Pubdate: Thu, 11 Sep 2008
Source: Willits News (CA)
Copyright: 2008 Willits News
Author: Linda Williams, TWN Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


While methamphetamine labs peaked in California in 1999, evidence 
suggests usage rates have remained flat with local demand now 
supplied nearly exclusively with high quality ice methamphetamines from Mexico.

Meth remains the top drug-related concern of law enforcement in 
California, according to a 2007 U.S. Department of Justice poll. 
Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman also considers it his top drug priority.

With few labs remaining in California, law enforcement resources up 
and down the state have been refocused on the Mexican drug 
trafficking organizations, which have taken over the wholesale 
distribution of nearly all illicit drugs throughout the state.

Mexican D.T.O.s now dominate the wholesale distribution of ice or 
meth, marijuana, cocaine and heroin throughout California, according 
to federal and state law enforcement agencies. The D.T.O.s then 
recruit affiliated street gangs Norteno and Sureno as well as outlaw 
gangs such as the Hells Angels for retail distribution. The trading 
of marijuana for ice is considered a key element in the distribution 
of meth within Mendocino County.

Santa Rosa is considered the main transportation hub for meth 
entering Mendocino and Lake counties. Earlier this year, federal and 
state agents apparently cracked two cogs in the wholesale distribution system.

In April 2008, 29 pounds of ice methamphetamine was recovered by law 
enforcement at a Santa Rosa trucking company, along with a small 
amount of marijuana and cocaine. Earlier, in March 2008, agents 
confiscated 27 pounds of ice, 69 pounds of marijuana, as well as 
hashish, cocaine, and $46,000 in cash from an alleged distribution 
ring bringing meth into the Santa Rosa area from Merced County. Most 
other area busts have involved much smaller amounts of meth more 
closely associated with the retail distribution network.

The two main Mexican drug trafficking organizations, according to the 
U.S. D.O.J., influencing the Mendocino County drug scene are the 
Federation cartel (a coalition of the Sinaloa, Juarez, and Valencia 
cartels) with prime jurisdiction over the Bay Area and the Tijuana 
cartel controlling central valley regions around the Sacramento and 
Stockton areas.

Meth usage is flat:

Methamphetamine usage rates in California have failed to decline 
despite the state policy change in 2000 requiring court ordered 
treatment rather than incarceration for most possession cases. The 
Mendocino County Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs patients 
being treated primarily for amphetamines increased from 18 percent in 
2000 to 27 percent in 2004, with most of the increase coming from 
court referrals. Throughout California, the trend during the same 
period was from 26.2 percent to 34 percent. California youth showed a 
similar increase from 15.8 to 24.7 percent during the same period.

Meth lab numbers have plummeted:

The number of California clandestine labs peaked in 1999 with 2,579 
meth labs, with eight in Mendocino County. At that time, California 
had 80 percent of the country's labs and nearly all of the "super" 
labs. Nearly one in five labs were found during this period as a 
result of fires or explosions.

Narrowing restrictions on the raw materials needed to make meth has 
drastically reduced the number of clandestine labs found during 2007 
in California to only 221 reported throughout the state with none in 
Mendocino County.

While a number of recipes to make methamphetamines exist, all require 
ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine to begin with.

In the Willits area, one small-scale lab was found at a fugitive's 
hideout on Sherwood Road in 2008. The fugitive was dodging attempted 
murder charges in Lake County stemming from an alleged marijuana 
theft in Willits.

Broken glassware and a quart container partially filled with a 
caustic material was discovered near a Brooktrails residential 
marijuana grow late in 2007 that was considered a possible old meth 
lab site. Mendocino County Environmental Health cleaned it up quickly 
and the glassware was sent for forensic evaluation.

As the United States tightened the availability of the raw materials 
needed for meth production at home, first at the wholesale and later 
at the retail level, the amount of these materials being shipped into 
Mexico sharply increased, primarily from China. This resulted in most 
of the tons of pseudoephedrine and ephedrines imported into Mexico 
being converted directly into high purity methamphetamines or "ice" 
in "mega labs" according to most estimates. This abundance of "ice" 
easily supplied the U.S. West Coast market and began making inroads 
into the eastern states as well.

This creation of an unknown number of "mega" labs apparently caught 
the Mexican authorities by surprise. A "superlab" in the United 
States in the heyday of domestic meth production was considered any 
lab making 10 or more pounds of meth per day. Most labs found by law 
enforcement in California generated much smaller quantities, with the 
typical meth user brewing up a batch to supply his or her habit with 
enough left over to sell so they could buy the next batch of ingredients.

In 2006, Mexican authorities received an anonymous tip about a "mega" 
lab in Guadalajara, Mexico. The lab was making about 400 pounds of 
high purity "ice" each day. With Mexico's less restrictive 
environmental laws, similar meth factories have reportedly sprouted 
up in a number of industrial areas where they blend in amongst other 
legitimate chemical plants.

Even the imposition of new import restrictions on precursor chemicals 
has made little dent into the Mexican production, as the drug cartels 
are finding ways to circumvent them, according to the U.S. Department 
of Justice.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom