|Cocaine remains the primary threat in the United States, particularly in
its smokeable form known as "crack" cocaine.
||This is true only if you fail to consider
- tobacco - 400,000+ deaths per year, including perhaps 2,000 infants
killed by sidestream tobacco smoke
- alcohol -- 100,000 deaths per year, not including half of all traffic
deaths, and most of the homicides
- prescription drugs -- at least 10,000 deaths per year.
|However, heroin has again become a major drug problem in many parts of the
nation, and methamphetamine has also risen to the forefront in the Southwest, West,
Midwest and Southeast areas of the United States.
||As usual, the DEA presents a lot of claims without a lot of hard evidence
to back it up. For an examination of how drug epidemics seem to come and go as it is
convenient for the drug enforcement authorities, see The Moveable Epidemic.
| Marijuana continues to be a significant drug problem around the nation,
and other substances, such as LSD, PCP, Ecstasy and Rohyphnol have emerged as serious
problems, particularly among young people.
||It is difficult to see what particular problems are caused by marijuana
use, and the DEA doesn't attempt to elaborate on what they might be.
As for the other
drugs, most of them, or something similar, have been around for a long time. The DEA
seems to have temporarily forgotten the 1960s.
The following are brief descriptions of the major drug problems facing
the United States today.
Cocaine is manufactured from the coca plant that is grown in the Andean
region of South America, and is processed in remote areas of Bolivia and Peru. The vast
majority of the world's cocaine is controlled by major trafficking organizations operating
in Colombia, most notably the Cali mafia. Cocaine enters the United States in a number of
ways; the majority of cocaine is transported by groups operating out of Mexico, who use
vehicles to smuggle cocaine into the United States over land. Once in the United States,
the cocaine is distributed by organized criminal groups with links to both Colombia and
|What it all means is that there are large sections of the population of an
entire continent engaged in a large-scale industry which has become the primary source of
income and support for literally millions of people. Stopping it would have the same
economic effect as if we stopped the auto and oil industries in the United States.
Indeed, some observers have commented that we cannot legalize drugs simply because
so many countries have become so dependent on the illegal profits.
|Wholesale distribution in the United States is controlled by drug mafias
managed from Colombia. In general, the structure of these organizations are sophisticated
and compartmentalized. Within the United States, retail distribution is dominated by
organized criminal groups of many ethnic backgrounds. The crack cocaine which is sold on
the street corners of U.S. cities or in numerous housing projects can be traced back
through retail distributors, wholesalers and transporters to its point of origin in
Colombia, where the Cali mafia controls nearly every aspect of the cocaine trade.
||Prior to the Cali Cartel, it was the Medellin Cartel. Prior to them,
it was Carlos Lehder and Manuel Noriega. The DEA should start its own Crime Ring of
the Month club.
During 1995, cocaine was readily available in all major U.S.
metropolitan areas. Generally, the price of cocaine remained low and stable at all levels
of the traffic. In 1995, prices nationwide ranged from $10,500 to $36,000 per kilogram.
During the same time period, ounce quantities nationwide ranged from $300 to $2,200 while
gram prices were $30 to $200. The purity of cocaine remained high: gram amounts averaged
63% in 1994 and 61% in 1995. Per kilogram purity was 83% for both 1994 and 1995, ounce
purity averaged 65% in 1995, down from 1994 levels of 74%.
Cocaine use: According to data from the 1995 National Household Survey
on Drug Abuse, an estimated 1.5 million Americans were current cocaine users. Although the
overall number of cocaine users did not change substantially from the 1.4 million reported
in 1994, the use of cocaine by young people did increase. The rate of current cocaine use
in 1995 was highest among those age 12 to 17. Usage increased from .3 percent of this age
group in 1994 to .8 percent in 1995. A slight increase was also found among people age 18
to 25, with 1.2 percent of this population having reported cocaine use in 1994 and 1.3
percent in 1995.
|What is most obvious in this data is a failure to control the rise of the
use of cocaine among young people. This should be the most obvious failure of the
current policy -- from the DEA's own words.