2000. The number of cannabis growers arrested increased from 66 in 1999 to 121 in 2000.
The percentage of drug-related federal sentences in Georgia involving marijuana was significantly lower than the national percentage in FY2000. According to USSC data, in FY2000 marijuana-related sentences accounted for 13 percent of drug-related federal sentences in Georgia compared with 31 percent nationally.
The level of violence directly attributed to marijuana distribution in Georgia is low. However, some gangs such as Gangster Disciples, Sureņos 13, Vatos Locos, Latin Kings, and La Gran Familia that traditionally distributed cocaine began distributing marijuana in the early 1990s. These polydrug gangs have a history of violence and often commit violent acts to protect their interests including their marijuana distribution activities.
Marijuana abusers are generally nonviolent; however, some marijuana abusers in Georgia use marijuana in combination with other drugs increasing the risk that they may become violent. The most common mixture involves small rocks of crack cocaine--a drug frequently associated with violent behavior--added to marijuana-filled cigars known as blunts.
Cannabis cultivation sometimes is associated with violent crime in Georgia. Law enforcement officials report that outdoor cannabis growers use trip wires, beds of nails, and explosives to secure cultivation sites and deter intruders.
Most of the marijuana available in Georgia is produced in Mexico; however, a substantial amount is produced locally or in neighboring states. The Georgia Governor's Task Force on Drug Suppression reports that 93 of Georgia's 159 counties are significant locations for cannabis cultivation. In 2000--the most recent year for which this information is available--the 12 counties in Georgia with the most cannabis plants eradicated by the Georgia Governor's Task Force on Drug Suppression were Wilkinson, Polk, Bacon, Decatur, Haralson, Putnam, Richmond, Bartow, Gordon, Whitfield, Brantley, and Carroll. Eighty-seven percent of the cannabis plants eradicated in Georgia were eradicated in these counties. (See Table 3.)
The primary cannabis cultivators in Georgia are Caucasian and Mexican criminal groups and Caucasian local independent dealers. These criminal groups and independent dealers cultivate significant quantities of cannabis, principally outdoors, throughout the state. The cannabis typically is grown in numerous small plots with two to five plants located every 50 to 100 yards, although state law enforcement officials indicated that one 10,000-plant cultivation site and one 15,000-plant cultivation site were seized in 2002. Cultivators space the plants in this manner to avoid aerial detection. Seeds are planted outdoors in March, and the cannabis is harvested in late summer or early fall. Criminal groups and local independent dealers often cultivate cannabis in national parks to avoid property seizure. Chattahoochee National Forest in northern Georgia ranked ninth in the nation in the number of cannabis plants eradicated from national forests during 2000. According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, locally produced marijuana is typically packaged and shipped to northern states.
Cannabis also is grown indoors in Georgia. Many indoor cannabis cultivation operations involve sophisticated hydroponic equipment and techniques. During FY2000 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies seized eight indoor cannabis grows. Local independent dealers and, to a lesser extent, marijuana abusers are the primary cultivators of cannabis grown indoors; they usually cultivate small quantities.
Marijuana from foreign and domestic sources is transported into Georgia by various groups and methods. Mexican criminal groups are the primary transporters of marijuana available in Georgia. These groups transport multikilogram shipments of marijuana from sources in Mexico and distribution centers in southwestern states, primarily using commercial and private vehicles. Marijuana transported in commercial vehicles often is intermingled with legitimate cargo, and marijuana transported in private vehicles often is concealed in hidden compartments. In April 2000 law enforcement officials in La Grange, southwest of Atlanta, seized 1,875 kilograms of marijuana on I-85 in a tractor-trailer. The tractor-trailer was traveling from Edinburg, Texas, (near McAllen) and was destined for Atlanta. As part of Operation Pipeline, state and local law enforcement officials seized 2,697 kilograms of marijuana in, or destined for, Georgia in 2001. Of the total, 523 kilograms were seized in the state and 2,174 kilograms destined for Georgia were seized in other states.
African American and Caucasian criminal groups, local independent dealers and, to a lesser extent, African American and Hispanic gangs also transport Mexico-produced marijuana as well as marijuana produced in neighboring states into Georgia, primarily using private vehicles. Caucasian and Mexican criminal groups and Caucasian local independent dealers that cultivate cannabis in Georgia generally transport locally grown marijuana to distributors in Georgia or surrounding states by private vehicle. African American and Hispanic gangs also transport marijuana produced in Georgia within the state or to neighboring states, principally by private vehicle.
Marijuana is transported into Georgia by air, primarily using package delivery services and, to a lesser extent, couriers or cargo aboard commercial airlines. Most of the marijuana transported to Georgia by air is produced in and smuggled from Mexico or shipped from distribution centers in southwestern states. Marijuana produced in Colombia and Jamaica sometimes is smuggled to Georgia by air using package delivery services or couriers on commercial flights or by concealing the drug in cargo. State and local law enforcement officials seized 279.0 kilograms of marijuana as part of Operation Jetway in 2001. USCS agents in Georgia seized 2.4 kilograms of marijuana that was transported to the state on commercial aircraft in 1999, 1.0 kilogram in 2000, and 0.7 kilogram in 2001.
Marijuana produced in Colombia and Jamaica sometimes is transported to Georgia aboard maritime vessels. Colombian criminal groups are the primary transporters of marijuana produced in Colombia. These criminal groups transport marijuana to Georgia principally using maritime vessels that transit the Caribbean. Jamaican criminal groups transport marijuana produced in Jamaica; these groups often conceal the drug among legitimate cargo aboard maritime vessels.
Atlanta is a regional distribution center of marijuana. Atlanta-based criminal groups supply distributors in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Gangs and local independent dealers in these states and within Georgia frequently travel to Atlanta to purchase marijuana from suppliers and then transport the marijuana in private vehicles to retail markets, sometimes along with other drugs.
Mexican criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of Mexico-produced marijuana. However, no specific organization or group controls the retail distribution of Mexico-produced marijuana. African American and Hispanic gangs, African American and Caucasian local independent dealers, and other gangs and local independent dealers are all known to distribute marijuana at the retail level in Georgia.
Colombian criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of marijuana produced in Colombia, and Jamaican criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of marijuana produced in Jamaica. These criminal groups sell marijuana to various other criminal groups and local independent dealers for retail distribution.
Caucasian and Mexican criminal groups and Caucasian local independent dealers are the primary wholesale distributors of marijuana produced in Georgia and surrounding states. African American and Hispanic gangs also sell wholesale quantities of marijuana produced in Georgia and surrounding states, although to a lesser extent. Criminal groups that distribute wholesale quantities of locally produced marijuana either produce the marijuana themselves or purchase it from other criminal groups, local independent dealers, or gangs.
Marijuana usually is distributed at the retail level in low-income housing areas and at open-air drug markets. Retail quantities of marijuana also are sold to established contacts, at bars and nightclubs, in businesses and private homes, and on college, high school, and middle school campuses.
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