For a laid back State, the availability and rate of drug abuse in Arkansas continues to sky rocket coinciding with the smuggling of methamphetamine, cocaine, and marijuana, as the drugs of choice, for local consumption. Smuggling via the interstates remains the major route of transport of all drugs into Arkansas. This is confirmed by the vast amounts of drugs seized on Arkansas interstates. However, commercial air and bus services still remain a viable route for smugglers.
Crack and powder cocaine abuse continues to be a problem in the State. Associated with cocaine abuse, is the social impact on the surrounding communities. Violent crimes, homicides and thefts by street gangs continue to increase and destabilize the communities. The easy availability of cocaine and the rapid transport of the drug has made crack cocaine available to many rural areas also.
Crack’s exponential growth and abuse is partly credited to the drug’s wide availability, cheaper price, and ease of conversion from powdered cocaine. Population studies reveal that there are large numbers of inpiduals who have become addicted to crack cocaine in the State. Cocaine is usually smuggled into the State from Texas as a powder in large quantities, whereas crack is brought in smaller multi-ounce packages. Drug law enforcement intelligence documents that the drug cartels are well organized, violent and integrated with numerous local distributors. The drug cartels not only provide drugs for the State of Arkansas, but also distribute across into other states.
Heroin is not a significant problem in Arkansas. Despite being brought into the State in high quantities, the majority is for distribution to the North.
The manufacture and use of methamphetamine continues to be a problem all over the state. The widespread rural area and difficulty in policing have encouraged the development of laboratories in the countryside. Clandestine laboratories are spread throughout the state and detection has proven difficult. In addition, large scale methamphetamine is regularly smuggled in from Mexico. The state has legislated laws which now control the retail use of pseudoephedrine and this has helped decrease illegal laboratories from getting to the precursor chemicals. The new law limits the sale of these substances in limited quantities and all buyers are identified and placed on a registry
Law enforcement authorities have been concerned about the added safety hazards about the illegal laboratories and environmental pollution, explosions, fire hazards and generation of hazardous waste remains a major problem. Seizures of these illegal laboratories always possess a danger because of the presence of hazardous chemicals.
The majority of methamphetamine is smuggled from Mexico and the supply appears unlimited. The Mexican drug cartels are highly organized with numerous “mules” for smuggling the drugs and distributing it across America.
Club Drug abuse continues to be on an increase in every State. Statistics indicate that in the last decade there has been an exponential increase in arrests, overdoses, trafficking and rapes in Arkansas. All club drugs including Ecstasy, LSD, and Ketamine are easily available on college campuses and at night clubs. The number one club drug abused is ecstasy but GHB use is a close second.
Marijuana is both locally produced and also imported from Mexico. It has continued to be the drug of choice and the demand is increasing. Arkansas’s natural warm climate and large rural areas provide a great opportunity for the drug traffickers to produce domestic marijuana. Domestically produced marijuana is also cultivated indoors in well-developed greenhouses. In the rural areas, marijuana farms are usually numerous. To counter this, air surveillance by law enforcement personnel has intensified and thus the outdoor sites have become smaller and more scattered. Government led asset forfeiture has driven growers to employ leased hunting land or national forest land as cultivation sites. Since the State legislated an aggressive approach to curbing marijuana growth, user demands have increased and imported marijuana continues to be a major problem. Imported marijuana, mainly from the South is inexpensive but not as pure or potent as the home grown stuff. The majority of Mexican marijuana is brought in by commercial vehicles in hidden compartments.
Although marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine receive the most attention in the State, clubs drugs which are equally addictive and just as dangerous have become the drugs of the decade. Club drugs continue to be a state wide problem and their use has been increasing among college students and at “rave” parties. LSD, methamphetamine, Gamma-hydroxy butyrate, Ketamine, (MDMA or Ecstasy) and Rohypnol (flunitrazepam) are all prevalent in the State. MDMA is the most prevalent and popular club drug in Arkansas.
Abuse of pharmaceutical drugs continues to be a major problem, of which oxycontin and Vicodin top the list. The majority of users are in the 20-30s. The drugs are typically obtained using forged prescriptions, doctor shopping and via internet.
Drug trafficking organizations are one of the most challenging problems encountered by the Law. Within the state, there are Mexican and Dominican cartels who smuggle drugs both into and out of the state. The majority of drugs arriving in to Arkansas come from the South of the border via couriers.
Like most states, Arkansas is experiencing an increase in drug and gang related crime. The gangs have developed to control the drug trade and are very territory oriented. Once limited to the major cities, the gangs are now found throughout the state and have infiltrated the housing projects, using violence to resolve territorial disputes and personal feuding.
As expected, money laundering is an associated problem with drug related crime. The state of Arkansas has set up local, regional and international methods to detect “drug related money”. Law enforcement agencies within Arkansas are pursuing legal efforts in an attempt to prevent the money laundering activities of these trafficking organizations.
Since the majority of the illicit drugs are from outside Arkansas, the state Government carefully monitors bank transactions from outside the State. Recent legislation has provided more power to the US Attorney’s office to seize any money that may have been obtained from drug trafficking.
To counter the drug problem the state has established DEA mobile Enforcement Teams. This program was primarily developed to counter the increasing drug related crime and has had some success. In addition, DEA regional enforcement teams augment the support by targeting drug organizations both locally and across the nation.
In 2004, The Arkansas legislature has passed a bill called the “Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act." The measure has allowed the creation of state identification cards for medical marijuana users, who would be allowed to use the drug without being arrested or prosecuted for it. The patient or their "marijuana provider" could legally possess, grow and transport up to six plants or one ounce of usable marijuana per person.
Further proposals are being enacted to limit prison time for first time offenders who carry small amount of marijuana. In addition, money obtained from drug seizures is now being perted to the development of Alcohol Treatment and Drug Rehabilitation Facilities to help curb Drug Addictions. The lessons learned from Arizona are now being applied to the state of Arkansas.