LatinaLista -- In February, the Justice Dept. released their annual National Drug Threat Assessment. Unfortunately, few media outlets paid much attention to it.
Maybe because it was so lengthy or it could be because it was so disturbing in its analysis of how our country's addictions are playing a part in the escalating Mexican cartel violence.
According to the report:
Data show that in 2008, 14.2 percent of individuals 12 years of age and older had used illicit drugs during the past year. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug, with 25.8 million individuals 12 years of age and older (10.3%) reporting past year use.
Rates of drug use vary by age. Rates are highest for young adults aged 18 to 25, with 33.5 percent reporting illicit drug use in the past year. Nineteen percent of youth aged 12 to 17 report past year illicit drug use. Finally, 10.3 percent of adults aged 26 and older report past year illicit drug use.
The drugs with the highest dependence or abuse levels were marijuana, prescription pain relievers, and cocaine.
Law enforcement reporting and case initiation data show that Mexican Drug Trafficking Organization's (DTO) control most of the wholesale cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine distribution in the United States as well as much of the marijuana distribution.
Many Hispanic and, to a lesser extent, African American gangs are gaining control over drug distribution outside urban areas that were previously supplied by local independent dealers or small local criminal groups. Around 2007, Hispanic and African American gangs throughout the country, but especially in the Southwest and Great Lakes Regions, began to command greater influence over drug distribution in many rural and suburban areas. This trend continued in 2009.
Hispanic prison gangs, primarily in Southwest Border states, are gaining strength by working directly with Mexican DTOs to acquire wholesale quantities of drugs and by controlling most street gangs in areas along the Southwest Border.
While the findings of the report are depressing, they are also enlightening. They give a clear picture to the whole cycle of the illegal drug process and why it is such an easy profit-making business for people who have no other skills but to intimidate and bully.
The report's authors don't have a bright outlook for 2010, especially if things continue as is.
Without a significant increase in drug interdiction, seizures, arrests, and investigations that apply sustained pressure on major DTOs, availability of most drugs will increase in 2010, primarily because drug production in Mexico is increasing. The most recent drug production estimates show sharp increases in heroin and marijuana production in Mexico and greatly reduced efforts to eradicate drug crops in that country.
But, believe it or not, there is hope. In the latest meeting between Mexican and US officials, a new counterdrug strategy was proposed around four "pillars": 1) Disrupting organized criminal groups, 2) institutionalizing Mexico's capacity to sustain the rule of law, 3) creating an effective "21st century border," and 4) building strong and resilient communities.
The idea that has the potential for the most traction is #4. It will take making whole communities strong and financially viable to not fall prey to cartels who may either pay or intimidate local farmers to grow their drug stashes.
These communities must be given an alternative way to earn money -- just as Americans must be given better options on getting their high in life.