The border area between New Mexico and Mexico is thinly populated and has restricted natural or man-made barriers to illegal crossing. This, together with an widespread road system that crosses the state in all directions, makes New Mexico a haven for the transshipment of illegal drugs from Mexico to the interior of United States. New Mexico’s nearness to the Mexican border is an extra susceptibility to illegal drugs smuggled through the major unguarded borders. Additional threats to the region are the smuggling of controlled substances via automobiles, including aircraft, buses, rail or even walking. New Mexico is also considered a hub for significant amounts of drug proceeds being laundered through small businesses.
Most of the New Mexico and Mexico international border is open arid desert and is generally isolated with numerous roads, trails, trenches, footpaths, and farms which let smugglers easy access into the U.S. The drug trade in New Mexico is principally controlled by the Mexican Mafia who is closely integrated, organized and collaborate with the local street gangs.
Another factor significantly affecting New Mexico is the limited availability of law enforcement and the strain on the Judiciary system. Overloading of the court system, lack of jail space and a multitude of alien smugglers has run down the system. New immigration policies and strengthening of the border patrols have made some impact on both alien and drug smuggling, but the cost has been enormous.
The El Paso and Juarez corridor serves as a transshipment point for cocaine to various locations in the United States. Cocaine is transported through New Mexico by the drug traffickers at an alarming rate. Large quantities of cocaine are regularly seized from commercial trucks and automobiles. Once the cocaine arrives in New Mexico, it is re packaged for shipment to other states. Cocaine is also made readily available for local distribution throughout New Mexico in small amounts. Local law enforcement authorities and hospitals consistently rank cocaine and crack cocaine as a major inner city problem.
The majority of powder cocaine is converted to crack cocaine. In smaller municipalities, crack cocaine use and distribution is at levels that are considered dangerous to health. Numerous ethnic gangs play a major role in the distribution of crack cocaine in most urban areas. Law enforcement data reveal that users of crack cocaine can be found in all social and economic levels of society. Associated with the use of cocaine has been the gang related violence, crime, thefts and inner city poverty.
Mexican black tar heroin and brown heroin are routinely seized in New Mexico. Black tar heroin has long been available in the Mexican states. Heroin is most commonly smuggled in secret compartments in private vehicles and concealed on persons. In all of urban New Mexico, Mexican black tar heroin is easily available and widely abused. The heroin is usually carried across the border by couriers. Heroin smuggling continues on the increase mainly because of steady decrease in price. A local enforcement effort to curb heroin spread has resulted in numerous arrests but the drug smuggling continues unabated.
Methamphetamine is the most common drug abused in the state and is widely available. Locally manufactured methamphetamine has decreased because of the clamp down, seizures of inpiduals and lack of availability of precursor chemicals. However, methamphetamine from Mexico still continues to be smuggled into the State. The major meth trade is controlled by the Mexicans. Because of the large rural area of New Mexico, authorities are always on the lookout for clandestine laboratories.
All types of club drugs are available in New Mexico. MDMA ( ecstasy), Ketamine, LSD, and GHB are frequently used at night clubs and rave parties. Rave parties are held routinely in remote areas to avoid detection by law enforcement. Law enforcement continually infiltrates such parties in an attempt to arrest the major Drug Traffickers.
The majority of the club drugs are smuggled in from Mexico where purchases can be made over the counter from unscrupulous pharmacists. Ecstasy, Rohypnol, and other pharmaceuticals are being used at rave parties and are brought in from California and Texas. The use of these types of drugs has not skyrocketed, as in other metropolitan areas in the United States.
The abuse of prescription drugs continues to be a significant enforcement issue. Hydrocodone, oxycontin, valium, methadone, Fentanyl, soma, Vicodin and Percocet are the most widely abused drugs. These drugs are generally obtained using forged prescriptions, doctor shopping, thefts from pharmacies, illegal distribution by physicians, pharmacies and via the internet. Because of the lucrative drug trade, fake drugs from Mexico have infiltrated the market and made matters worse. New Mexico also has a severe shortage of physicians and this shortage has led to the State granting prescription permission to physicians from other states.
New Mexico has recently become one of the few states to grant prescribing authority to psychologists who have no medical or pharmaceutical training.
Marijuana is the most frequently controlled substance that is seized in the New Mexico area. Marijuana is smuggled in the state via automobiles vans and trucks. Seizures of marijuana along the highways are quite common. The majority of marijuana is smuggled in from Mexico and Texas. Locally grown marijuana is also widely available. The temperate climate and large forest land makes domestic cultivation of marijuana appealing to the drug traffickers.
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. DEA Regional Enforcement Teams have been established to target drug organizations operating in the United States where there is a lack of sufficient local drug law enforcement.
The drug trade is associated with lucrative financial profits. These drug proceeds are difficult to trace and seize. Money laundering is commonly associated with drug traffickers. The state government is routinely conducting financial investigations to identify and seize assets acquired from drug smuggling operations. Currency seizures are on the increase and have been a major deterrence to drug trafficking in the State
Recently the state has enacted the Lynn Pierson Compassionate Use Act to allow qualified patients to possess an “adequate supply” of marijuana, which they must obtain from a “licensed producer.” This measure was passed by the Senate and is currently being reviewed by the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee and the House Judiciary Committee. Another bill awaiting legislation is one that protects inpiduals from drug possession charges when they call 911 to save the life of an overdose victim. A third bill that has just passed will help treatment of women inmates with a history of narcotic addiction.
Recently the House Memorial 75 and Senate Memorial 72, both directed the state Medicaid program to apply to the federal government for approval to include substance abuse treatment as a covered service for Medicaid recipients. If the amendment is approved, millions of dollars will be available into New Mexico to increase substance abuse treatment.