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The growing strength and organization of criminal gangs, including their growing alliances with large Mexican DTOs, has changed the nature of midlevel and retail drug distribution in many local drug markets, even in suburban and rural areas. As a result, disrupting illicit drug availability and distribution will become increasingly difficult for state and local law enforcement agencies. In many of these markets, local independent dealers can no longer compete with national-level gangs that can undersell local drug distributors. Previously, state and local law enforcement agencies could disrupt drug availability in their areas, at least temporarily, by investigating and dismantling local distribution groups. But well-organized criminal gangs are able to maintain a stronger, more stable drug supply to local markets and to quickly replace distributors when individual gang members or entire distribution cells are arrested. Significantly disrupting drug distribution in smaller drug markets will increasingly require large-scale multijurisdictional investigations, most likely necessitating federal law enforcement support.

Without a significant increase in drug interdiction, seizures, arrests, and investigations that apply sustained pressure on major DTOs, availability of most drugs will increase in 2010, primarily because drug production in Mexico is increasing. The most recent drug production estimates show sharp increases in heroin and marijuana production in Mexico and greatly reduced efforts to eradicate drug crops in that country. The production estimates are supported by Southwest Border drug seizure data showing sharp increases in heroin and marijuana seizures in 2009. Southwest Border seizure data also indicate that methamphetamine production has increased sharply in Mexico as well because of traffickers' ability to circumvent precursor chemical restrictions and employ alternative production methods despite strong GOM restrictions on ephedrine and pseudoephedrine imports. Only cocaine production estimates show decreasing production in Colombia, and that trend is reflected in availability data, including cocaine seizure data, which show relatively low availability of the drug.

The increased enforcement against illegal pain clinics and the growing number of PDMPs will increasingly disrupt the supply of CPDs to prescription opioid users who typically acquire these drugs through doctor-shopping and from unscrupulous physicians. Many users will seek CPDs from other sources, including pharmacy robberies. The number of pharmacy armed robberies has increased over the past 5 years, and in many states, laws are not sufficient to deter such crimes. Other prescription opioid users will increasingly switch to heroin because, according to reporting from law enforcement and treatment providers, in many instances heroin is less expensive than diverted prescription opioids.

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