The drug trafficking and smuggling in the state of Utah is principally controlled by Mexican poly-drug trafficking organizations. These organizations interact at both the wholesale and street level and play a major role in the drug transfer in the NW corner of the United States. Because of the large land area, sparse population and the dominant mountaintainous landscape, drug trafficking is a lot easier in this state. All types of illicit drugs are smuggled in and out of the state, chiefly using land transport systems.
Like everywhere else in the US, cocaine is widely available in Utah. The whole sale distribution is controlled by the Mexicans and the street level trade is controlled by the vast migrant population. Large quantities have been seized along the Utah highways which indicate that the cocaine trade is alive in the state. Once the cocaine is brought into the state, it is converted to crack cocaine and sold on the streets. Despite the low level of purity, the cocaine trade has remained stable in Utah.
Heroin has become a major problem over the past 2 decades. Both the brown heroin and black tar heroin variety is available throughout the state. The heroin is chiefly smuggled in from the South, California and Illinois. The Mexican poly cartels control the heroin trade. Street level distribution is controlled by several gangs who have integrated with the dominant drug organizations. Associated with heroin abuse, has been a large increase in health related problems and frequent admissions to the emergency rooms. The purity and price of heroin has remained relatively stable over the past decade.
Methamphetamine is the most common drug abused in Utah. Mexican poly-drug trafficking organizations control the distribution of methamphetamine, most of which is produced in Mexico and California. With a large number of drug traffickers involved in the synthesis of methamphetamine, the purity and potency of the drug have declined in the last decade.
Locally made methamphetamine and clandestine laboratories have significantly declined since the Utah legislation passed a bill to ban the availability of precursor chemicals like ephedrine. Most of the locally made methamphetamine is made of impure chemicals and plus the laboratories present a great fire hazard to the surrounding areas. Seizures of methamphetamine indicate that the drug is widely smuggled in Utah and used by numerous ethnic groups.
The use of club drugs has remained steady over the past decade. These are the most frequent drugs of abuse among college students and are easily found at night clubs, raves and parties. MDMA (Ecstasy), Ketamine, Rohypnol, LSD, and GHB. GHB and MDMA are all easily available and have become the drugs of choice for young inpidual's 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. Asians trafficking groups control the majority of club drug distribution in Utah.
The majority of marijuana available in the state is smuggled in from Mexico. The drug is smuggled in via trucks, vans and campers. Because of the large rural and mountainous area, locally home grown marijuana plots have also been increasing in the past 2 decades. Sophisticated indoor hydroponic grown marijuana is also increasingly available throughout the state. Marijuana is also imported in large amounts from Canada, Texas, Florida and Washington.
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 Utah 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. Utah 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.
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 transfer 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.
In November of 2000, the Utah Property Protection Act passed a bill which prevented law enforcement from seizing property from an inpidual even without bringing charges against the person. The initiative required law enforcement to prove a person’s guilt before any property can be seized. The law also re-appropriated all asset forfeiture seizures to go to public school funds. Previously, law enforcement kept all of the property and money, creating potentially corrupting incentives and bypassing legislative appropriations processes.
In 2004, The Utah Property Protection Act was introduced. The move was supported by prosecutors and law enforcement officials who had lost money from the new law. Drug policy reformers managed to beat back this bill during the 2003 legislative session, but could not do so in 2004.