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Guam Drug Threat Assessment
August 2003


Marijuana poses a significant threat to Guam. The drug is commonly abused and readily available on Guam despite considerable law enforcement and eradication initiatives. Marijuana abuse by young people is a particular concern. Of students in grades 7 through 12 who completed a 1999 survey conducted by DMHSA, almost 33 percent reported having smoked marijuana at least once in their lifetime.

Enhanced eradication, interdiction, and street-level law enforcement initiatives caused a significant increase in marijuana prices in the early 1990s, and prices have remained high. In 1991 the price for 1 pound of marijuana increased from $2,500 to between $5,000 and $8,000. According to DEA, in the second quarter of FY2002 marijuana sold for $12,800 per pound. In addition, marijuana sold for $800 per ounce, and $20 per joint. The drug typically is distributed at the retail level in machine-rolled joints. In spite of law enforcement efforts, marijuana is more readily available on Guam than in Japan. As a result, many young Japanese tourists seek the drug during their visits. The price of one machine-rolled joint for sale to a Japanese tourist ranges from $150 to $200, considerably more than the $20 paid by local users.

Marijuana commonly has been seized on Guam. From 1995 through 1997, annual seizures of marijuana ranged from 339 to 638 pounds. In 1998, the most recent year for which data are available, law enforcement agencies seized more than 350 pounds of marijuana. The Guam CQA seized 113.79 grams of marijuana in 2001, a decrease from 9,918 grams seized in 2000.

The significance of the marijuana problem on Guam is reflected in the number of drug-related arrests and the number of drug samples submitted to laboratories for analysis. Of the 447 adult drug-related arrests in 1999 on Guam, 98 were for marijuana-related offenses. Of the 558 drug samples submitted by law enforcement agencies to the Guam Police Department Crime Laboratory in 1999, 151 (27%) were analyzed as marijuana.

The Guam CQA conducts far more investigations related to marijuana than to any other drug type. In 2001, the agency conducted 48 marijuana-related investigations, which represented 69 percent of all investigations conducted. In 2000, the agency conducted 147 marijuana-related investigations, which represented 83 percent of all investigations conducted. Amphetamine-related investigations were second each of these years; the agency conducted 12 amphetamine-related investigations in 2001 and 26 in 2002.

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Despite the widespread availability of marijuana, the number of marijuana-related federal sentences on Guam remained very low from FY1997 through FY2001. According to USSC data, Guam had two marijuana-related federal sentences in FY1997, one in FY1998, none in FY1999, none in FY2000, and one in FY2001.

Cannabis is cultivated both outdoors and indoors on Guam, primarily for personal consumption. Because of the poor soil, domestically produced marijuana has lower THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) levels than marijuana produced in other source areas. In order to combat local cannabis cultivation, DEA has established the Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program (DCE/SP) on Guam. During 2001 three sophisticated indoor grow operations and over 800 plants were eradicated by the DCE/SP program on Guam.

Violence is occasionally associated with cannabis cultivation on Guam. Law enforcement authorities encounter a significant number of small cannabis plots in remote areas, and cannabis growers occasionally booby-trap these cultivation sites, endangering both law enforcement officers and the general public.

Marijuana typically is smuggled into Guam from the Republic of Palau and, to a lesser extent, from Hawaii and the Federated States of Micronesia via package delivery services or in commercial air cargo. Often the relatives of Guam residents who are of Palauan descent ship large coolers containing fish or yams with 5 to 10 pounds of marijuana hidden inside the coolers' walls. Bodycarriers aboard commercial aircraft also transport marijuana into Guam. Drug-detection dogs are used as an effective measure against this method, according to DEA.

Figure 3. Marijuana transportation from Palau to Guam.

Map showing transportation route for marijuana from the island of Palau to Guam.

Wholesale distribution of marijuana is limited, and appears to be controlled by organized criminal groups. In February 2000 Guam police arrested a 35-year-old man and seized 15 bags of dried marijuana leaves. Police later seized nine additional bags from his residence. Although the total weight was not documented, the marijuana was estimated to be worth more than $100,000 at the street level. Police believe that the man was connected to an organized crime syndicate operating from Palau. 

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