Washington is a major transshipment area for drugs smuggled into the state. It is ideally located with a large coastline, extensive network of highways and being a close neighbor of Canada. Every type of illicit drug is available in the State.
Cocaine, heroin and marijuana are smuggled in from the southern states. The drug trade has brought in an infestation of street and motor cycle gangs and drug traffickers. The majority of drug trafficking takes place around Seattle and the related counties. Associated with this drug trafficking has been an increase in violence, gang wars, prostitution, inner city poverty and crime. Money laundering and bulk currency smuggling are additional threats in Washington, with organizations engaging in a variety of methods to legitimize and reposition illicit proceeds.
Cocaine and crack cocaine are readily available in Washington State. Crack cocaine is most commonly abused by the lower socio economic inner city inpiduals. The majority of cocaine is smuggled in by the cartels and distributed by local gangs who are well integrated with these drug cartels. The powder cocaine is smuggled in from California, Texas and Arizona. A large proportion of the smuggled cocaine is also shipped in from Canada. Recent seizures indicate that the rate of cocaine abuse has remained steady over the past 2 decades.
Mexican black tar heroin is readily available in the state. The majority of the heroin is smuggled in by the Colombians and Dominicans. With a recent influx of Asians, the SE variety of heroin has also become widely available in the state. The majority of heroin is brought in by automobiles, vans and campers. Despite the low cost, ready availability and good potency, the heroin abuse has remained steady in the state.
Methamphetamine is the most commonly abused drug in the state and is available in most counties. The majority of the methamphetamine is smuggled in by the Mexican drug cartels. The drug is smuggled from California, Texas, Arizona and Las Vegas. Once brought into the state, it is re packed into smaller packages and redistributed across the state.
Small unsophisticated laboratories have been operating across the state making low purity methamphetamine. However, the recent ban on the availability of ephedrine has led to the demise of these laboratories. In addition, these homemade laboratories generate a lot of toxic waste and represent a constant fire hazard.
There has been a major increase in the use of club drugs in Washington State. All types of club drugs including MDMA, GHB, PCP, LSD and Ketamine are available at night parties and rave parties. The majority of colleges and universities have a moderate supply of club drugs. The majority of club drugs are smuggled in from New York, Canada, California and Texas. The club drug trade is basically controlled by Asian gangs. Recent seizures indicate the drugs are increasingly being smuggled in via the US parcel post services.
Three different types of Marijuana are readily available throughout the state. There is the locally cultivated product, Mexican marijuana and the high grade BC Bud from Canada. Of these varieties, locally grown marijuana and BC Bud are preferred because of its higher purity. BC Bud marijuana is available in the state, particularly in the inner cities, which also serve as major transshipment points for BC Bud. The outdoor cultivation of marijuana has increased in recent years. The favorable climate, expansive forest land and mountainous region has made rural Washington state a favorite for marijuana growers. Most of this marijuana is grown on public and federal property to reduce the chance of property seizure and penalties.
The abuse of pharmaceutical drugs continues to rise at an exponential rate. The most commonly abused prescription drugs include oxycontin, hydrocodone, methadone, diazepam, Lortab and Xanax. Oxycontin continues the number one prescription drug abused in the state. These drugs are primarily obtained via prescription forgeries, “doctor shopping”, pharmacy break-ins and via the internet. Some of the pharmaceutical drugs are brought in from Iowa, 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. Washington State 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.
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. The Seattle MET has assisted law enforcement agencies in the various Washington cities and counties.
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.
The State of Washington has been progressive in its drug laws and has enacted several reforms ranging from legalizing medical marijuana to decriminalizing the sale and possession of syringes. Washington has allowed patients to use medical marijuana if they have terminal or debilitating illnesses and documentation from a physician.
Most recently, the legislation has passed rigid laws that that denies food-stamp benefits to convicted drug offenders for life. This reform means Washingtonians with drug felonies are no longer the only group of felons to be denied food stamps. In 2002, the legislature passed a bill which reduced sentences for various non-violent drug offenses and used the saving to fund drug treatment programs.
Sen Locke stated when he signed the legislation into law, "For non-violent offenders, treatment works. Investing in treatment will enable us to free up more prison cells for the violent offenders who belong in jail."
More legislation is pending to restore voting rights to felons, and a lawsuit is pending through the state's courts on the grounds that the current policy amounts to racial discrimination. One quarter of Washington’s African-American male population is incarcerated. In a further effort to fight the high rate of incarceration, Seattle voters approved a bill, making the enforcement of marijuana laws pertaining to adult personal use the lowest enforcement priority. Seattle is the first major U.S. city to pass such an ordinance through the ballot initiative process.