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Colorado Drug Threat Assessment
Publication Date: May 2003
Document ID: 2003-S0389CO-001
Archived on: January 1, 2006. This document may contain dated information. It remains available to provide access to historical materials.
This report is a strategic assessment that addresses the status and outlook of the drug threat to Colorado. Analytical judgment determined the threat posed by each drug type or category, taking into account the most current quantitative and qualitative information on availability, demand, production or cultivation, transportation, and distribution, as well as the effects of a particular drug on abusers and society as a whole. While NDIC sought to incorporate the latest available information, a time lag often exists between collection and publication of data, particularly demand-related data sets. NDIC anticipates that this drug threat assessment will be useful to policymakers, law enforcement personnel, and treatment providers at the federal, state, and local levels because it draws upon a broad range of information sources to describe and analyze the drug threat to Colorado.
Your questions, comments, and suggestions for future subjects are welcome at any time. Addresses are provided at the end of the page.
Other Dangerous Drugs
List of Tables
Table 1. Drug-Related Treatment Admissions to Publicly Funded Facilities by Drug Type, Colorado, 1997-2001
Table 2. Street Gangs That Distribute Cocaine in the Front Range Area
List of Charts
Chart 1. Methamphetamine Laboratory and Dumpsite Seizures, Colorado, 1997-2001
Chart 2. Heroin Emergency Department Mentions, Denver, 1997-2001
The production, distribution, and abuse of illicit drugs pose a serious threat to Colorado. Mexican drug trafficking organizations and criminal groups transport wholesale quantities of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana into the state and subsequently distribute these drugs at the wholesale level. Mexican criminal groups also are involved in the transportation and distribution of illicit drugs in Colorado. Drugs typically are transported into the state in private, commercial, and rental vehicles traveling interstate and U.S. highways. Package delivery services and couriers aboard commercial aircraft also are used to transport drugs, although to a lesser extent.
Methamphetamine is a primary drug threat to Colorado, and it is readily available in most population centers in the state. Most methamphetamine available in Colorado is produced by Mexican drug trafficking organizations and criminal groups in Mexico, California, and Arizona. Mexican drug trafficking organizations and, to a lesser extent, Mexican criminal groups transport wholesale quantities of methamphetamine into Colorado from Mexico via southwestern states or from production sites in California and Arizona. Caucasian criminal groups and local independent dealers also produce significant quantities of methamphetamine throughout the state. The rising number of methamphetamine laboratories in the state poses a significant threat to public safety. Mexican drug trafficking organizations and criminal groups dominate the wholesale distribution of methamphetamine produced in Mexico, California, and Arizona. Caucasian criminal groups also distribute methamphetamine at the wholesale level; typically they are supplied by laboratory operators in Colorado and neighboring states. Outlaw motorcycle gangs also produce and distribute methamphetamine in the state. At the retail level Caucasian and Mexican local independent dealers are the most common distributors of the drug, but Hispanic and African American street gangs also distribute methamphetamine.
Cocaine is a significant drug threat to Colorado. Powdered cocaine is readily available throughout the state, and crack cocaine is available in urban population centers. Cocaine is the drug most often associated with violent crime in the state, principally because cocaine distributors frequently resort to violence to protect their distribution operations and to collect debts. Mexican drug trafficking organizations and criminal groups transport wholesale quantities of powdered cocaine into Colorado in private or rental vehicles and distribute the drug at the wholesale level. Hispanic and African American street gangs distribute powdered and crack cocaine; some gangs distribute powdered or crack cocaine at the wholesale and retail levels, while others distribute crack at the retail level only. Local independent dealers also distribute powdered and crack cocaine at the retail level. Retail distributors in Colorado typically convert powdered cocaine into crack on an as-needed basis and sell the drug at open-air markets or from crack houses.
Heroin is available in the state's metropolitan and suburban areas and poses a considerable drug threat to Colorado. Mexican black tar heroin and brown powdered heroin are the most common types available. Most new heroin abusers in Colorado are young adults who smoke or snort the drug rather than inject it, mistakenly believing this practice to be safer and less likely to lead to addiction. Mexican drug trafficking organizations transport heroin into the state and serve as the primary wholesale distributors. Transporters commonly use private and rental vehicles, couriers aboard commercial aircraft, and package delivery services to transport heroin from Mexico into the state. Mexican drug trafficking organizations and criminal groups are the principal retail distributors of heroin in Colorado.
Marijuana, produced primarily in Mexico, is the most widely available and frequently abused illicit drug in Colorado. However, law enforcement officers generally regard the drug as a lower threat than methamphetamine or cocaine because marijuana abusers and distributors usually do not commit violent crimes. Most of the marijuana available in the state is produced in Mexico; however, marijuana produced in Colorado and other western states, particularly California, by Mexican criminal groups and local independent dealers is also available. Marijuana typically is transported into the state in commercial trucks, rental and private vehicles, and by package delivery services. Marijuana produced in Mexico or by Mexican criminal groups in Colorado and other western states is distributed primarily by Mexican drug trafficking organizations and criminal groups at the wholesale level and by Hispanic and African American street gangs at the retail level. Caucasian criminal groups and local independent dealers are the primary distributors of the marijuana and sinsemilla they produce in Colorado.
Other dangerous drugs present a significant and increasing threat to Colorado. Other dangerous drugs include the club drugs MDMA, LSD, ketamine, and GHB and its analogs; the hallucinogen psilocybin; and diverted pharmaceuticals including opioids (narcotic analgesics) such as Dilaudid, Lorcet, OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, and Vicodin and sedative hypnotics (benzodiazepines) such as Valium and Xanax. Club drugs are transported into Colorado in private vehicles, by couriers aboard commercial flights, and via package delivery services. Many of these drugs are distributed and abused by middle-class, suburban young adults at raves and nightclubs and on college campuses. MDMA is increasingly available and abused in Colorado, particularly in the Denver area where the drug is distributed at a growing number of venues such as college campuses and private parties. The diversion and abuse of pharmaceuticals, especially opioids, is an increasing threat to Colorado. Local independent dealers are the principal distributors of diverted pharmaceuticals.
National Drug Intelligence Center
319 Washington Street, 5th Floor
Johnstown, PA 15901
Tel. (814) 532-4601
FAX (814) 532-4690
National Drug Intelligence Center
8201 Greensboro Drive, Suite 1001
McLean, VA 22102-3840
Tel. (703) 556-8970
FAX (703) 556-7807
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