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Drug Enforcement Administration
Miami Field Division
The Miami Field Division Intelligence Group (DIG) welcomes your input on this product. Questions and comments should be directed to G/S Christopher T. Macolini or IRS Bonnie Godshall at (305)590-4843
SURVEY OF THE MARIJUANA SITUATION
IN THE MIAMI FIELD DIVISION
SCOPE OF RESEARCH
The information in this report was obtained from a variety of DEA and other federal, state and local sources. The latter sources include narcotics officers in Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties, as well as Special Agents and analysts of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). Marijuana treatment information was obtained from the Florida Department of Children and Familiies, the Miami-Dade Department of Justice System Support and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Drug Abuse Warning Network. Marijuana treatment and other drug abuse matters were discussed with the Director of a Miami drug information center and certain of his publications were used as sources.
The DEA information was obtained from a variety of sources, including the DEA STRIDE and Federal Drug Identification Number (FDIN) systems and the DEA Intelligence Division publications. The National Narcotics Intelligence Consumers Committee (NNICC) The Supply of Illicit Drugs to the United States published in July was also used as a source.
Non-government sources for certain portions of the survey were obtained from Drug Free America Foundation, Inc., National Families in Action (NFIA), National Parents Resource in Drug Education (PRIDE), and Drug Watch International.
Emphasis was placed on the marijuana trafficking, availability, and abuse situations in the domestic areas of the Miami Field Division. Recent statistical data in this report covers Fiscal Years (FY) 1995 thru 1997, while other statistical data covers Calender Years (CY) 1995 thru 1997. Wherever possible, information was given for FY 1998 thru 3/31/98.
Marijuana is readily available in Florida and the Bahamas, both foreign and domestically cultivated.
Foreign-grown cannabis is transported to the U.S. from Colombia and Mexico. Colombian marijuana is smuggled into the U.S. in large quantities in vessels, via the Caribbean. Much of it is carried in containerized cargo, although there is an increasing number of marijuana being airdropped into Caribbean waters.
Trafficking groups, responding to the law enforcement efforts at the southwest border, are diverting more loads back to the Caribbean. Small planes and private vessels are used to transport the drug through the Bimini island chain and the Bahamas from Jamaica, in 100 – 1,000 pound shipments.
Despite the shift to the Caribbean, both Colombian and Mexican-grown marijuana is still being moved across the southwest border of the U.S. via land vehicles, in particular trucks. From there it is moved into Florida via the I- 10 corridor, mainly distributed into areas by Mexican nationals and migrant workers.
Marijuana Situation in the Miami Field Division 1
Other transportation methods for foreign-grown marijuana include international mail and commercial aircraft. Points of origin for some of the drug include Trinidad, St. Maartens, Panama, Chile, Venezuela and the Cayman Islands. Marijuana has been found secreted in aircraft as well as luggage.
In Florida, domestically-grown marijuana is preferred over its foreign-grown counterpart. Cultivated either in secretive fields or hydroponically in sophisticated indoor operations, Florida growers are producing a high-quality, potent product that is more expensive and more in demand than marijuana produced elsewhere.
The Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program in the state of Florida has been responsible for the destruction of 1,844,138 plants at 20,580 sites since its inception in 1981. Outdoor plots have been eradicated from all of Florida’s 67 counties in the last three years, with indoor grows detected in more than half of the counties.
Cultivators utilize a variety of methods to avoid law enforcement detection, including mixing cannabis plants with legitimate crops and using plant hangers in trees.
Indoor cultivation operations have grown increasingly sophisticated, utilizing computerized technology to make sites fully automatic, thereby decreasing the number of actual visits to the site. Progressive grows, which allow for plants to be cultivated at various stages, are becoming more popular.
Following the decline of marijuana use in the 1980s, there has been a steady increase, mainly with younger members of the population. Adults are not immune, however, and attempted to enact legalization legislation in several states. California and Arizona were successful in passing medical marijuana initiatives. Similar efforts are being undertaken in Florida, although the government of Florida has resolved to fight such a proposal.
The growing popularity, along with new medical research stating the dangers of marijuana, create major concerns for law enforcement officials in Florida and the rest of the U.S.
FOREIGN CANNABIS CULTIVATION AND TRAFFICKING
After successful eradication programs in the mid-1980s, whereby thousands of hectares of cannabis were destroyed, the predominant growing areas in the Sierra Nevada and Serrania de Perij a Mountains were relatively free of significant cultivation. The Government of Colombia slowed on aerial eradication efforts in 1989, which resulted in a resurgence in the growing and trafficking of cannabis and marijuana, both in the traditional areas as well as in the Huila and Cauca departments.
A 1995 DEA Headquarters publication, Colombian Marijuana: A Resurgent Drug Threat, estimated that Colombia had the potential to produce 3,803 metric tons in 1994, with the possibility of increasingly greater yields. The U.S. Department of State estimates the number to be closer to 4,183 metric tons. The vast majority of this marijuana would then be transported to markets in the United States, Europe and Latin America.
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It is estimated that Colombian marijuana is smuggled via vessel in large quantities from Colombia to the United States via the Caribbean, and also to Mexico for land movement into the U.S.
Traditionally, the bulk of foreign-produced marijuana found in the United States was cultivated in Mexico. Every state in Mexico produced the crop, but the heaviest areas were Durango, Jalisco, Nayarit, Michoacan, Oaxaca, Sinaloa and Sonora, according to the 1996 National Narcotics Intelligence Consumers Committee (NNICC) The Supply of Illicit Drugs to the United States. In reply, the Mexican Government has conducted active eradication efforts, destroying over 23,000 hectares in 1995 and 1996. Figures for 1997 are pending.
Mexican drug trafficking organizations transport marijuana along the traditional routes that are used to smuggle cocaine and heroin into the United States, primarily along the southwest border. These groups traffic in Columbian-produced marijuana as well.
Recent DEA intelligence reveals that Jamaican trafficking organizations are purchasing Mexican marijuana at border sites and transporting it to eastern US cities. In 1997, DEA seized at least 35 such loads, arresting Jamaican and non-Jamaican couriers working for Jamaican organizations. The Jamaican nationals who were arrested were transporting amounts in excess of 1,000 pounds.
Unlike the Jamaican posses of the 1980’s, these newer organizations live modestly, in low profile, eschewing the violent law enforcement attention-getting behavior previously seen. Assets are kept to a minimum, utilizing inexpensive vehicles and homes, along with cellular phones, pre-paid calling cards and toll-free pagers.
MARIJUANA AVAILABILITY IN FLORIDA AND THE BAHAMAS
Marijuana, both domestically and foreign-grown continues to be readily available in Florida and the Bahamas. In addition to the increasing amount of indoor grow operations seized, large quantities of marijuana are being transported from Colombia through the Caribbean and from Mexico via Texas and the 1-10 corridor. Methods of transportation vary, but include maritime vessels, vehicles, containerized cargo, aircraft and mail.
FROM THE CARIBBEAN
Over the past few years, it has become apparent that trafficking groups in Jamaica and the Bahamas have begun to exploit the shift of law enforcement detection and monitoring assets from the Bahamas and northern Caribbean to the southwest border. There has been a significant increase in marijuana smuggling by general aviation and private vessel from Jamaica to the Bahamas. The Bimini island chain, only 50 miles from south Florida, appears to be a storage/staging point for marijuana being smuggled into the U.S. Small power boats crewed by Bahamian nationals appear to be the method of choice for getting shipments of 100 – 1,000 pounds of marijuana into south Florida. During the past year,
Marijuana Situation in the Miami Field Division 3
the USCS and Marine Patrol reported a dramatic increase in the number of seizures of marijuana from small vessels originating from the Bahamas.
On January 8, 1998, approximately 927 pounds of marijuana were seized by the U.S. Custom’s Service (USCS) personnel and Pompano Beach Police Department officers in Pompano Beach, Florida, from a 34-ft. Wellcraft cabin cruiser towed to a boat ramp. Also aboard the vessel were three Haitian aliens and one Jamaican alien. USCS reports indicate that the nearby Palm Beach/Delray Beach area has seen the largest percentage of illegal aliens being transported to Florida from the Bahamas, and that narcotics/alien smuggling organizations are growing and exploiting the Bahamian islands as a transshipment area for both kinds of smuggling.
A total of 4,717 pounds of marijuana was seized from a sailing vessel in Bahamian waters on May 11, 1997, by Royal Bahamas Defense Force and Drug Enforcement Unit members, with the assistance of DEA Operation Bahamas, Turks & Caicos (OPBAT) personnel. The 42-ft. vessel had false floor compartments on both port and starboard sides which concealed 786 packages of marijuana.
An analysis of Federal Drug Identification Number (FDIN) marijuana seizures for the 1995-3/31/98 fiscal year period reveals that approximately 229,968 pounds were seized from vessels in the south Florida region, to include Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe Counties. Multi-thousand pound seizures were made from containerized cargo arriving from commercial vessels.
USCS personnel seized approximately 13,000 pounds of marijuana in a container of yams on March 8, 1996. The shipper in Jamaica, who was also responsible for two previously intercepted loads in Miami and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was arrested.
On December 1, 1996, USCS Contraband Enforcement Team (CET) personnel seized approximately 5,097 pounds of marijuana at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from the MIVJana, which had arrived from Kingston, Jamaica.
FDIN records indicate that approximately 98,315 pounds of marijuana were seized through interdiction methods or found floating in Caribbean waters by USCG personnel during 1995 – 3/31/98. The majority of the vessels were smaller go-fast or Jamaican "canoes," carrying multi-hundred unit loads of marijuana. Also called a Yola, a Jamaican canoe is an open vessel utilizing twin motors. It is often painted with intricate designs and bright colors.
In addition, approximately 2,750 pounds of marijuana were found either floating in Florida waters or washed up on Florida’s shores during 1995 – 3/31/98.
Marijuana smuggling continues to be prevalent in the Bah amas. Intelligence indicates that small aircraft, fishing vessels and go-fast type vessels appear to be the primary modes of transportation by which 1,000-2,000 pound quantities of marijuana are smuggled from Jamaica to the Bahamas. Several routes are utilized; from Northern Jamaica through the Windward passage and the Ragged Island, Crooked Islands and Long Island chains; and from the southern Bahamas to central/northem Bahamian islands.
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Smaller quantities of marijuana are once again being seized at the Nassau Airport off flights originating in Jamaica. On February 27, 1998, Royal Bahamas Police Officers, with the assistance of the drug canine unit, seized approximately eight pounds of marijuana from a Jamaican male arriving on an Air Jamaica flight. This was the second such seizure in less than one week.
There appears to be an increase in the number of airdrops of marijuana into Bahamian waters, delivering marijuana as well as cocaine to waiting go-fast type vessels. DEA Nassau Country Office Special Agents, with USCG and USCS personnel seized approximately 500 pounds of marijuana in the waters south of Andros Island on January 12, 1998. The Piper Aztec aircraft made four passes over the water, dropping 3-4 bales per pass to awaiting Apache go-fast vessel. An additional ten bales were seized the following day as DEA and Royal Bahamas Police Force Drug Enforcement Unit personnel returned to the area to continue the search.
There continues to be a rise in domestic cultivation of marijuana for local consumption in the Bahamas. These fields, which are usually found in the remote outer islands, have proven to be considerable in size and well organized. Cannabis plants have been seized on Andros Island, Cat Island and Grand Bahama Island.
On October 8-10, 1996, DEA Freeport Resident Office Special Agents and the Royal Bahamas Police Force Drug Enforcement Unit Officers seized 8,875 cannabis plants as part of ajoint eradication operation.
As eradication efforts continue in the Bahamas, a joint investigation between Special Agents of the Freeport, Bahamas, Resident Office and Royal Bahamas Police Force Drug Enforcement Unit culminated in the recent destruction of approximately 5,000 cannabis plants. The plants ranged in size from 18 inches to 2 feet tall and were found in eight 25 X 25-foot sections. Two suspects found tending the field were arrested.
On February 7, 1997, DEA Nassau Country Office Special Agents with Royal Bahamas Police Force Drug Enforcement Unit members eradicated approximately 3,700 cannabis plants in a large field located near Rocksound, Eleuthera, Bahamas.
Significant amounts of marijuana are also being seized at Florida’s airports, with the vast majority arriving on flights from Jamaica. An analysis of FDIN drug seizures reveals that approximately 20,232 pounds of marijuana were seized from aircraft in Florida from 1995 – 3/31/98, 77 percent of which came into the U.S. via Miami International Airport (MIA). The average load was a little over 200 pounds, but there were several multi-thousand pound seizures.
Other points of origin for some of the marijuana seized included Trinidad, St. Maartens, Panama, Chile, Venezuela and the Cayman Islands. Smaller quantities arrived on flights ftom Texas and Mexico.
The predominant method of transportation through the airport was luggage, but cargo seizures reveals larger quantities of marijuana being brought into the area. Several loads each year were found concealed within aircraft as well. Marijuana has been found in panels concealed in the belly of aircraft, as well as in wheel wells.
Marijuana Situation in the Miami Field Division 5
While a small amount of southwest border-origin marijuana was flown to south Florida airports, FDIN reveals that an increasing number of such seizures are taking place in Orlando. The loads, averaging 60 pounds, were sent on commercial flights predominantly from California, although there was also a minimal number from Texas.
On June 13, 1996, DEA Orlando Resident Office Special Agents, in conjunction with Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation Agents, seized approximately 52.5 pounds of marijuana from the luggage of a subject arriving on a flight from Los Angeles.
Federal Express (FEDEX) and other package delivery services are frequently used to transport small quantities of marijuana into Florida. Over 1,000 pounds of marijuana were seized in Florida during 1995-3/31/98 from mail or other courier services, such as UPS and FEDEX.
DEA West Palm Beach Resident Office Special Agents, along with Palm Beach County Sheriffs Office Domestic Interdiction Unit members, seized approximately 17.25 pounds of marijuana from the Federal Express Facility in West Palm Beach, Florida on October 30, 1997. The package was marked for delivery to a Lake Worth, Florida, resident and had been sent from a Philo, Texas, address.
DEA Jacksonville Resident Office Special Agents, along with Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Agents and St. John’s County Sheriff s Office deputies, seized approximately 68 pounds of marijuana after delivery of a Federal Express package to an individual in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The two boxes containing the marijuana were shipped via FEDEX from San Diego, California.
A UPS parcel containing 45 pounds of marijuana was seized after delivery to an individual in Gainesville, Florida on May 24, 1996. The package was sent from San Antonio, Texas. The subject stated that he had previously received a total of 1,000 pounds of marijuana delivered via UPS.
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FROM THE SOUTHWEST BORDER
Vehicle Seizures – 1-10 Corridor
While an increasing amount of marijuana is being transported to the U.S. from the Caribbean, the 1996 National Narcotics Intelligence Consumers Committee (NNICC) booklet, The Supply ofIllicit Drugs to the United States, reports that the majority of marijuana smuggled into the country came across the southwest border. This was underscored by the 478 metric tons seized in the border states of Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico.
Interstate highways and commercial transit systems allow for bulk transportation of Mexican marijuana into Florida from the southwest U.S. border and the Houston area. Mexican nationals living in northern Florida are responsible for much of the transportation into the state, using vehicles of all kinds. Mexican couriers have been arrested in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in possession of more than 200 pounds of marijuana that were destined for the Jacksonville area. Additionally, marijuana is often distributed by Mexican migrant workers in areas such as Manatee, Polk and Pasco Counties. Intelligence also reveals that Mexican couriers are transporting marijuana into St. Lucie, Martin and Palm Beach Counties areas.
An analysis of Florida vehicle seizures for fiscal years 1995-3/31/98 reveals that 90 percent of the bulk marijuana loads were seized in western and central Florida, mainly on 1-10 and 1-75. A variety of vehicles were found to be transporting the drug, including tractor-trailers, vans, automobiles and several motor homes. The average load was 480 pounds, with a significant number of vehicles carrying multi-thousand pound quantities. Approximately 22,609 pounds of marijuana were seized from vehicles in this timeframe.
On June 2, 1996, for example, Florida Department of Transportation Motor Carrier Compliance Officers seized 521 pounds of marijuana from a tractor-trailer at a weigh station on eastbound 1-10, near Pensacola, Florida. The load, found secreted in the roof of the trailer, was to be delivered to Jacksonville, Florida. Some of the 121 cellophane-wrapped bundles weighed less than half of a kilogram.
The Florida Highway Patrol seized 259.6 pounds of marijuana on November 4, 1996, from a couple with a child travelling on 1-10 eastbound in Walton County near De Funiak Springs, Florida. The 21 packages of marijuana were concealed in the luggage rack of a van driven by the subjects en route to Florida from Brownsville, Texas.
DEA Pensacola Special Agents and Florida Highway Patrol personnel seized approximately 486 pounds of marijuana from a semi-truck and trailer parked in a rest area on I- 10 eastbound in Santa Rosa county on March 13, 1997. The truck was hauling an old forklift and a stack of plywood. Inspection revealed that the center portions of the plywood had been hollowed out to create a cavity in which the marijuana was stored.
On January 29, 1998, DEA Pensacola Resident Office Special Agents, with USCS and Florida Highway Patrol personnel, seized 360 pounds of marijuana from a Winnebago motor home on 1-10 in Walton County, Florida. The marijuana was being transported in a hidden compartment in the fuel tank, and was en route to Miami from McAllen, Texas.
Marijuana Situation in the Miami Field Division 7
DOMESTIC CANNABIS CULTIVATION AND TRAFFICKING
Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program
In 1981, responding to inforination that cannabis cultivation was becoming increasingly popular in Florida, law enforcement representatives from various agencies such as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and DEA, joined forces in eradication efforts. Eradication techniques used include aerial detection, ground searches and investigations. Since 198 1, Florida’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program (DCE/SP) has been responsible for the destruction of 1,844,13 8 plants at 20,580 sites and 6.813 arrests throughout the state of Florida.
In the past three years, 1995-1997, cannabis plants were eradicated from outdoor plots in all of Florida’s 67 counties, with numbers ranging from one plot in De Soto County, to 192 plots in Santa Rosa for the same time period. Holmes, Nassau and Pinellas Counties were not far behind with 185, 174 and 164 outdoor sites, respectively. Figure A depicts, by county, the number of plots, eradicated in the 19951997 period.
On June 16, 1997, Putnam County Sheriff s Office deputies seized approximately 5,95 8 cannabis plants discovered about 100 yards from a residence in Crescent City, Florida. The owner of the house stated that he had given permission to others to grow the plants, in exchange for receiving a percentage of the profits.
DEA Gainesville Resident Office Special Agents and Levy County Sheriff s Office Deputies seized 1,309 cannabis plants from a 17-acre parcel of land in Bronson, Florida on September 12, 1997. The grow site had been irrigated and was covered with camouflage netting.
To avoid detection by law enforcement, cannabis cultivators now utilize a variety of methods in growing their crop. The 199 7 DCEISP Annual Report relates that agents have found cannabis plants mixed with legitimate crops; smaller plots scattered throughout areas; plants hanging in trees; marijuana grown on platforms floatIng in swamps; and subterranean grows.
On December 5,1996, for example, DEA West Palm Beach Resident Office Task Force Agents, along with Highlands County Sheriff’s Office Deputies and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agents, seized an underground marijuana hydroponic grow operation with 1,183
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Figure A. DCE/SP Outdoor Plots Eradicated, 1995-1997, by county.
COUNTY 1995 1996 1997 Alachua 30 27 33 Baker 36 31 34 Bay 28 6 18 Bradford 2 5 11 Brevard 32 35 14 Broward 7 7 15 Calhoun 17 24 32 Charlotte * 7 0 Citrus 7 8 20 Clay 42 22 43 Collier 3 19 2 Columbia 26 12 11 Dade 44 26 32 De Soto * 1 0 Dixie 7 9 12 Duval 51 31 40 Escambia 11 13 22 Flagler 7 9 4 Franklin 8 22 32 Gadsden 14 17 15 Gilchrist 1 5 18 Glades 2 2 0 Gulf 17 0 1 Hamilton 6 3 3 Hardee * 2 2 Hendry 4 0 1 Hernando 10 13 10 Highlands 1 6 0 Hillsborough 10 17 23 Holmes 72 58 55 Indian River 12 10 4 Jackson 27 2 22 Jefferson 18 17 3 Lafayette 5 0 21 Lake 17 18 24 Lee 3 2 0 Leon 30 13 19 Levy 32 23 21 Liberty 9 3 49 Madison 2 0 5 Manatee 7 14 13 Marion 49 28 25 Martin 6 4 6 Monroe I 1 0 Nassau 127 8 39 Okaloosa 20 29 39 Okeechobee 1 1 1 Orange 11 14 17 Osceola 5 7 0 Palm Beach 29 10 3 Pasco 14 17 29 Pinellas 7 136 21 Polk 7 13 8 Putnam 23 12 42 Santa Rosa 79 68 45 Sarasota 19 24 15 Seminole 24 6 13 St. Johns 21 15 6 St. Lucie 5 11 4 Sumter * 0 2 Suwanee 6 0 3 Taylor 28 10 44 Union 6 14 7 Volusia 34 28 32 Wakulla 20 13 14 Walton 35 29 10 Washington 26 21 23
* Numbers not available
|plants in Lake Placid, Florida. The 30-ft. X 70-ft. fortified concrete structure was accessed through a narrow stairway beneath a trap door in the garage. It was divided into three rooms that had plants of various growing stages. Electrical power had been diverted from the main electric feed into the property. The structure was also equipped with an emergency escape tunnel which exited 80 feet into a wooded area. Two subjects were arrested.
Of concern to law enforcement agencies around the country, but fortunately not yet seen in Florida, is the disturbing trend of growers rigging booby traps in their fields. While designed primarily to discourage thieves from encroaching on the plots, such traps endanger law enforcement officers, as well as innocent parties who stumble into the property. Usually the traps consist of trip wires made of monofiliment fishing line, which is inexpensive and hard to detect.
Indoor Grow Operations
Cannabis plants, in multi-hundred unit quantities, have been found in specially designed and insulated rooms in homes and apartments constructed to accommodate tables, halogen lamps and water-filter systems. Typical evidence found at indoor sites are electric meter tampering, boarded-up or insulated window coverings, extensive cooling or circulating systems, as well as false wall fabrications.
|The technology found at indoor grow sites allows for full growth of the cannabis plants by simulating the seasonal weather needed; summer with its long period of intensive light for germination, and fall with longer hours of uninterrupted light required for flowering. Sophisticated growing techniques include progressive grows, which consist of multiple rooms that can accommodate plants at various growing stages, so that crops can be rotated to produce every 90 days. Each operation produces hundreds of plants per growing cycle, with each cycle averaging 15-20 weeks. One fully developed plant will result in a profit of up to
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$3,000. High quality hydroponically-produced sinsemilla is distributed locally and nationally.
Indoor grow operations continue to be high-tech and fully automatic, allowing for only periodic checks by the producers. Some of the timers and feeding systems are computerized, allowing them to be accessed by modem,
Law enforcement officials in California report new technology used in indoor grows that allow for the room housing the plants to be kept at room temperature, thereby preventing the grow from being detected by thermography. Cultivators are using water-cooled lights with rubber O-rings to accomplish this.
At a recent indoor grow operation in south Florida agents found propane tanks. A source revealed that infusing a room with propane gas depleted the room of oxygen, filling it with carbon dioxide. This was to be beneficial for the plants and helped them to grow faster.
Intelligence reveals that a new trend in indoor cultivation, shelf gardening with fluorescent lighting, may be becoming increasingly popular. Materials to be used in this kind of planting are relatively inexpensive, and since the plants do not mature past three feet, less light is necessary.
|Of concern to law enforcement around the country, which has also been seen in Florida, is the large amount of weapons being found at grow sites. A variety of firearms, including assault rifles, semiautomatic weapons and shotguns have been seized at such locations. At one site alone, agents seized a total of twelve handguns and rifles. Another site yielded 50 rounds of ammunition along with a.45 caliber semiautomatic handgun. The DCE/SP reported that, during calendar years 1995-1997, al: but 15 of Florida’s 67 counties had at least one indoor grow. lit 1997, 27 counties did not report finding any such operations. Dade County led the state with 85 indoor grows, followed by Duval County with 48 and Hillsborough County with 28. Figure B depicts the number of indoor grow operations dismantled, by county, for 1995-1997.
Marijuana Situation in the Miaini Field Division 11
Figure B. DCE/SP Indoor Plots Eradicated, 1995-1997, COUNTY 1995 1996 1997 Alachua 1 6 9 Baker 4 2 0 Bay 3 2 3 Bradford 0 0 1 Brevard 0 1 3 Broward 6 3 13 Calhoun 2 2 0 Charlotte * 2 * Citrus 0 0 2 Clay 4 2 4 Collier 0 4 0 Columbia 0 0 0 Dade 34 21 30 De Soto * 0 0 Dixie 0 0 1 Duval 16 14 18 Escambia 1 3 2 Flagler 0 0 2 Franklin 1 0 1 Gadsden 3 0 0 Gilchrist 0 0 1 Glades 0 0 0 Gulf 1 0 1 Hamilton 0 0 0 Hardee * 0 0 Hendry 0 0 0 Hernando 2 1 2 Highlands 0 3 0 Hillsborough 3 6 19 Holmes 1 0 2 Indian Rivet 1 1 1 Jackson 1 0 4 Jefferson 0 0 0 Lafayette 0 0 0 Lake 4 2 0 Lee 0 1 0 Leon 5 2 2 Levy 3 1 2 Liberty 0 0 0 Madison 0 0 0 Manatee 1 5 9 Marion 5 3 4 Martin 0 0 1 Monroe 0 1 0 Nassau 6 1 2 Okaloosa 0 1 3 Okeechobee 1 0 0 Orange 4 4 8 Osceola 1 1 0 Palm Beach 9 4 3 Pasco 2 4 6 Pinellas 5 11 12 Polk 1 2 4 Putnam 0 0 0 Santa Rosa 3 0 0 Sarasota 4 7 9 Seminole 0 1 50 St. Johns 4 1 1 St. Lucie 2 5 3 Sumter * 0 0 Suwanee 0 0 0 Taylor 0 0 0 Union 0 0 0 Volusia 4 1 3 Wakulla 0 0 1 Walton 0 0 0 Washington 1 1 0 TOTALS 151 131 197
* Numbers not available for this reporting period.
A joint investigation involving DEA, USCS, FBI, FDLE, FHP, Miami Police Department, North Miami Beach Police Department and the Dade County Medical Examiner’s Office culminated in the seizure of approximately 11,000 sinsemilla plants from an indoor hydroponic grow at a residence and trailer in the North Miami Beach area. The growers used a 15-week cycle, which would allow for an estimated $38 million dollars profit per year.
Some cannabis cultivators are highly organized and manage indoor grow operations at various sites. One group in central Florida, for example, is believed to have grow sites at 20 different locations.
The significance of the outdoor seizures is shown by a DEA study that revealed that approximately one pound of smokable material is yielded from one cannabis plant grown outdoors, and – to ‘ pound per plant grown indoors. Planting density, taking into consideration light and root space, are the most important factors in determining plant yield for outdoor grows.
FDLE estimates that the 108,000-plus plants seized in Florida in 1997 would have produced 97,740,000 marijuana cigarettes, based on a .5 grams per cigarette ratio. Using an average retail price of $3.50 per cigarette, sales would have generated $342,090,000.
The potency of marijuana is determined by the level of the psychoactive component, tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9 THC) found in the buds and leaves of the plant. In the 1980s the average THC content for commercial grade marijuana was 1.8 percent. With newer, superior growing methods, that number has risen to 4.6 percent, a significant increase.
THC levels in sinsemilla plants are much higher. The 12 percent-plus range seen today is double the 6 percent seen in the 1980s. Sinsemilla plants are female plants in which pollination has been prevented, thereby producing a stronger grade drug. Typically, growers will take cuttings from such a plant to produce a clone, ensuring the sarne quality time and again.
Marijuana prices in Florida have remained stable during the 1995-3/31/98 time period. The following is a partial listing of prices for Florida areas for commercial grade marijuana:
Pound Ounce Other Miami $850 - $1,700 $5.00/nickel bag Tampa $750 - $1,000 Orlando $500 - $1,000 $125 Key Largo $900 - $1,200 Tallahassee $1,800 $140 Bahamas $300 - $1,300 Ft. Pierce $800 - $6,000
Marijuana Situation in the Miami Field Division 13
Prices for sinsemilla range from $2,500 – $4,000 per pound in wholesale quantities and $155 – $250 per ounce in retail quantities. FDLE reports, however, that sinsemilla is being sold for as high as $8,000 per pound in some areas,
PREVALENCE OF MARIJUANA USE
Having declined in the 1980s, marijuana use is again rising in popularity, most significantly with the teen and young adult populations. This may be attributable to the overall perception that marijuana is not a harmful drug when compared with "harder" substances.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse’s 199 7 Monitoring the Future Study by the University of Michigan reports that students’ attitudes regarding the hannfulness of marijuana corresponds directly with the increase/decrease in their use of the drug. The study surveyed 16,000 high school seniors, 16,000 tenth-graders and 19,000 eighth-graders in public and private schools in the U.S. regarding their drug use and attitudes about drugs. The figure below is a chart depicting the corresponding changes in attitudes and use since 1990. It clearly shows that, as students increase their beliefs that marijuana is harmful, use dramatically decreases. This is significant when considering the possible legalization of the drug.
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The 1997 study reveals that among eighth-graders marijuana use leveled off for the first time in six years and the rate of increase of use by tenth-graders has slowed. This trend is also seen in twelfthgraders. Daily use of marijuana by eighth-graders decreased from 1.5 percent to 1. 1 percent in 1997, the first drop seen for any age group since 1992. Eighth-graders also disapproved, in larger numbers than previously seen, of others’ occasional or regular use of marijuana, although more expressed that trying marijuana once or twice was not detrimental.
While the numbers of tenth and twelfth-graders reporting marijuana use in the prior 12 months are still on the rise, the increases are significantly lower than previously found in 1993-1995.
Drug Use Forecasting Program (DUF)/Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program (ADAM)
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) DUF involves the voluntary testing of urine specimens collected from anonymous defendants at the time they are booked. This program was set in place in 23 metropolitan areas. The objective of DUF is to provide consumers with information on the prevalence of drug use among those charged with criminal offenses.
In 1995, ADAM was proposed, which would expand the DUF program to 75 sites, would also create an outreach program to affestee populations and would redesign the methods of data collection. ADAM is expected to be operational in 75 sites by fiscal year 2000.
Nationwide, 1996 DUF statistics reveal a continuing increase in the number of male arrestees testing positive for marijuana, while cocaine positives are declining. There has been a steady and significant increase over the past three years, predominantly from the younger male (ages 15-20) arrestee population. The median rate of marijuana prevalence for the younger males increased from 53 percent to 64 percent nationally.
Arrestees in Miami mirrored this trend, but also had a corresponding increase in cocaine positives, from 42 percent to 52 percent. Marijuana positives increased from 29 percent in 1995 to 34 percent in 1996. There was a dramatic increase in the positive marijuana test results for younger males, from 42 percent to 54 percent. Approximately 5 – 7 percent of those can be attributed to a change in the cutoff levels in testing, from 100 nanograms per milliliter to 50 nanograms per milliliter.
Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN)
Since the early 1970s, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services’ DAWN has collected information on patients seeking hospital emergency department (ED) treatment related to their use of an illegal drug or the non-medical use of a legal drug. The survey provides data that describes the impact of drug use on hospital emergency departments in the U.S.
Nationwide, marijuana mentions surpass cocaine and heroin mentions and have been steadily increasing since 1990. The figure on the next page depicts the trends in drug-related emergency room treatment from 1989 to 1996, for cocaine, marijuana and heroin.
According to James N. Hall, of the Up Front Drug Information Center, in Drug Use in Miami (Dade County), Florida, the Miami-Hialeah Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area reported 967 marijuana
Marijuana Situation in the Miami Field Division 15
mentions to DAWN in 1995, a 36 percent increase over 1994. The national average for marijuana ED mentions at that time was 20.2 per 100,000 population, but Miami scored more than double that at 52.9. Users were predominantly male and from the central city. There was an even split of non-Hispanic white and African-American users, each making up 41 percent of those seeking treatment. Similar trends can be seen in the preliminary 1996 figures.
Admissions to Florida’s substance abuse clinics show a mixed picture of marijuana abuse around the state. Information received from Florida Department of Children and Families’ State Interim Substance Abuse Reports (SISAR) reveals a steady decrease in treatment admissions for drugs, including marijuana, in the south Florida counties of Dade, Broward and Monroe. Marijuana admissions dropped from 5,036 in Fiscal Year 94-95 to 3,733 in Fiscal Year 96-97.
Substance Abuse Treatment
Central Florida counties, including Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Volusia, showed a marked increase for the same periods. Marijuana admissions for those areas rose from 6,443 in Fiscal Year 94-95 to 8,530 in Fiscal Year 96-97.
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Medical Consequences of Marijuana Use
Recent medical research on marijuana has provided a plethora of information regarding the harmful side effects of marijuana use and abuse. Janet Dundee Lapey, M.D. summarizes the significant findings in Fact Sheet on Marijuana Referenda, dated February 1998. Dr. Lapey, President of Drug Watch International, is a retired pathologist who works to disseminate correct medical information regarding drugs. Highlights from her fact sheet are given here.
Marijuana contains over 400 chemicals and pollutants, including hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, carbon monoxide and acetone. Cancer-causing substances such as benzapyrene, benzanthracene and benzene are found, in higher concentrations than tobacco smoke. There is also four times the amount of tar and carbon monoxide compared to tobacco smoke.
Studies have shown that health risks to marijuana users include increased fungal and bacterial pneumonias, which would adversely affect AIDS patients, suppressing their immune systems. Marijuana smoke inflames the lungs and surrounding areas, causing acute and chronic bronchitis and airway injury. The immune defenses of the lungs are also compromised by marijuana, impairing the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria and tumor cells.
In the elderly, marijuana causes rapid heart rate and high blood pressure.
Many users also suffer from hallucinations, memory impainnent, paranoia, depression and panic attacks and withdrawal symptoms.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American Medical Association (AMA) and other major medical organizations have stated that marijuana has not been scientifically shown to be a safe and effective medicine. Marijuana remains, therefore, a Schedule I drug that has a high potential for abuse, with no medicinal use.
Throughout the U.S., efforts are being undertaken, some successful, to enact legislation legalizing "medicinal" marijuana and/or hemp. These efforts are seen by law enforcement as an attempt to legalize marijuana in general. California and Arizona passed the most liberal laws to date.
Proposition 215 in California, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1995, "exempts patients and defined caregivers who possess or cultivate marjuana for medical treatment recommended by a physician from criminal laws which otherwise prohibit possession or cultivation Of maryuana. " The law also states, "physicians who recommend use of marijuana for medical treatment shall not be punished or denied any right or privilege. "
Passed by 56-percent of California voters, this loosely worded law does not make provisions for protecting children or consumers. There is no mention of age limits of users, potency or content of marijuana,. nor does it require Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the so-called medicine, -which would then require a registered physician’s prescription. It should be noted that the law uses the word, "recommendation," instead of "prescription."
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Since enacted, marijuana has been dispensed in California Buyer’s Clubs for illnesses such as foot pain, headaches and pre-menstrual syndrome, with "caregivers" recommendations written on items such as notepads and napkins.
While also focusing on the medical issue, Arizona’s law added a "get-tough on crime" component to it. The Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act of 1996, Proposition 200, states: "Anyperson who commits a violent crime while under the influence of illegal drugs shouldserve 100% ofhis or her sentence with absolutely no early release. " It also provides "parolelprobation and treatmentforpersons convicted qf’only personal possession of controlled substance onfirst two offenses. "
Of greater significance is the law’s provision permitting doctors "to prescribe Schedule I controlled substances to treat a disease, or to relieve the pain and suffering oj’seriously ill and terminally ill patients. " This in effect legalizes all Schedule I drugs for medical use, not just marijuana.
Pro-legalization forces in both states financed television commercials designed to appeal to the compassion and emotions of the voters. Wealthy financiers, mainly from outside of California and Arizona, such as currency dealer George Soros, George Zimmer of the Men’s Wearhouse, Peter Lewis of Progressive Corporation Insurance in Ohio and John Sperling of the Phoenix-based Apollo Group provided support totaling millions of dollars.
It is expected that similar efforts will be forthcoming in Florida as the medical marijuana issue possibly comes to a vote in November 1998. The Fort Lauderdale-based group "Floridians for Medical Rights" is circulating petitions (opposite page) attempting to get the required 435,000 signatures that would place the issue on the ballot. These signatures must be collected by August 4, 1998. Changing tactics from those used in California and Arizona, the group is attempting to change the state Constitution by filing a petition to amend with the Secretary of State of Florida on August 27, 1997.
Similar to California and Arizona, the wording of the amendment allows for liberal interpretation. Again, there are no requirements for doctors’ prescriptions, physical examinations, nor does it specify which illnesses would be treated. There are no specifications for dosages or quality controls and no age restriction.
On January 21, 1998, Florida Governor Lawton Chiles and Cabinet issued a resolution denouncing the current medical marijuana legislation sponsored by "Floridians for Medical Rights", citing medical, legal, and social concerns.
Passed by the Florida House of Representatives on April 16, 1998, was House Resolution 9437, which opposes any legislation or activities that are not consistent with current national and state scheduling processes, specifically including marijuana and any other illegal drug for any purpose in the state.
On May 27-28, 1998, the Florida Department of Community Affairs, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Drug Free American Foundation, Inc. and Save Our Society from Drugs sponsored a Marijuana Education Summit in Orlando, Florida. This informative two-day event brought together leading medical researchers, law enforcement personnel, political figures and prevention specialists in Florida and throughout the country to discuss the problems associated with marijuana use and abuse. Each organization and speaker expressed a commitment to fighting any legalization attempts in Florida.
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Marijuana Situation in the Miami Field Division 19
This commitment in Florida can be signifigant, not only to the state but to the rest of the US as the correlation between actions of authority figures and drug use among teens becomes clear. The figure below depicts specific events in the legalization and prevention efforts in the country since 1970, overlaid with figures for regular drug use among 12th grade students.
Marijuana use steadily and quickly increased in the 1970’s as the efforts of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) increased in popularity. During that time 11 states decriminalized marijuana as well.
Drug use levels declined drastically in the early 1990’s, due to the efforts of groups like National Families in Action (NFIA), Parents Resouce for Drug Education (PRIDE), National Family Partnership (NFP), Drug Awareness Resource and Education (DARE), and Partnership for a Drug Free America (PDFA).
It is hard to ignore the recorded steady increase of twelfth graders using drugs regularly since millions of dollars have been donated to pro-legalization organizations and the subsequent legalization efforts in California and Arizona.