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The nation’s capital has been troubled for a long time when it comes to drug problems. In 2008, the Federal Drug Seizures included Cocaine 9.6 kgs, Heroin 0.9 kgs, Methamphetamine 0.6 kgs, and Marijuana 6.4 kgs. In 2009, PCP and the violence associated with it was a major concern. There are street ‘crews’ that operate in open-air markets and on neighborhood corners in Washington, DC, so the buying and selling of illegal drugs many times is done un-noticed. They have a huge international population which helps to insulate the ethnic drug trafficking groups from just about every major supply country in the world surrounding the city; therefore they have a steady supply of customers. Many of the illegal drugs can be bought and sold at open-air markets.

What is an open-air market?

This is a public market-place where food and merchandise can be purchased. When illicit-illegal drugs are involved, these markets represent the lowest level of the drug distribution network.

Drugs of concern:



Cocaine and crack cocaine are the worst when it comes to drug problems; these drugs are widely available and sought after. There are open-air markets along corridors where people commute and also in public housing projects, this provides the dealers with a constant flow of customers from both Virginia and Maryland suburbs. A lot of the cocaine that’s available in the metropolitan area of Washington, DC is supplied by Mexican sources. There are also Mexican sources in Atlanta, GA, Texas, and California. New York City is a supply source also.


Heroin addicts are more prominent in Baltimore than in Washington DC, but many long-term heroin users live there and frequent many of the open-air drug markets in the city. There are markets that are located along commuter routes into the city and they push high purity heroin to the suburban abusers. There are shops that are situated near methadone clinics and the shops that co-exist with the open-air markets that usually deal to the long-term heroin addicts. This heroin is not as pure. Heroin is packaged usually in colored or marked Ziploc baggies in small quantities and sold under street-brand names. The biggest part of heroin found in Washington, DC is of South American origin but at the same time, it’s also been found in other source areas like Southwest Asian.


PCP in Washington, DC metropolitan area is quite easily found. PCP is nowhere near as available as cocaine, crack or heroin though. Metropolitan police reports show an increase in abuse of this drug since 2008. In Washington, DC PCP has been abused for quite some time, the level of abuse has always been higher than average.

Crystal Methamphetamine

Methamphetamine use is quite limited in the District of Columbia. Those that do abuse this drug are primarily from the city’s gay population and nightclub patrons. Most of the methamphetamine that is available comes from California, it’s’ either received overnight or by regular mail delivery.

Synthetic Drugs

For more than a decade have been popular through nightclub patrons. These drugs include MDMA, Ketamine, GHB, and Crystal Methamphetamine along with various other hallucinogenic and stimulant drugs. These drugs are readily available in the District and have been for quite some time.


Marijuana is the most abused drug of all in the District no matter what the age, socio-economic level or ethnic group. If an individual is looking for quality or quantity, it’s always available. This ranges from ‘nickel bags’ of loose, commercial grade product to quantities of one hundred pounds or more of the high grade marijuana. Marijuana can be found in open-air markets alongside cocaine, heroin and crack.

Prescription Drugs

The diversion of pharmaceutical drugs are illegally acquired from pharmacies, physicians, pharmaceutical wholesalers and organized prescription shopping and distribution networks. Many of these illegal drugs especially Methadone, OxyContin, Buprenorphine, and Xanax are sold at two major open-air drug markets in Washington, D.C. These two open-air drug markets are not too far from a number of Narcotic Treatment Programs. Most of the vehicle traffic for these locations is out of state traffic.

In July 2008, the DEA’s Washington Division Office created a Tactical Diversion Squad (TDS). The TDS consists of Diversion Investigators, Special Agents, and Intelligence Analysts, and provides support to Diversion Groups by investigating doctor shoppers, prescription forgers and prevalent retail-level violators in order to disrupt diversion at the registrant level. These investigations lead to the prosecution of suspected violators of the Controlled Substances Act, Code of Federal Regulations (21 CFR) and other appropriate Federal or State statutes pertaining to the diversion of licit pharmaceuticals and chemicals.

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