Police: Meth bust shows legal pot forces cartels to change tactics

With the medical marijuana law cutting profits for street dealers, police believe that drug-trafficking organizations are turning to far more dangerous drugs, flooding the streets with cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Tempe Police, the DEA and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office attacked that trend in Operation Terminus, a 30-month investigation that resulted in the dismantling of what investigators described as an extensive drug trafficking network that stretched from Sinoloa, Mexico, to Phoenix, Los Angeles and Indianapolis. Tempe Police Chief Tom Ryff pointed out that the one missing item in this case is marijuana. During the investigation, there were 77 indictments, with authorities seizing $7.5 million cash, 485 pounds of methamphetamine, 50 Kilograms of cocaine, 4.5 pounds of heroin and 37 firearms. “Here, in Arizona alone, you can go to a strip mall and purchase marijuana,” Ryff said. “Drug cartels are sophisticated, they are a criminal enterprise. If the money is not there, they are going to change their tactics.” Ryff praised the Cronkite School at ASU for their work in evaluating the impact of drugs in Arizona as seen in their recent semester long project: Hooked, Tracking Heroin’s hold on Arizona. “They are plowing marijuana fields and planting opiates. It’s killing our youths. It’s an epidemic,” said Lt. Mike Pooley, a Tempe police spokesman. Police believe that drug addiction is the root cause of many property crimes, including burglary and shoplifting. Mesa police arrested a suspect last week who told them he used an air gun resembling a pistol to rob a bank in order to pay his heroin dealer. Operation Terminus started in 2012 with the arrest of an individual named Jesus who was picked up from a different criminal investigation,Tempe police Commander Kim Hale said. The drug-trafficking organizations are based in the Sinoloa state in Mexico, but the drugs are distributed by local syndicates throughout the Valley and as far away as Los Angeles and Indianapolis, he said. “Arizona is ground zero for for drugs and our border states have been impacted just as is the borders in California, Texas and News Mexico,” Hale said. Tempe police released a list of 70 defendants who were charged with a variety of drug trafficking crimes as the result of Operation Terminus.

Source:  www.azcentral.com   6th March 2015

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