DEA Congressional Testimony
April 11, 2002

Statement of
Asa Hutchinson
Administrator, Drug Enforcement Administration
Before the
United States Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control

Executive Summary

In the past, Americans viewed drug abuse and addiction as an overwhelmingly urban problem. As the drug problem escalated, drugs did not respect geographic boundaries and began to stream into rural neighborhoods throughout small town America. In the heartland of America, residents began to feel the impact of drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, MDMA, heroin, and OxyContin®, which entered their towns at an alarming rate. Previously centered in major urban areas, violence associated with drug trafficking also became part of the landscape in smaller cities and rural areas.

In January 2000, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) released a study stating that the rate of drug use is higher in rural America than in large urban areas. The CASA study indicated that eighth graders, living in rural America, were 104% more likely to use amphetamine and methamphetamine than children living in urban areas. DEA has balanced the allocation of personnel resources between urban and rural areas to meet the growing challenge of drugs in rural America.

photo - Chairman Biden
Senator Biden


photo - Senator Grassley
Senator Grassley

Chairman Biden, Co-Chairman Grassley, and distinguished members of the Caucus on International Narcotics Control. I am grateful for the opportunity to address this Caucus regarding new trafficking trends in rural America, and the steps the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is taking to provide enforcement assistance and train state and local law enforcement agencies to respond to the threat. I would also like to thank members of this Caucus for your unwavering support for the men and women of the DEA.

CASA logoAccording to the 2000 National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) study, rural areas have long been viewed as isolated and therefore protected from the negative impact of drug usage. In recent years, drug traffickers have discovered a lucrative market in these areas. Local law enforcement agencies lack sufficient resources to address and attack the violent drug organizations invading their communities. My testimony will focus on drugs that have become prevalent in rural America and active DEA programs that assist state and local law enforcement agencies to combat the drug trafficking problem.


Rural areas present unique problems to local law enforcement agencies, which often have limited resources to combat drug trafficking. DEA stands ready to assist by providing a variety of initiatives, programs, and training that contribute valuable resources designed to aid local law enforcement in this all important endeavor. I will begin today's testimony by discussing the increasing problem that federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies face in combating methamphetamine trafficking groups operating throughout America.


photo - methamphetamine

Methamphetamine is popular with users in rural areas due to the fact that it is easy to manufacture by traditional small scale "cooks" and is widely available through Mexican criminal organizations that control "super labs" in rural areas. In 2001, the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) reported the seizure of 7,755 methamphetamine laboratories. Rural area methamphetamine laboratory seizures accounted for 38 % of these seizures.

According to the 2000 CASA study, children 12 to 14 years of age living in rural America are 104% more likely to use amphetamine and methamphetamine than children living in urban areas. One most disturbing statistic of this drug and its detrimental effects on society concerns children who are present during methamphetamine laboratory seizures. In the "Associated Children Report" for 2001, EPIC reported 1,698 children present during the seizure of methamphetamine laboratories. Six hundred of these children were reportedly exposed to toxic chemicals and 597 children were placed in child protective custody. Nine children were reported injured.

Small toxic laboratories account for a vast majority of the methamphetamine laboratory seizures. Approximately 60 % of the methamphetamine laboratories seized in the United States had a production capacity of less than 8 ounces. These laboratories produce toxic and hazardous waste materials, which presents many collateral issues that prove to be problematic for local communities.

The primary source of the methamphetamine distributed and abused in the United States is produced by Mexican national drug trafficking organizations operating clandestine "super labs". These laboratories are able to produce more than 10 pounds of methamphetamine in a 24-hour period. The "super labs" account for the majority of the methamphetamine distributed in the United States but represent approximately 3.5 % of the total methamphetamine laboratory seizures nationwide. The following graphic illustrates rural methamphetamine super laboratory seizures in states with five or more CY2001 seizures.

Methamphetamine Super Laboratory Seizures CY 2001
(States with five or more Seizures)

See d link for descriptive textd

Manufacturers of methamphetamine increasingly use national forests as laboratory sites. According to the United States Forest Service, overall seizures on Forest Service lands totaled 488 laboratories and dumpsites in 2000, and 344 laboratories and dumpsites in 2001.

In 1990, DEA established a Hazardous Waste Cleanup Program to address environmental concerns from the seizure of clandestine drug laboratories. This important program promotes the safety of law enforcement personnel and the public by using highly qualified companies with specialized training and equipment to remove hazardous wastes. In FY 2002, DEA has been allocated $20 million from Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), $4.1 million in DEA appropriated funds and $3.7 million from the Asset Forfeiture Fund to assist state and local agencies.

photo - cocaine


It is estimated that 2.7 million Americans are chronic cocaine users while another 3 million are occasional users. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) in CY 2000, cocaine led the Emergency Department (ED) reported drug episodes, accounting for 174,896 mentions.

While cocaine use in the United States has declined over the past decade, the rate of use in recent years has stabilized. According to the 2000 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA), overall illicit drug use among youths, aged 16 and 17, was higher in 2000 than in 1999, but the change did not reach statistical significance. Rates of use of most drugs during 2000 were higher among youth and young adults than among older adults, with 43 % of cocaine users under age 26.

Cocaine and "crack" cocaine remain readily available throughout much of the United States. "Crack" cocaine poses a significant problem in rural communities where local law enforcement is less familiar, than their urban counterparts, with "crack" cocaine-related violence. Local departments also have fewer resources to combat this increasing problem, which is often fueled by a vast interstate trafficking network.

photo - heroin


Heroin trafficking and abuse remain largely confined to major American cities, although in recent years its use has spread to suburbs, smaller cities, and towns. Most of the less populated areas of the country that have recently seen the arrival of heroin, particularly from Colombia, are not surprisingly on the East Coast. Mexican black tar heroin dominates West Coast states, which have witnessed the movement of this substance beyond city limits.

In the Mid-Atlantic States, the range and diversity of heroin use has been broadening. Availability of heroin continues to plague the Baltimore metropolitan area and in particular, its suburbs. Heroin is available in most rural regions, but at limited levels. In West Virginia and other rural heroin markets, local distributors usually travel to the source cities, such as Philadelphia. Similar situations are evident in other areas of the Mid-Atlantic, where it is more common for couriers from a local distribution organization to travel to New York City or other source cities to obtain heroin. Recent intelligence suggests that the emergence of more organized and sophisticated groups tends to inhibit this entrepreneurial brand of trafficking.

Club Drugs:


photo - MDMA

3, 4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, also known as "Ecstasy,") is a Schedule I synthetic, psychoactive drug, possessing stimulant and hallucinogenic properties. It is one of the "club drugs" that have become popular among teens and young adults at dance clubs and "raves". According to the 2000 NHSDA survey, more than 6.4 million people age 12 and older reported that they had used MDMA at least once in their lifetime. The unpredictable purity levels and unknown origins of these drugs poses a serious threat to club drug users lulled into a false sense of safety about this drug. It is reported that rave promoters in major metropolitan areas sponsor rave events in rural areas in order to facilitate their club drug distribution activities.

In an effort to focus national attention on the MDMA threat and provide demand reduction programs concerning the dangers of club drugs, DEA hosted the International Conference on Ecstasy and Club Drugs in August 2000. DEA also implemented a series of regional club drug conferences that distributed DEA's demand reduction message to a variety of selected communities. In May 2001, a regional conference was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. These conferences include representatives from large and small communities, including law enforcement agencies from rural areas. DEA hosted the conference in partnership with the New Jersey Prevention Network and the New Jersey State Police to develop effective enforcement and prevention strategies by bringing together federal, state, and local experts familiar with the club drug issue. Regional conferences were also held in Chicago, Illinois, and San Diego, California.

GHB, Rohypnol, Ketamine (Date Rape Drugs)

Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB) has been used in the commission of sexual assaults as it renders the victim incapable of resisting, and may cause memory problems that could complicate case prosecution. GHB recipes and ingredients are accessible over the Internet and are simple to produce. GHB is also ordered from Internet websites disguised as cleansers and cleaning agents.

Rohypnol (Flunitrazepan), most commonly known as a date-rape drug, continues to be abused among teenagers and young adults, usually at raves and nightclubs. The drug remains readily available, mainly through pharmaceutical operators located in Mexico, especially Tijuana. Seizures, which appear to be declining, occur primarily along the Southwest Border. Rohypnol usually is smuggled into the United States by way of mail or delivery services.

Marketed as a general anesthetic for human and veterinary use, the only known source of Ketamine is via diversion of pharmaceutical products. Veterinary clinics continue to be a primary source for Ketamine across the nation, and clinics in rural areas appear to be the most vulnerable to break-ins. DEA reporting indicates that a major source of Ketamine in the United States is product diverted from pharmacies in Mexico.

The DEA Dangerous Drugs Unit (DDU), provides support to domestic and foreign investigations that target organizations and individuals involved in the production and distribution of club drugs.

photo - oxycontinOxyContin®:

OxyContin® is a synthetic opiod intended for use in the treatment of chronic moderate to severe pain when a continuous, potent, narcotic pain reliever is needed for an extended period. When misused, however, it delivers a heroin-like high. At 7.2 million prescriptions in 2001, this highly potent drug has become the number one prescribed Schedule II narcotic in the United States.

DEA has noted a dramatic increase in the availability and abuse of OxyContin® during the last two years. Contrary to other drug abuse trends, the illegal use and sale of OxyContin® appears to have begun in certain rural areas, particularly Appalachia, and has extended to suburban and urban areas. Spreading from the Eastern States, OxyContin® abuse is a growing problem throughout the nation. Associated criminal activity also has grown, with pharmacies targeted nationwide for robberies of this drug in preference to other drugs and cash. In rural areas throughout the United States, law enforcement authorities are reporting an increase in the number of burglaries, thefts, and robberies of pharmacies and residences.

In response to escalating abuse and diversion of OxyContin®, DEA has begun a comprehensive National Action Plan, which concentrates on enforcement and regulatory investigations targeting key points of diversion, including forged and fraudulent prescriptions, pharmacy theft, doctor shoppers, and unscrupulous medical professionals. The National Action Plan also includes cooperative efforts among DEA, other governmental agencies and the medical community, to send the message that OxyContin® is a highly abusable and addictive substance. DEA supports state efforts to enact Prescription Monitoring Programs, which have demonstrated their effectiveness in preventing and deterring diversion of pharmaceuticals.

photo - marijuana


According to the 2000 NHSDA, marijuana is used by 76 % of current drug users. Marijuana from Mexico or Colombia accounts for most of the marijuana available in the United States. Domestically produced marijuana, however, is increasingly available.

Domestic traffickers continue to cultivate various quantities of marijuana in rural America, frequently on public lands. In 2000, the United States Forest Service reported the eradication of several outdoor cannabis cultivation areas in California, Hawaii, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Authorities eradicated 2.6 million outdoor plants and 217,000 indoor plants in 2000. In rural Shasta County, California, agents located a large-scale indoor marijuana growing operation and seized approximately 4,300 marijuana plants from a residence and 21 pounds of processed marijuana from a barn located on the property.

DEA continues monitoring state legislation to combat marijuana legalization. Congress has mandated a centralized, controlled, and scientifically based approval system for all medicines in the United States. The Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Surgeon General have recently re-affirmed the fact that there is no scientifically valid data to support the medical use of marijuana in the United States. DEA provides information to state legislators about the facts concerning marijuana and how proposed legislation impacts drug law enforcement.

photo - man riding a motorcycleGANGS IN RURAL AMERICA:

Gangs continue to tax the resources of both urban and rural law enforcement agencies throughout America. For example, members of the highly organized "High Street Gang" have been operating in rural areas of southern Maine and New Hampshire and continue to be responsible for the acquisition and distribution of pharmaceutical controlled substances. Outlaw motorcycle gangs pose a unique threat to rural America, due to their nationwide presence and inherent mobility. These motorcycle gangs have historically controlled much of the marijuana distribution in Maine and are responsible for the distribution of methamphetamine in western Pennsylvania.


Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF):

The OCDETF program, which utilizes the resources of federal, state, and local law enforcement, under the coordination of the United States Attorneys, is a central part of the Attorney General's drug strategy to reduce the availability of drugs nationwide. New OCDETF initiatives for FY 2002 include the development and implementation of an intelligence based strategic plan that identifies the major drug trafficking and related money laundering organizations in each region and the ability to review and add new targets, as necessary. OCDETF investigations also will target those drug organizations that enable or support terrorist activity through the profits derived from drug trafficking.

Because major drug trafficking organizations affect every community in America, the goal of OCDETF is to create an effective coalition between federal, state, and local law enforcement entities to target and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations. DEA values the importance of state and local participation in the OCDETF program. As a result, in FY 2001, DEA deputized 1,554 state and local officers from large and small police departments under the OCDETF program. Overall, in FY2001, state and local law enforcement participated in 89.5 % of OCDETF investigations, nationwide.

DEA State and Local Task Force Program:

There are currently 1,172 Special Agent positions assigned to this enforcement program to work alongside 1,916 state or local police officers in 207 task forces. The budget for FY 2002 is $20.1 million. The task force groups facilitate information sharing through the interaction of task force officers and DEA agents. In 2001, DEA asset forfeitures resulted in the equitable sharing of $179,264,498 with local and state police departments.

DEA Priority Targeting System:

The Attorney General recently announced a single consolidated target list of major local impact drug trafficking organizations. DEA's Priority Targeting System applies to local impact investigations, some of which are to be included in the national consolidated target list.

As part of Priority Targeting, DEA compiles a comprehensive list of Priority Drug Trafficking Organizations (PDTO) from those submitted by field enforcement divisions. There are currently186 Local Impact PDTO investigations, which represent 30 percent of all PDTO investigations designated by DEA.

  • In August 2000, a local impact methamphetamine investigation was conducted in Winnemucca, Nevada, a rural community comprised of approximately 7,000 residents. This investigation resulted in the arrests of the primary targets and their conviction in Federal court.

Mobile Enforcement Team (MET):

The MET program assists local law enforcement entities who lack manpower and resources to attack violent drug organizations in their neighborhood and restores a safer environment for residents in these communities. The MET Program currently consists of 22 teams in 20 Field Divisions. These teams are highly mobile, and are equipped to operate remotely for short periods of time. Since its inception, there have been 351 MET deployments initiated, throughout the United States. These MET deployments have resulted in the overall decrease in violent crime such as murder, robbery, and assault.

  • In June 2001, the MET deployed to Humble, Texas. The investigation was coordinated with several local and state law enforcement agencies and resulted in 34 arrests, including the primary targets.

  • In October 2000, the MET deployed to Hopewell, Virginia. MET utilized its resources to dismantle two organizations and arrest 41 individuals. According to Hopewell Police Department Chief Wayne E. Cleveland, drug sales in the Arlington Heights area of Hopewell decreased dramatically as the result of this law enforcement effort.

Regional Enforcement Team: (RET):

In early 1999, the RET Program was created. The RET was established to enable DEA to provide an immediate, flexible, and effective law enforcement response to this growing problem. The RET Program currently consists of four teams based in Charlotte, North Carolina; Des Moines, Iowa; Las Vegas, Nevada; and San Antonio, Texas.

  • In November 1999, the RET deployed to Joplin, Missouri. The 4-month investigation, which involved 5 Title III wire intercepts, concluded with the arrest of 34 individuals, including the primary targets.

  • In September 1999, the RET deployed to the Western District of North Carolina. One trafficking organization was responsible for distributing "crack" cocaine in the Asheville, North Carolina area. At the conclusion of this investigation, 19 individuals were arrested. A second trafficking organization was responsible for taking control of the methamphetamine market in western North Carolina. As a result of this investigation, 20 individuals were arrested.

Integrated Drug Enforcement Assistance (IDEA):

Recently, I announced a coordinated anti-drug plan "IDEA" (Integrated Drug Enforcement Assistance) which combines law enforcement with intensive community follow-up designed to reduce drug demand. This program will team the DEA with state and local law enforcement to arrest and prosecute the most significant drug traffickers within designated communities, and then will form coalitions to reduce demand through drug prevention and treatment.

A community commitment is the focus of IDEA. Follow-up to enforcement efforts will involve community-based organizations, businesses, faith-based organizations, parks and recreation departments, schools, drug courts, and restorative justice. The program will also include an advisory council comprised of officials from law enforcement, the judiciary, substance abuse, and crime prevention. These experts will consult with DEA on the program design, its implementation, and the final evaluation.

Under this new initiative, the DEA will combine a law enforcement effort and a partnership with community coalitions, for a long-lasting reduction in demand, through drug prevention and treatment programs. In addition to the contributions of professional personnel to IDEA, the program will include volunteers consisting of current and former law enforcement employees, concerned citizens, and youth group volunteers. This will be augmented with demand reduction training in community mobilization, coalition building, prevention and treatment. DEA's aim is to double its number of Demand Reduction Coordinators, with the ultimate goal of having one Demand Reduction Coordinator in each state.


DEA provides a variety of training programs for state and local law enforcement personnel. In FY 2001, DEA trained over 64,000 state and local law enforcement personnel. Training programs are conducted at the DEA Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia; within the agency's 22 domestic field divisions; and at off-site locations across the United States. There are nine major types of training provided for state and local law enforcement personnel as depicted below:

DEA State and Local Training - Number of Students

Programs FY 1999 FY 2000 FY 2001 FY 2002
Clandestine Laboratory Certification and Tactical Training
Clandestine Laboratory Awareness Training
Leadership Training Seminars
Confidential Source Management
Asset Forfeiture School
Small Town And Rural Programs (S.T.A.R.)
Basic/Advanced Drug Law Enforcement
Specialized Training Courses
Intelligence Training
Total Number of Students
Note: In FY 2000, a video broadcast on Clandestine Laboratory Awareness was made to approximately 10,000 state and local personnel. A second broadcast is planned for FY 2002.

DEA's domestic field divisions provide most of the specialized training to state and local departments. Each field division has a minimum of one Special Agent designated as the Divisional Training Coordinator (DTC), who provides training programs to state and local law enforcement personnel throughout that agent's area of responsibility. The DTC has a unique position of being on location and receiving daily, first hand knowledge regarding the specialized training requirements and current drug trafficking trends confronting local departments. This allows a wide variety of specialized training courses for state and local law enforcement agencies. In FY 2001, DTC's coordinated training for 44,835 state and local officers.

The DEA Basic Clandestine Laboratory Certification School is the most widely recognized law enforcement-sponsored clandestine laboratory training course and meets the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. With the increase in the number of clandestine laboratory seizures throughout the country, there has been a corresponding escalation of problems confronting state and local agencies that are often the first responders called to the scene of these laboratories. Clandestine Laboratory Training is available for state and local officers throughout the United States.

DEA also provides training to state and local departments, through the National Center for State and Local Law Enforcement (S.T.A.R.), in conjunction with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia. DEA coordinates three drug enforcement training programs under the S.T.A.R. program at offsite locations throughout the United States. These programs are designed to deliver training to local police departments in areas with less than 50 sworn officers and populations under 25,000 people. Program courses include a Drug Law Enforcement School for Patrol Officers, the Drug Enforcement Train-the-Trainer Program, and the Drug Task Force Supervisors School.


Again, I would like to thank the Caucus on International Narcotics Control for inviting me here today, giving me an opportunity to speak to you regarding drug trafficking trends in rural America and the steps DEA is taking to address this important issue. Drugs know no boundaries and do not discriminate. Drugs do not make distinctions between big city and small town America, urban or rural. Drugs do not make distinctions between color and ethnicity. Drugs impact the lives of all Americans, whether rich or poor. It is the collective responsibility of not just law enforcement agencies, but all Americans to do their part in this fight against illegal drugs.

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