Louisiana has an ideal position when it comes to drug smuggling and trafficking. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, the sea coast has endless waterways and hidden coastlines making it easier for smugglers to enter the state. In addition, the Mississippi river weaves its way through the state and along the route; there are endless rivers, canals and waterways. In addition, the Gulf coastline has an extensive canal linking both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The harbor at New Orleans is the one of the nation’s busiest. The availability of this intermodal transportation system is attractive to worldwide shippers and serves as a natural gateway to the United States.
Louisiana is also linked by an extensive array of interstates and these roads are frequently used by the drug traffickers. The state’s geographic location places it on easy access to Texas and Mississippi. Continued seizures of drugs along the highways and waterways, indicate that Louisiana is still a major stronghold when it comes to drug trafficking.
Since the inception of the NAFTA, Mexican drug cartels have also taken advantage of the increased cross-border commercial traffic. In addition, with the less monitoring of Mexico’s railroads, the potential for using this form to transport drugs is very inviting.
Crack Cocaine continues to dominant the drug scene in Louisiana. The drug is highly addictive and its social implications are enormous. The drug is easily and widely available throughout the state. Cocaine abuse has been reported throughout the state. Associated problems with cocaine include:
The majority of powdered cocaine is converted into crack cocaine. The distribution and drug trafficking is primarily controlled by cartels. In the inner cities, the distribution is controlled by violent street gangs who are not shy about committing murder.
Heroin was once the primary drug of abuse however; today heroin is a rare drug of abuse in Louisiana. Due to the lack of a pure product, contamination of the product, cost and better law enforcement, heroin is not much of a threat in Louisiana. The majority of heroin is obtained from Mexico and controlled by the same cartels.
Methamphetamine is the number one drug of abuse in the State of Louisiana. Law enforcement data indicates that it has replaced cocaine as the number one drug of abuse in many parts of the State. Methamphetamine production and distribution is also associated with violent crimes, hazardous and explosive chemical waste. The majority of methamphetamine available in Louisiana is smuggled in from Mexico and Texas. Clandestine laboratories also manufacture methamphetamine but because of the lack of precursor chemicals, the production is small and only for local distribution. The methamphetamine trade is primarily controlled by gangs.
The use of club drugs has remained steady over the past decade. MDMA ( ecstasy), Ketamine, Rohypnol, LSD, and GHB are the most frequent drugs of abuse among college students and are easily found at night clubs, raves and parties. GHB and MDMA are all easily available and have become the drugs of choice for young Caucasians at all economic levels. The majority of club drugs are smuggled in from California, Texas and Florida. The lucrative business is now being infiltrated by counterfeit pills. Trafficking groups control the majority of club drug distributions in Louisiana.
Marijuana continues to be the most commonly abused drug in Louisiana and it is increasingly being used by younger adults. Locally available marijuana is grown both in and out doors. Because of the vast forest land and waterways, marijuana plots are found all over the State and hard to detect. Marijuana is commonly transported into and through Louisiana via trucks and hidden into compartments. The majority of foreign marijuana is controlled by the gangs. These cartels are also well integrated with local dealers and street gangs who play a major role in the local distribution of the drug.
The abuse of pharmaceutical drugs continues to rise at an exponential rate. The most commonly abused prescription drugs include oxycontin, hydrocodone and Xanax. These drugs are primarily obtained via prescription forgeries, “doctor shopping”, pharmacy break ins and via the internet. Some of the pharmaceutical drugs are brought into Louisiana from Mexico and Southwestern Border cities.
Numerous pain management clinics have opened in every major city in the State and pose an enormous threat to the communities. These pain management clinics do injustice to patients by continually prescribing narcotics to addicts. Louisiana has also seen an increase in the distribution and abuse of steroids. Steroids are usually obtained via the Internet and received via postal shipping services.
The increased drug trafficking and lucrative business has led to the development of various gangs, all vying to control the drug trade. Street gangs, motorcycle gangs, local groups have established footholds in the state which aid in the trafficking of illicit drugs. These groups rely upon their organizational strengths, violence and extortion. They are well aware of the lack of policing in the State and exploit the waterways and interstates in an effort to prosper in their illegal endeavors.
Associated with drug trafficking is money laundering. Cash-intensive businesses, such as restaurants, bars and nightclubs, shipping industry, casinos and tourism have all at some time been exposed to “drug” money. The legislature has endorsed laws to monitor all financial exchanges and banks are required by law to notify authorities of large transfers of money.
To counteract the drug problem DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams have been established in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the nation. In addition, DEA Regional Enforcement Teams have been developed to augment existing DEA pision resources by targeting drug organizations operating in the United States where there is a lack of sufficient local drug law enforcement.
Louisiana's notoriously harsh drug laws were largely responsible for the states past distinction of holding the highest incarceration rate in the country. One-third of all Louisiana State inmates were non-violent drug offenders, many of them sentenced to long sentences for minor offenses. These unjust harsh drug laws have exacerbated racial disparities in Louisiana's criminal justice system. While African-Americans make up only one-third of the state's population, they made up three-fourths of the state's prison population.
Faced with gross racial disparities in their criminal justice system and high cost of taking care of non-violent drug abusers in prisons, civil rights leaders and fiscal conservatives passed the far-reaching drug sentencing reform in June 2001. The legislation has today reversed numerous draconian mandatory minimums passed in 1996, and is expected to save Louisiana $60 million a year in reduced prison costs.