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Being directly North of Mexico has meant that Arizona has become a major port of drug entry into the United States. Despite aggressive policing and an inhospitable terrain, steep mountain ranges, sparse population the Mexican border remains ideal for the drug smugglers. Because of its location, Arizona serves as a route for most drug smuggling and interstate shipment. The drug smuggling is carried out by well-organized Cartels ran by the Mexican and Columbians. These hierarchical groups are ruthless, organized and have an abundance of money to finance their illegal trade.

Cocaine Addiction

Both Phoenix and Tucson are fast becoming major transshipment points for cocaine distribution from Arizona throughout the United States. Cocaine is shipped in from Colombia by air, land and sea to controlled regions in Mexico. From there it is then transported to mobile staging areas across the long Arizona or Mexico border.

From the border, rapid transportation groups align with the Mexican smugglers and bring cocaine into Arizona typically utilizing commercial trucks, private vehicles, animal caravans and backpackers. Because of the long border and lack of law enforcement, large quantities of cocaine are smuggled across the border on a regular basis. Once inside the State, the cocaine is repackaged in to smaller loads and rapidly distributed via the interstates

Heroin Addiction

Mexican black tar heroin is commonly found in Arizona. Heroin is smuggled into Arizona primarily through Arizona’s multiple Ports of Entry by backpackers, pedestrians or within hidden compartments in automobiles. Because of the read availability and decreased price, there is an abundance of available heroin in the State. A major concern over the years has been the increasing presence of heroin available among school children and public schools.


Both local and Mexican produced methamphetamine is easily available in Arizona. The majority of methamphetamine is smuggled from Mexico via courier services. Methamphetamine is also locally developed in numerous clandestine laboratories throughout the state. Both the local and imported amphetamine present great challenges to law enforcement. Arizona serves as a major distribution center for Mexican methamphetamine smuggled across the border and serves as a distribution point for most Midwest cities. The large terrain, rural and mountainous area makes policing difficult.

Marijuana Addiction

Like all States, marijuana is easily available and widely used in Arizona. Seizures of large quantities of marijuana by custom officials is not unusual. The majority of seizures occur at border crossings. Large quantities are smuggled in via “mules” across the remote and rugged Arizona terrain. Large scale marijuana is also smuggled using tractor-trailers as well as refrigerated utility trucks and transported across the State.

Pharmaceutical persion

Data from methadone registered clinics indicate that more than 50% of new admissions for treatment are related to use of pharmaceutical drugs. Over the past few years, Arizona has been witnessing a steady increase in the abuse of OxyContin. Oxycodone products, Vicodin, Percodan and Soma. These commonly prescribed pain medications are heavily abused by all groups and ages. Illegal methods of obtaining these prescription drugs include:

  • Doctor shopping
  • Forged prescription
  • pharmacy break-ins
  • Via the internet

In addition, these prescription controlled drugs are also smuggled in from Mexico and via internet shipments of controlled substances from foreign source websites. Lately, the DEA has clamped down on most internet drug sites but the abuse of these drugs is still rampant.

Drug Seizures

Drugs and cash seizures are common along the Arizona highways. The bulk of the drugs and money are smuggled in passenger cars with hidden compartments. Despite the heighten security at airports, drug smugglers still use this method to transport drugs. The couriers use novel and ingenious methods of concealments. Because of the associated money laundering associated with drug crime, the drug enforcement agency regularly monitors both In and out of state money transfers

Drug Monitoring and Control

DEA Mobile Enforcement Teams have been established within the state in response to the overwhelming problem of drug-related violent crime in towns and cities across the State. Law enforcement agencies continue to receive and monitor information on the use of subterranean tunnels to transfer both narcotics and undocumented migrants across the border. Many tunnels have been detected over the last decade but because of the wide spread unguarded border, limited law enforcement personnel it has been difficult to monitor the development of new tunnels, making this a primary transit point for narcotics and immigrants being smuggled from Mexico into the United States.


Arizona established a law in l996 that allows physicians to prescribe any Schedule I drug (including marijuana). The patient must be seriously ill and have a recommendation for that drug from a second physician on file. Because the Food and Drug Administration regulates such prescriptions, physicians cannot prescribe Schedule I drugs unless they have prior approval from the federal government.

A decade ago, Arizona became the first state to employ comprehensive drug policies. That proposal, also known as the Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act of 1996, mandates that non-violent drug offenders arrested for simple possession or use of an illegal drug must receive drug treatment instead of jail time for their first and second offenses. It also allows doctors to prescribe marijuana for medicinal use when it becomes legal to do so under federal law.

This new law has managed to save Arizona taxpayers millions of dollars both in terms of treatment and imprisonment costs. The majority of the offenders tested drug-free after completing the program. The Supreme Court concluded, “The Drug Medicalization, Prevention and Control Act of 1996 has allowed the judicial branch to build an effective probation model to treat and supervise substance abusing offenders. . . . All of these factors are resulting in safer communities and more substance abusing probationers in recovery.”

Arizona Appellate Court Judge Rudy Gerber reports, “[Proposition 200] is doing more to reduce drug use and crime than any other state program and saving taxpayer dollars at the same time.”

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