Marijuana – North Carolina Drug Threat Assessment

National Drug Intelligence Center
North Carolina Drug Threat Assessment
April 2003

Marijuana

Marijuana is the most readily available and widely abused drug in North Carolina. Marijuana is abused by individuals of various ages in North Carolina. Outdoor cannabis cultivation is widespread in the state. Indoor cultivation occurs to a lesser extent. Mexican criminal groups, the dominant wholesale distributors of marijuana in the state, transport multiton shipments of Mexico-produced marijuana into North Carolina in tractor-trailers, primarily from Mexico and southwestern states. African American, Caucasian, and Jamaican criminal groups and OMGs also transport marijuana produced in Mexico into North Carolina and distribute wholesale quantities. Caucasian and Mexican criminal groups also distribute wholesale quantities of marijuana produced in large outdoor grows in North Carolina. At the retail level marijuana is distributed by African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic gangs; OMGs; and local independent producers and dealers including students, homemakers, and business people.

Abuse

Marijuana is the most widely abused illicit drug in North Carolina, and the drug is abused by individuals of all ages. According to the 1999 NHSDA, 4.7 percent of North Carolina residents reported having abused marijuana in the 30 days prior to the survey. The same figure was reported nationwide. The survey data also indicate that rates of marijuana abuse are highest among teenagers and young adults. Nearly 14 percent of North Carolina residents aged 18 to 25 surveyed reported having abused marijuana in the past month, while 6.8 percent of residents aged 12 to 17 surveyed reported the same. Of North Carolina residents aged 26 and older, 3.1 percent reported past month marijuana abuse.

The number of marijuana-related treatment admissions in North Carolina ranked second to the number of cocaine-related admissions each year from FY1996 through FY1999. Marijuana-related treatment admissions increased 70 percent from 7,285 in FY1996 to 12,382 in FY1999, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. (See Table 3.)

Table 3. Marijuana-Related Treatment Admissions, North Carolina, FY1996-FY1999
Fiscal Year Admissions
1996   7,285
1997   9,382
1998 11,150
1999 12,382

Source: North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

According to 2000 ADAM data, 44.2 percent of adult male arrestees tested positive for marijuana. Marijuana abuse was highest among male arrestees under 21 years of age; 84.4 percent of arrestees under 21 tested positive for marijuana.

Availability

Marijuana produced in Mexico or in North Carolina is readily available. Mexico-produced marijuana is relatively inexpensive and has a low THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content (average 3.3%). According to local law enforcement, in 2001 a pound of Mexico-produced marijuana sold for $600 to $1,000 in North Carolina. A pound of marijuana produced from cannabis cultivated outdoors in North Carolina sold for $600 to $900. In North Carolina cannabis plants cultivated indoors using hydroponic operations usually yield marijuana with a higher THC content that is significantly more expensive. A pound generally sold for $2,400 in 2001.

The number of marijuana-related arrests was dramatically higher in 1999 than in 1994, particularly among juveniles. According to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, juvenile arrests for marijuana possession likewise were significantly higher in 1999 than in 1994.

Table 4. Marijuana-Related Arrests, North Carolina, CY1994-CY1999
Year Arrests
1994 15,476
1995 17,462
1996 19,266
1997 22,924
1998 22,662
1999 22,728

Source: North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
Note: Includes possession or sale/manufacturing.

Table 5. Juvenile Marijuana-Related Arrests, North Carolina, CY1994-CY1999
Year Arrests
1994 1,532
1995 2,286
1996 2,684
1997 3,173
1998 2,932
1999 3,004

Source: North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
Note: Includes possession.

The amount of marijuana seized in the state increased dramatically from 1998 through 2001. Federal law enforcement authorities in North Carolina seized 801 kilograms of marijuana in 1998, 2,301 kilograms in 1999, 4,885 kilograms in 2000, and 3,826.8 kilograms in 2001, according to FDSS data. Additionally, the number of cannabis plants seized by state and local authorities increased 36 percent from 29,753 in 1999 to 40,464 in 2000.

The number of marijuana-related federal sentences in North Carolina ranked second to cocaine-related federal sentences from FY1996 through FY2000. According to USSC data, the number of marijuana-related federal sentences fluctuated from FY1996 through FY2000, with 113 in FY1996, 72 in FY1997, 79 in FY1998, 124 in FY1999, and 81 in FY2000

Violence

Cannabis growers take extreme measures intended to injure or kill intruders on cultivation sites. Cannabis growers frequently protect their grows by booby trapping them with explosives, trip-wired firing devices, and pits dug in the ground. The perimeters of cultivation sites frequently are littered with shards of glass and wooden boards with upright nails. Cultivation sites may also be guarded by aggressive dogs such as pit bulls. Law enforcement authorities report that weapons, usually firearms, are seized frequently from the homes of cannabis growers. Officials from the Asheville Buncombe Metropolitan Enforcement Group, in response to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2001, report that cannabis growers frequently place animal traps among cannabis plants.

Production

Cannabis cultivation is widespread in North Carolina. Outdoor cannabis cultivation is more common than indoor cultivation because of the state’s long growing season, temperate climate, and rural areas that allow growers to conceal cultivation sites. Cannabis growers frequently use federal forest land, particularly in western North Carolina, to minimize the risk of personal property seizures if the plots are seized by law enforcement. Mexican and Caucasian criminal groups are the primary cultivators of outdoor cannabis. Reporting from law enforcement officials indicates that cannabis cultivation is widespread in areas including the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests in the western part of the state. Outdoor cultivation sites in North Carolina are larger than before, according to law enforcement authorities. In July 2001 state and local law enforcement authorities seized more than 23,000 cannabis plants, ranging in size from seedlings to 9-foot-tall plants, from a large field that covered nearly 2 acres in Chatham County. This cannabis cultivation site was one of the largest ever seized in North Carolina.

Growers also cultivate high potency cannabis in indoor hydroponic operations. Indoor grows vary in size and number from dozens to several hundred cannabis plants. Indoor cultivation requires the grower to regulate light, heat, humidity, and fertilizer. Caucasian and African American independent producers are the primary cultivators of cannabis using hydroponic techniques.

 

Four Illegal Immigrants Arrested

In March 2002 local law enforcement officials arrested four individuals in Randolph County and seized approximately 1 kilogram of cocaine and more than 52 pounds of marijuana following a tip from an informant. The individuals were illegal immigrants believed to be from Mexico.

The informant’s tip led to a traffic stop and a joint investigation by the vice and narcotics units of the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office, the High Point Police Department, the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, and the Asheboro Police Department.

Based on the information, officers stopped and searched a minivan and seized approximately 1 kilogram of cocaine. After receiving consent from the suspects, officers searched a residence and seized 52.5 pounds of marijuana from a van that was parked at the residence.

All four individuals were charged with felony drug charges.

Source: Randolph County Sheriff’s Office.

 

 

Transportation

Mexican criminal groups are the dominant transporters of Mexico-produced marijuana into North Carolina. They primarily use tractor-trailers to transport multiton quantities of marijuana concealed among legitimate goods such as produce, furniture, and other items from Mexico and southwestern states. Law enforcement officials report that tractor-trailers carrying 1,000 pounds or more of marijuana are increasingly common. In March 2001 law enforcement authorities in Rowan County seized over 4 tons of marijuana from a tractor-trailer that was destined for a farmhouse in the county. The seizure was one of the largest marijuana seizures in North Carolina history.

 

North Carolina Legislators Stiffen Marijuana Laws

In 1999 North Carolina state legislators enacted a law making possession of 10 or more pounds of marijuana a felony offense. The change was in response to an increasing number of marijuana shipments totaling 1,000 pounds or more that were being transported into the state.

Source: North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission.

 

 

Mexican, African American, Caucasian, and Jamaican criminal groups also transport marijuana in private vehicles. These criminal groups transport Mexico-produced marijuana directly from Mexico and southwestern states. They also transport marijuana from Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Transporters conceal marijuana in luggage or in false compartments and sometimes smear marijuana packages with food or liquid soap to conceal the distinctive odor. In May 2001 a sheriff’s deputy in Harrison County, Mississippi, seized 35 pounds of marijuana from a private vehicle and arrested two Mexican individuals who claimed to be traveling from Edinburg, Texas, to Charlotte. The marijuana was wrapped in packing tape and concealed in the gas tank, which contained two compartments: one for gasoline and one for contraband. In April 2001 a Louisiana state trooper arrested an individual driving a vehicle from Texas to North Carolina and seized 62 pounds of marijuana hidden in luggage in the trunk. The marijuana was wrapped in clear cellophane, smeared with mustard, and wrapped again with fabric softener sheets.

 

Marijuana Smuggled Through South Carolina Port

Guilford County sheriff’s deputies seized nearly 3,000 pounds of marijuana and arrested five individuals in December 2000 in Greensboro. The marijuana had been smuggled on a ship arriving at the Port of Charleston, South Carolina, from Mexico and was concealed in a container among packages of napkins and detergent. The marijuana had been transported into North Carolina by truck.

Source: Associated Press, 5 December 2000.

 

 

Criminal groups, particularly Jamaican, also transport marijuana into North Carolina on commercial airlines, employing couriers who conceal the drug in their luggage or strap packages of it under their clothing. The DEA San Diego Division reports that San Diego is a principal distribution hub for marijuana produced in Mexico supplied to Jamaican criminal groups in the southeastern United States. Mexican DTOs based in Mexico supply marijuana to Jamaican criminal groups in San Diego who then distribute the drug to other Jamaican criminal groups in North Carolina and other southeastern states. Jamaican criminal groups in North Carolina often falsely market Mexico-produced marijuana as Jamaican marijuana because Jamaican marijuana is reputed to be more potent and is, therefore, more expensive. Marijuana produced in Mexico sells for about $400 per pound in San Diego but sells for as much as $2,400 per pound as Jamaican marijuana in North Carolina.

Mexican, African American, and Caucasian criminal groups also transport marijuana into North Carolina from southwestern states via package delivery services. According to 2000 Operation Jetway data, law enforcement authorities in North Carolina seized at least 19 packages that contained multipound quantities of marijuana. The packages were sent from Texas and California, and most were destined for Charlotte. According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, approximately one-half of the packages were sent to members of Mexican criminal groups, and approximately one-half were sent to members of African American criminal groups.

Mexican, African American, and Caucasian criminal groups also transport marijuana into the state on buses and passenger trains. In December 2000 Davidson County sheriff’s deputies stopped a bus traveling from Texas to North Carolina and seized 80 pounds of marijuana in a duffel bag. None of the passengers admitted to owning the bag. According to law enforcement authorities, the passengers were Mexican migrant workers traveling from Texas to North Carolina for employment.

Unknown quantities of marijuana produced in North Carolina are transported out of the state in private vehicles and via package delivery services into urban and rural areas in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Distribution

In North Carolina Mexican criminal groups are the primary wholesale distributors of marijuana produced in Mexico. African American, Caucasian, and Jamaican criminal groups also distribute wholesale quantities of Mexico-produced marijuana. All of these criminal groups distribute marijuana to gang members and local independent dealers; they also distribute some marijuana at the retail level. These criminal groups sell marijuana to dealers of other races and ethnicities; however, in a small number of communities, they distribute marijuana only within their own ethnic group because they distrust outsiders. OMG members sell wholesale quantities to members of smaller motorcycle gangs and female associates who handle retail distribution.

Cannabis growers who cultivate large outdoor plots–usually Caucasian and Mexican criminal groups–sell wholesale quantities of locally produced marijuana to gang members and local independent dealers and occasionally sell retail quantities. Growers who cultivate small amounts of cannabis in their homes or tend small plots–usually Caucasian and African American independent dealers–abuse the drug themselves or sell it to friends, family members, and associates.

At the retail level marijuana is distributed by African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic gangs; OMGs; and local independent producers and dealers including students, homemakers, and businesspeople. Law enforcement authorities report that marijuana is sold at various locations such as open-air drug markets; parking lots; bars and nightclubs; college, high school, and middle school campuses; and businesses and private homes. Law enforcement authorities report that high school students, in particular, are becoming increasingly involved in retail marijuana distribution on and near school grounds. In April 2001, law enforcement officers in Chapel Hill arrested a high school student who had concealed small plastic bags of marijuana in a sock that he had hidden in his pants. Law enforcement officers report that the student intended to sell the marijuana to other students on school grounds.

Marijuana – North Carolina Drug Threat Assessment (justice.gov)

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