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California Factsheet   PDF  Print  Email 

State Facts

Population: 34,501,130
Law Enforcement Officers: 85,736
State Prison Population: 239,900
Probation Population: 350,768
Violent Crime Rate National Ranking: 10

Drug Situation: Due to California’s diverse culture and unique geography, there are many issues that affect the drug situation in California.

Drugs such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana are smuggled into the state from Mexico; however, methamphetamine and marijuana are produced or cultivated in large quantities within the state.

San Diego and Imperial Counties remain a principal transshipment zone for a variety of drugs – cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine – smuggled from Mexico.

Most drug traffickers/organizations that are encountered by law enforcement continue to be polydrug traffickers rather than specializing in one type of drug.

Since September 11, 2001, greater emphasis has been placed on carefully screening people and vehicles at all California Ports of Entry into the U.S. from Mexico. This has forced traffickers to attempt other means to smuggle their contraband into the U.S., including the use of tunnels that run underneath the border and more sophisticated hidden compartments in vehicles.

Los Angeles is a distribution center for all types of illicit drugs destined for other major metropolitan areas throughout the U.S. as well as locally. Increased security measures at Los Angeles International Airport continue to deter drug traffickers from traveling through the airport.

Although the northern half of California is awash in methamphetamine in more rural areas, heroin remains the number one drug of abuse in San Francisco, heroin and crack cocaine continue to impact Oakland, and methamphetamine continues in and around Sacramento.

2004 Federal Drug Seizures

Cocaine: 3,186.6 kgs.
Heroin: 121.4 kgs.
Methamphetamine: 786.5 kgs.
Marijuana: 131,871.5 kgs.
Ecstasy: 329,973 tablets
Methamphetamine Laboratories: 474 (DEA, state, and local)

Cocaine: Mexican trafficking organizations, working closely with Colombian suppliers, dominate the wholesale cocaine trade. However, the Mexican traffickers continue to specialize in cross-border cocaine transportation by air, land and sea.

Based on consistent seizures by U.S. Customs personnel (BICE), the majority of the cocaine destined for the U.S. continues to enter the country by land conveyance through the Ports of Entry along the California/Mexico border.

Typically, traffickers transport the cocaine to Los Angeles in vehicles with hidden compartments and then offload the cocaine into stash houses.

Cocaine is readily available throughout the state with Los Angeles remaining one of the nation’s largest cocaine transshipment and distribution centers. Cocaine is also widely available in San Francisco and other areas of northern California.

Heroin: California-based law enforcement agencies primarily seize Mexico black tar heroin throughout the state and Mexican brown tar heroin to a lesser extent.

Mexican black tar heroin is usually smuggled into the U.S. in amounts of five pounds or less, but occasionally law enforcement seizes larger amounts. In addition, Southeast Asian, Southwest Asian, and Colombian heroin seizures periodically occur throughout the state.

The increased availability of high purity heroin that can be snorted allows a new, younger population to use heroin without a syringe and needle.

Drug treatment specialists stated that these new heroin users ingest large amounts of heroin and become quickly addicted.

Law enforcement officials normally encounter ethnic West African and Southeast Asian nationals in the distribution and transportation of Asian heroin. California does not have any noticeable heroin abuse in its Asian communities.

Reports that high purity Colombian heroin is now available in the counties surrounding Los Angeles is supported by the recent seizure of 200 grams of Colombian heroin by law enforcement in Ventura County.

Methamphetamine Labs Seized: 2000=2,204, 2001=1,885, 2002=1,758, 2003=1,239, 2004=474

Methamphetamine: Methamphetamine is the primary drug threat in California.

Mexican organizations continue to dominate the production and distribution of high-quality meth, while a secondary trafficking group, composed primarily of Caucasians, operates small, unsophisticated laboratories.

Clandestine laboratories can be found in any location: high density residential neighborhoods, sparsely populated rural areas, remote desert locations in the southern portions of California, and the forested areas in northern California.

In recent years, there has been a decrease in the number of meth labs seized in California and an increase in the number of meth labs just south of the border in Mexico.

Rural areas in the Central Valley are the source of much of the meth produced in California and seized elsewhere.

Regardless, there has not been a decrease in the availability of methamphetamine originating from (or transshipped through) California and seized elsewhere in the U.S.

Within California itself, Hispanics and Caucasians are the almost exclusive consumers of meth.

Purity levels of meth have ranged from a low of ten percent to a high of 100 percent purity.

As the supply of pseudoephedrine from Canada has diminished after successful law enforcement operations, there has been a noticeable increase in pseudoephedrine and ephedrine seized that originated from China.

Club Drugs: Although MDMA or Ecstasy was considered the most popular “club drug” in the state among teens and young adults, there are indicators that its use may be decreasing across the board, yet consistently available in geographical pockets.

First, the Partnership for a Drug Free America conducted a study released in 2004 which stated the use of Ecstasy among teenagers “had dropped 25 percent in the last two years, (that) decrease translates into an additional 770,000 teens rejecting the once trendy drug.”

Second, law enforcement has targeted rave promoters in the San Diego county area, resulting in their inability to hold such events and thereby decreasing the possibility for distribution of Ecstasy through that channel.

Recent studies indicate that use of MDMA is expanding from raves and clubs into schools, malls and residences.

Although Israeli and Russian organized crime still dominate the importation and distribution of MDMA, primarily from the Netherlands, new poly-drug trafficking organizations are also emerging. Specifically, Asian groups that are producing MDMA in Canada and Vietnam and smuggling the drug into California have recently been encountered by law enforcement.

MDMA is widely available in Los Angeles, which is one of three major gateway cities for the influx of MDMA into the U.S. (Miami and New York are the other two cities).

Compton (near Los Angeles) remains a primary source of PCP throughout the U.S. Street gangs continue to control both production and distribution of PCP.

Though not as widely popular as most rave drugs, LSD remains readily available throughout the Los Angeles area. The ample supply of LSD is due to the number LSD laboratories operating in remote areas of Northern California, which has been the center of LSD production since the 1960’s.

Internet sales of GHB and GBL persist.

Prescription Drugs: Due to the discrepancy in national laws between the U.S. and Mexico, the prolific “border pharmacies” within walking distance across the border in Tijuana and other Mexican border towns remain the primary source of controlled substances in the San Diego metropolitan area.

Doctor shopping and prescription forgery are the primary methods of prescription drug abuse in the Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

In Northern California, OxyContin, Vicodin, benzodiazepines and carisoprodol are most commonly abused.

In the Los Angeles area, Demerol, Dilaudid, Diazepam, Hydrocodone and steroids remain the principal drugs abused.

The San Diego area prescription drugs of choice are Vicodin, VicodinES, Lortab, and Vicoprofen.

Rohypnol remains readily available throughout the Los Angeles area, due primarily to the city’s proximity to Mexico.

Marijuana: Marijuana remains the most widely available and abused illicit substance in California.

Large quantities of low-grade marijuana are smuggled into the state from Mexico.

Highly potent Canadian marijuana, commonly referred to as “BC bud” is also smuggled into the state.

Potent domestic marijuana is also cultivated in sophisticated indoor, hydroponic gardens throughout the state.

Crack: Los Angeles based gangs dominate the street level distribution of crack cocaine throughout the Los Angeles and San Diego metropolitan areas.

Cocaine bought by the gangs is “rocked” or converted into crack cocaine in the Los Angeles area (including Santa Ana and Riverside) and then sold locally or distributed to other cities in California and nationally.

These organizations frequently use intimidation and violence to facilitate their narcotics trafficking activities.

Gang members involved in the street distribution of crack are often armed and have a propensity towards violence against other gang members whom they feel are invading their areas of control.

Other Drugs: Vicodin, Ritalin, Rohypnol, Ketamine, and Valium are commonly diverted pharmaceutical narcotics. Many of these narcotics are used by teens and young adults frequenting the club scene.

Rohypnol is available without a prescription at pharmacies throughout Mexico.

The Los Angeles area, specifically Compton, California, is the primary source for the majority of PCP found in the United States. Consequently, PCP remains readily available.

Drug-Violation Arrests: 2000=4,339, 2001=3,651, 2002=2,923, 2003=2,532, 2004=2,794

DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams: This cooperative program with state and local law enforcement counterparts was conceived in 1995 in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation.

Since the inception of the MET Program, a total of 436 deployments have been completed nationwide, resulting in 18,318 arrests.

There are three DEA Division offices in California: Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. Combined, these three divisions have completed 63 Mobile Enforcement Team (MET) deployments throughout the State of California since the inception of the program.

These cities are: San Luis Obispo (2), Oxnard/Ventura, Gardena, Century, Rampart (2), Antelope Valley, El Monte, Santa Maria, Quad Cities in Los Angeles, Coachella Valley, Wilshire, Pico Rivera, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Santa Paula, Hollenbeck, Devonshire, Ontario, Pasadena, Baldwin Park, Bell Gardens, Garden Grove, Oceanside (2), El Cajon, Chula Vista, National City (2), Vista, San Diego (2), La Mesa, Escondido, San Marcos, Spring Valley, Richmond (2), Vallejo, Seaside (2), Merced (2), Modesto, Oakland (2), West Contra Costa County, Eastern Kern County, Yuba County, San Jose, Stanislaus County, Woodland (2), Salinas, Santa Cruz (2), Monterey, Sacramento, South Bureau LAPD, Corona, Azusa, and Yolo County.

DEA Regional Enforcement Teams: This program was designed to augment existing DEA division resources by targeting drug organizations operating in the United States where there is a lack of sufficient local drug law enforcement.

This Program was conceived in 1999 in response to the threat posed by drug trafficking organizations that have established networks of cells to conduct drug trafficking operations in smaller, non-traditional trafficking locations in the United States.

As of January 31, 2005, there have been 27 deployments nationwide, and one deployment in the U.S. Virgin Islands, resulting in 671 arrests.

There have been four RET deployments in the State of California since the inception of the program: Hayward, San Francisco (2 Phases), Riverside/Santa Ana, and San Jose.

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