ARCHIVED To Contents To Previous Page To Next Page To Publications Page To Home Page
National Drug Intelligence Center
Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands Drug Threat Assessment
Marijuana is one of the most widely available and commonly abused illicit drugs in Puerto Rico and the USVI. Most of the marijuana available in Puerto Rico is produced in Mexico; however, locally produced marijuana as well as marijuana produced in Colombia and Jamaica also is available. Most marijuana available in the USVI arrives from southern island locations such as St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines; however, its origin is unknown. Cannabis cultivation in Puerto Rico is limited. Most of the cannabis grown in Puerto Rico is cultivated in small plots in the central mountain area and in the Rio Grande region of northeast Puerto Rico. Cannabis produced locally in the USVI usually is cultivated outdoors; however, poor terrain and arid climate across the USVI produce a low-quality product. Puerto Rican criminal groups primarily use couriers aboard commercial aircraft and package delivery services to transport marijuana into Puerto Rico. Colombian DTOs often use the transportation services of Dominican DTOs and criminal groups to smuggle marijuana to Puerto Rico by maritime conveyances. Marijuana primarily is transported to the USVI in small maritime vessels. Puerto Rican criminal groups and local independent dealers are the principal distributors of wholesale and retail quantities of marijuana in Puerto Rico. In the USVI local criminal groups and independent dealers are the primary wholesale and retail distributors of marijuana.
Marijuana is one of the most commonly abused illicit drugs in Puerto Rico and the USVI. According to MHAASA, 23.4 percent of males and 16.3 percent of females (approximately 2,443 individuals) who underwent substance abuse treatment from 2000 to 2001 in Puerto Rico cited marijuana as their primary drug of abuse. According to law enforcement officials, marijuana abuse likely is much more widespread than indicated by treatment admission numbers. Marijuana abuse spans most socioeconomic and age groups. Treatment data for the USVI are unavailable; however, USVI law enforcement officials indicate that marijuana abuse is widespread.
Marijuana is widely available in Puerto Rico and the USVI. Most of the marijuana available in Puerto Rico is produced in Mexico; to a lesser extent, marijuana produced locally or in Colombia or Jamaica also is available. Typically, the marijuana available in the USVI is transported from islands in the Caribbean; the source of the marijuana is not known. According to FDSS data, federal law enforcement officials in Puerto Rico seized 565.4 kilograms of marijuana in 1999, 411.9 kilograms in 2000, 299.2 kilograms in 2001, and 571.1 kilograms in 2002. The DEA Caribbean Division reported the following marijuana seizures in the USVI: 0.3 kilograms in FY2000; 28.6 kilograms in FY2001, and 465.5 kilograms in FY2002. CBP seized approximately 1,549 kilograms of marijuana in FY1999, 399 kilograms in FY2000, and 3,099 kilograms in FY2001 in Puerto Rico and the USVI. In FY2001 the USCG Greater Antillies Section seized 9,657 kilograms of marijuana. Some CBP and USCG seizures may be reflected in the FDSS data.
Marijuana prices vary throughout Puerto Rico and the USVI. The DEA Caribbean Division reported that in the second quarter of FY2002, marijuana produced in Mexico sold for $1,100 to $1,500 per pound in Puerto Rico. An ounce of marijuana sold for approximately $120, with smaller retail quantities selling for $6, $10, and $20. In St. Thomas and St. John, marijuana sold for approximately $1,300 per kilogram, $600 per pound, $100 per ounce, and $10 per bag in the second quarter of FY2002.
The percentage of drug-related federal sentences that were marijuana-related in Puerto Rico and the USVI in FY2001 was significantly lower than the national percentage. According to USSC data, 3.0 percent of drug-related federal sentences in Puerto Rico and 6.7 percent of drug-related federal sentences in the USVI were marijuana-related compared with 32.8 percent nationally.
The level of violence directly attributed to marijuana distribution in Puerto Rico and the USVI is low. However, distributors who sell marijuana often distribute other drugs, including cocaine and heroin, and commit violent crimes to protect their territory.
Violent crime is not often associated with marijuana abuse in Puerto Rico and the USVI. Marijuana abusers generally are not violent, and the drug's effects typically depend on the user's personality and expectations. Low doses of marijuana tend to induce relaxation, and high doses can cause image distortion, loss of personal identity, fantasies, and hallucinations.
Most of the marijuana available in Puerto Rico is produced in Mexico because the terrain, temperature, and rainfall in Puerto Rico are not conducive to large-scale cannabis cultivation. When cannabis is cultivated in Puerto Rico, it generally is grown outdoors; however, cannabis sometimes is cultivated indoors. Outdoor cultivation typically occurs in small plots in the central mountain area and in the Rio Grande region of northeastern Puerto Rico.
Cannabis also is cultivated--primarily outdoors--in the USVI; however, poor terrain and arid climate across the USVI produce a low quality product. Nearly all the cannabis cultivated is intended for local distribution. Cultivation sites most commonly are located in rural areas across the islands and typically contain 100 to 200 cannabis plants. In August 2002 federal and local law enforcement authorities seized approximately 1,100 cannabis plants in a series of raids in St. Croix. Law enforcement officials located the plants using helicopters. The plants were scattered in plots throughout the western half of the island. No arrests were made.
Puerto Rican criminal groups are the primary transporters of Mexico-produced marijuana into Puerto Rico. These groups primarily use couriers aboard commercial aircraft as well as package delivery services to transport marijuana to the island. Couriers, typically Puerto Rican men, generally conceal the drug on their persons or in luggage. Couriers most often transport the drug from California and Texas, often transiting U.S. cities such as Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, Orlando, Miami, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh before arriving in Puerto Rico. In June 2002 law enforcement officials at San Juan International Airport arrested a male resident of San Juan and seized 12.7 kilograms of marijuana. The man had traveled from Los Angeles to San Juan via Chicago and had concealed the marijuana in a suitcase, intermingled with clothing. Marijuana transported into Puerto Rico via package delivery services usually is mailed from California or Texas. In 2001, 331 kilograms of marijuana were seized as part of Operation Jetway in Puerto Rico. That same year CBP seized 205 kilograms of marijuana from commercial aircraft at airports in Puerto Rico. Some of the CBP seizures may be included in Operation Jetway data.
Dominican DTOs and criminal groups are the primary transporters of Colombian marijuana into Puerto Rico. Colombian DTOs often use the transportation services of these Dominican DTOs and criminal groups to smuggle marijuana into the territory. These DTOs and criminal groups primarily transport the marijuana in small maritime vessels, including go-fast boats.
Most of the marijuana available in the USVI is transported by small maritime vessels from southern island locations including St. Lucia or St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Neither the principal transporters nor the origin of marijuana arriving in the USVI from these locations is known.
Puerto Rican criminal groups and local independent dealers are the principal wholesale- and retail-level distributors of marijuana in Puerto Rico. In the USVI local criminal groups and independent dealers are the primary wholesale- and retail-level distributors of marijuana.
Marijuana is sold at the retail level at various locations in Puerto Rico. Most retail marijuana distribution occurs at puntos de drogas, or drug points. Retail distributors who sell marijuana usually sell other drugs, including cocaine and heroin. Retail distribution of marijuana also takes place in private residences, bars, and nightclubs. In the USVI marijuana is sold via hand-to-hand transactions on city streets and in residences, bars, and clubs.
End of page.