The Drug War is going the way of the "evildoers," according to a federal report released last week. Two years ago, foreign drug cartels were in 230 American cities. Today, the cartels -- from Mexico, East Asia, and, presumably, Canada -- have infiltrated more than 1,000 American cities, according to the 2011 edition of the National Drug Threat Assessment report, created by the Department of Justice.
Sounds scary. So where exactly are these cartels? What are they doing? And moreover, what's the Justice Department doing about it?
"We don't discuss specifics, or policy," said Department of Justice spokesman Jack Gillund last week, in response to an inquiry from SF Weekly (further press inquiries have gone unanswered).
What, then, is the public to do? Direct federal agents pounding on your door to the drug house across the street,
in one example from this week. And wonder what happened to homegrown
American crime lords: If the report is to be believed, foreigners have
even taken away our drug-trafficking jobs.
In addition to drug dealers working for "transnational criminal organizations" popping up like foreclosed homes in countless otherwise good American cities, drug use is also on the rise. "Overall demand is rising," the report begins, adding that "abuse ... of heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine appears to be increasing, especially among the young." And why not? Some 8.7 percent of Americans were illicit drug abusers in 2009, the report states, up from 8 percent in 2008.
While prescription drug abuse is rampant, with some 7 million people popping pills for fun, medical marijuana gets its share of blame. Though not mentioned by name, pot use "among adolescent students has begun to increase after a decade of gradual decline ... perhaps attributable in part to conflicting messages imparted by national debates," the report says.
But onto the cartels, who, if nothing else, in typical immigrant style, appear to have taken hardworking American drug dealers' jobs. "Mexican-based TCOs and their associates dominate the supply and wholesale distribution of most illicit drugs in the United States and will maintain their reign for the foreseeable future," the report says. They've been at work "in more than a thousand U.S. cities during 2009 and 2010," in all corners of the country, the report adds, though there's also ethnic Asian, Cuban, Dominican, and West African drug mobs at work.
The only mention of homegrown drug slangers is on the retail level, with "criminal gangs" like "outlaw motorcycle gangs ... in control of the retail distribution of drugs in the United Sates."
Mexican cartels -- referred to as "drug-trafficking organizations" by the Department of Justice -- have often been blamed for the problems proliferating in Northern California's national forests, namely, the illegal pot grows on public land. Duly, 101 people, including some Mexican nationals, were arrested this summer during Operation Full Court Press, a concerted effort by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. But are they cartel members? When asked to provide examples of cartel members brought to justice in United States courts over the past few years, neither DEA nor DOJ spokespeople could provide examples to SF Weekly -- there weren't any to give.
So where, exactly, has cartel activity intensified? In Oakland, in San Jose, in San Francisco, in Belvedere? And what drug use has intensified -- methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine, prescription cough syrup? Gillund, the spokesman for U.S. Attorney for Northern California Melinda Haag, who is responsible for carrying out the federal government's War on Drugs in the Bay Area, said on Friday he'd pass our inquiries onto Haag. No response has yet been received to those questions.
Terry Nelson, a former federal agent who now advocates for an end to the Drug War with Law Enforcement Officers Against Prohibition, said the report is yet another example of how the federal status quo has failed.
"It is really no surprise to me that our prohibition policy isn't helping to achieve any reduction in drug trafficking," said Nelson, a former U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent. "We should have learned this lesson decades ago with alcohol prohibition, but let's hope that the data in this new government report helps more members of Congress and Obama Administration officials to realize that their 'drug war' strategy is an abysmal failure and that it's time for a new direction."
The good news is that it's not our fault: With the exception of MDMA, every other drug -- even heroin from Afghanistan, still the world's largest producer of William S. Burroughs' onetime tonic -- is largely smuggled across the Mexican border en route to your kids' pockets.
MDMA? Well, that comes from Canada.
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