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National Drug Intelligence Center
Arkansas Drug Threat Assessment
Marijuana is the most widely available and frequently abused illicit drug in Arkansas. Most of the marijuana available in the state is produced in Mexico, although some cannabis is cultivated locally. Mexican criminal groups, local independent dealers, and street gangs transport marijuana into Arkansas in private and commercial vehicles. Mexican criminal groups and local independent dealers are the primary wholesale- and retail-level marijuana distributors in the state. Street gangs also distribute marijuana at the retail level. Marijuana typically is distributed at the retail level from bars, strip clubs, schools, parking lots, residences, businesses, and at concerts.
Law enforcement officials in Arkansas report that there are high levels of marijuana abuse throughout the state. Of the 24 Arkansas law enforcement respondents to the NDTS 2002, 19 indicated that marijuana abuse was high in their jurisdictions, and 5 indicated that abuse was moderate. The percentage of Arkansas residents who report having abused marijuana in the past month is statistically comparable to the percentage nationwide. According to combined data from the 1999 and the 2000 NHSDA, 3.9 percent of Arkansas residents aged 12 and over reported having abused marijuana in the year prior to the survey compared to 4.8 percent of individuals nationwide.
Marijuana is the most commonly abused illicit drug in Arkansas. According to TEDS, the number of marijuana-related treatment admissions to publicly funded facilities in Arkansas increased 36 percent from 2,230 in 1998 to 3,030 in 2002. Arkansas Department of Health statistics indicate that the number of marijuana-related treatment admissions increased 41 percent from 2,588 in SFY1998 to 3,652 in SFY2002. (See Table 1 in Overview section.) (Disparities between federal and state reporting on admissions to substance abuse treatment programs likely occur because of differences in data collection and reporting methodologies.)
Marijuana abuse among Arkansas youth is statistically comparable to the national percentage. According to the 2001 YRBS, 43.6 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 in Arkansas reported having used marijuana at least once in their lifetime, compared to 42.4 percent nationwide.
Marijuana produced in Mexico, particularly commercial-grade marijuana, is the most widely available type of the drug in the state. Marijuana produced in Arkansas also is available. According to the NDTS 2002, of the 24 law enforcement respondents in Arkansas, 21 indicated that marijuana availability was high in their jurisdictions, and 3 indicated that availability was moderate.
Seizure data reflect the ready availability of marijuana in Arkansas. According to FDSS data, federal law enforcement officials in Arkansas seized 1,149.6 kilograms of marijuana in 1998, 1,273.2 kilograms in 1999, 1,856.6 kilograms in 2000, 2,281.1 kilograms in 2001, and 1,330.1 kilograms in 2002. Law enforcement authorities who reported to Operation Pipeline seized over 4,327 kilograms of marijuana in 2000 and over 1,325 kilograms in 2001.
The percentage of marijuana-related sentences in Arkansas is significantly less than the national percentage. According to USSC data, in FY2001 12 percent of drug-related federal sentences in Arkansas were for marijuana-related offenses, compared with 33 percent nationally. There were 49 federal sentences for marijuana violations in Arkansas in FY1997, 44 in FY1998, 26 in FY1999, 13 in FY2000, and 20 in FY2001.
Marijuana prices in Arkansas are relatively stable throughout the state. According to the DEA New Orleans Division, in the fourth quarter of FY2002 marijuana sold for $1,000 per pound and $120 per ounce in Fayetteville, $800 to $900 per pound and $100 to $140 per ounce in Little Rock, and $900 to $1,300 per pound and $120 per ounce in Fort Smith.
Violence has been associated with marijuana production and distribution in Arkansas, but to a limited extent. Domestic cannabis growers sometimes are armed and use booby traps to protect their cultivation sites from law enforcement authorities. Firearms occasionally are seized from cannabis growing sites in Arkansas. Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program (DCE/SP) statistics indicate that law enforcement officials in Arkansas seized 87 weapons in 1997, 88 in 1998, 66 in 1999, 69 in 2000, and 42 in 2001 during cannabis eradication operations. Respondents to the NDIC National Gang Survey 2000 reported that many street gangs that distribute marijuana in Arkansas also commit violent crimes in the state such as assault, auto theft, drive-by shooting, and homicide. These gangs include the Young Oriental Gangsters in Fort Smith, Piru in Jonesboro, numerous sets of Bloods in Little Rock, Mara Salvatrucha in Rogers, and 18th Street in West Memphis.
Most of the marijuana available in Arkansas is produced in Mexico; however, some cannabis is cultivated throughout the state, primarily by local independent Caucasian growers. In most areas of the state, cannabis is cultivated at outdoor grow sites; however, indoor cultivation sites have been encountered by law enforcement officers throughout Arkansas.
In Arkansas outdoor cannabis cultivation sites typically yield more cannabis per site than indoor sites. According to the DCE/SP, law enforcement authorities in Arkansas seized 332 outdoor plots containing 79,069 cannabis plants in 1999; 475 outdoor plots containing 98,133 cannabis plants in 2000, and 264 outdoor plots containing 39,197 plants in 2001. The DCE/SP reported that in 1999 they seized 16 indoor grow operations yielding 334 plants, 18 sites yielding 923 plants in 2000, and 23 sites yielding 306 plants in 2001.
Outdoor cannabis growers often conceal plants in an effort to avoid detection by law enforcement authorities. Cannabis cultivators often scatter the plants among other crops, use camouflage netting, and establish cultivation sites in remote wooded locations. In August 2002 law enforcement authorities in Cross County, acting on a tip from a helicopter pilot, eradicated nearly 2,500 cannabis plants from an outdoor grow site. The plants were discovered concealed among a rice crop on an island. According to the Cross County Sheriff's Office, the plants were well-maintained and the landowner was not involved in the cultivation operation. This was the largest marijuana seizure ever in Cross County.
Mexican criminal groups are the primary transporters of wholesale quantities of Mexico-produced marijuana into and through Arkansas. Local independent dealers, primarily Caucasians, and street gangs also transport marijuana into the state. These transporters generally smuggle the drug into Arkansas from Mexico, California, and southwestern states.
Marijuana typically is transported into Arkansas in hidden compartments in private and commercial vehicles, and occasionally by couriers on buses, via the same routes used to transport methamphetamine and cocaine. Transporters use a variety of means to conceal marijuana during transportation, including boxes, metal containers, duffel bags, suitcases, and compartments installed in the side panels, floors, and tailgates of vehicles. Transporters also intermingle marijuana with legitimate items such as produce or conceal the drugs in luggage. Marijuana typically is wrapped in layers of cellophane and duct tape and covered in mustard or coffee grounds to mask the odor of the drug.
Arkansas is a transit state for marijuana shipments destined for drug markets throughout the United States. According to EPIC 2001 Operation Pipeline data, 27 of the 29 shipments of marijuana seized from vehicles on Arkansas highways were destined for other states. Marijuana transported via I-30 and I-40 through Arkansas primarily from California and Texas generally is destined for states in the Midwest and along the East Coast. In April 2002 Arkansas State Police in Crawford County seized 200 pounds of marijuana and arrested the driver of a commercial truck traveling on I-40 who was transporting the drug from California to New Jersey. The officer at the scene had become suspicious after discovering discrepancies in the driver's log book and receipts. Upon searching the vehicle he found nine cardboard boxes containing 11 bundles of marijuana inside the cab of the truck.
Mexican criminal groups and local independent dealers, mostly Caucasians, are the primary wholesale distributors of Mexico-produced marijuana in Arkansas. Caucasian local independent dealers are the primary wholesale distributors of marijuana produced in the state.
Mexican criminal groups and local independent dealers distribute Mexico-produced and locally produced marijuana at the retail level in Arkansas. Street gangs such as Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, and Vice Lords also serve as retail distributors of marijuana. At the retail level marijuana typically is packaged in sandwich bags and sold at bars, strip clubs, schools, parking lots, residences, businesses, and at concerts.
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