Errol J. Chavez
Special Agent in Charge
Drug Enforcement Administration, Phoenix Division
April 30, 2003
(Special Agent in Charge Chavez often deviates from prepared text.)

Thank you, Governor Napolitano, for your inspiring remarks. Thank you, Cathy Waters, for the kind introduction. I am honored to be the closing speaker today for the 2003 Third Annual Arizona Drug Court Conference. I will try to give a comprehensive explanation of the Drug Enforcement Administration's position on Drug Courts.

Pointedly, the DEA and I support Drug Courts because they compliment the law, they help enforce the law, and they bring accountability under the law.

Before I talk about the value of Drug Courts, I think that you should know a little about the DEA. You asked me to speak to you today because of DEA's mission and how it effects Drug Courts. I can best describe that relationship by calling upon some of my experiences while performing my duties as a DEA Special Agent.

I have extensive experience in drug law enforcement on all levels, from small street level cases to participating in complex investigations involving international criminal organizations. My work has assisted in implementing DEA policy in Europe, Latin America, and the United States. Currently, as Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Division, my assigned area is the State of Arizona.

DEA's mission: I am sure all of you have heard of the DEA but many of you probably do not know what our mission is.

DEA is mandated by law to enforce the drug laws of the United States. That is our mandated mission. We cannot, as an agency, deviate from that mission. The DEA investigates, and targets for prosecution, organizations and individuals responsible for the production and distribution of illegal drugs. DEA has a legal mandate for enforcing provisions of the controlled substances and chemical diversion trafficking laws and regulations of the United States.

To accomplish this mission, we develop Priority Targets. There are three areas of focus on these Targets.

International Impact Targets: DEA will eliminate the power and control of the Major Drug Trafficking Organizations (MDTOs) and dismantle their infrastructure through disrupting and dismantling the operations of their supporting organizations that provide raw materials and chemicals, produce and transship illicit drugs, and launder money worldwide; and halt the operations of their surrogates in the United States.

National/Regional Impact Targets: DEA will continue an aggressive and balanced enforcement program with a multi-jurisdictional approach designed to help focus federal and interagency resources on illegal drug traffickers, their organizations and key members who have control of areas within regions of the United States, and on the drugs and assets involved in their activities.

Local Impact Targets: DEA will continue to attack the violence that plagues our cities, rural areas and small towns from the impact of drugs and help restore a positive quality of life to our citizens. DEA considers this an important part of its overall strategy to complement the state and local efforts with specialized programs that bring DEA's intelligence, expertise, and leadership into specific trouble spots throughout the state.

I would like to dispel some myths about the DEA and drug law enforcement.

The first myth: The DEA does targets users of illicit drugs. As for DEA, I know of no defendants that are in prison just because of use of illegal drugs. As many of you know, most anyone in prison convicted for possession is probably there as a result of a plea agreement. Those plea agreements usually are at reduced charges. Those that try to legalize or decriminalize drugs distort these facts.

The second myth: Casual drug use is a victimless crime. According to National Drug Threat Assessment 2003 (Prepared by NDIC, is available online at www.justice.gov.), America's drug users spent nearly $64 billion on illicit drugs in 2000. The total cost of drug trafficking and drug-related crime to American society in that year exceeded $160 billion. These figures do not take into account the lost productivity of these individuals in society.

Drug trafficking in the US and Arizona: The trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs and diverted pharmaceuticals pose a serious threat to Arizona and the United States. This is because of the adverse effects of drug abuse on the lives of millions of Americans and the substantial resources consumed in combating illicit drugs at the federal, state, and local levels.

In 2001, an estimated 28.4 million people in the United States, aged 12 and older, reported using an illegal drug within the past year. An estimated 3.2 million people were dependent on or were abusers of illicit drugs. Many of these people want out of the cycle of addiction. Drug courts can help.

The level of threat posed by individual drugs varies from region to region. Nationally, however, reporting from law enforcement and public health agencies indicates that cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, heroin, and MDMA (ecstasy) are still the greatest concerns.
Augmenting this reporting are results of National Drug Intelligence Center's (NDIC) 2002 survey. State and local law enforcement agencies nationwide identify their greatest drug threat as:

  • cocaine (both powder and crack) 33.1%
  • methamphetamine 31.0%
  • marijuana 20.4%
  • heroin 7.9%
  • diverted pharmaceuticals 2.7%
  • MDMA 2.0%

Other dangerous drugs such as GHB and GHB analogs, Ketamine, LSD, and psilocybin (mushrooms) are a considerable concern, particularly because of their appeal to adolescents and young adults.

The DEA has classified GHB, Ketamine, and Rophynol as Predatory Drugs. Predatory Drugs are used against both males and females to facilitate sexual assaults and other crimes of violence.

In Arizona, we are not exempt. In fact, statistically, we have more serious problems on the horizon. As you know, The Arizona Criminal Justice Commission Youth Survey of 2002 points out that Arizona kids are abusing drugs at higher rates than the National average.

Arizona's 12th graders are using cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, and alcohol at higher rates than the rest of the United States. The study suggests that Arizona kids do not perceive these drugs as being harmful. Quite frankly, Arizona's kids are not afraid of using drugs. Elimination of some demand reduction programs like DARE and a lack of accountability may compound the problem in the years to come. What will Arizona and the nation be like in the future, as these kids become adults?

To answer this question we must understand the enormity of the problem. Or, to put it in other words, what is the threat? The following is the major drug threat to Arizona and the United States.


Cocaine is a principal drug threat to the United States. Both powder cocaine and crack are prevalent throughout the country, and overall availability is stable at high levels. All DEA Field Divisions, as well as Phoenix, report that powder cocaine and crack are readily or widely available, and most describe cocaine as a drug threat to their areas.

The demand for powder cocaine and crack is relatively stable at high levels, and possibly rising slightly among adults. Estimated cocaine production increased in 2001; however, estimates suggest that only about 28 percent of the export-quality cocaine prepared for shipment to world markets was smuggled into the United States, primarily through the Mexico-Central America corridor.

The distribution of powder cocaine and crack is seen throughout the country, and the market for both forms of the drug appears to be stable overall. Primary market areas for cocaine include Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York.


Methamphetamine is also a principal drug threat to the United States. In Arizona, we are well aware of the problems caused by methamphetamine. While we have been dealing with methamphetamine for years, the Midwest and Eastern US are just beginning to understand the enormity of the problem.

Reporting from law enforcement agencies indicates that methamphetamine availability is widespread. In fact, during the first six months of Fiscal Year 2003, the amount of Mexican produced methamphetamine seized at the Arizona border surpassed amounts seized along the California, New Mexico, and Texas borders with Mexico.

The level of methamphetamine use in the United States is rising among adults and holding relatively steady among adolescents. In Arizona this picture is not seen; lifetime use of methamphetamine by 12th graders is 8.6% compared to 6.9% nationwide. In Arizona, almost nine (9) 12th-grade kids out of 100 have used methamphetamine. This is almost one (1) out of ten (10) kids using meth.

Law enforcement and laboratory seizure reporting suggests that production in the United States and Mexico increased slightly over the past year.


Marijuana is the most readily available and widely used illicit drug in the United States, and its prevalence has contributed to both an acceptance of marijuana use among some adults and adolescents and a perception that the drug is not harmful.

Nothing can be further from the truth. In 2000, Arizona Medical Examiner reporting indicated that marijuana was mentioned as related to eight deaths, a fact that we fail to report effectively.
Reporting from law enforcement and public health agencies indicate marijuana availability changed little over the past year. Available data suggest that marijuana production is high both in the United States and in foreign source areas.

Distribution of marijuana appears to be stable, and a wide range of criminal groups, gangs, and independent dealers distribute the drug throughout the country. Primary market areas for marijuana include Central Arizona (Phoenix and Tucson), Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Seattle.


Heroin is the most significant drug threat to the United States. Reporting from law enforcement and public health agencies indicates that the availability of heroin is widespread and that it is increasing, particularly in New England and in areas of the Mid-Atlantic. South American heroin is most prevalent in the eastern half of the country, while Mexican heroin is dominant in the western United States.

In Arizona, Mexican-brown and black tar heroin are available and popular in metro Phoenix and Tucson. Despite reports of increasing availability nationwide, overall demand for heroin appears to be relatively stable and possibly declining among adolescents. In Arizona, however, this picture is not seen. Lifetime use of heroin by 12th graders is 3.8% compared to 1.8% nationwide. In some urban affluent areas, there appears to be a rise in popularity of heroin.

Heroin generally is distributed in metropolitan areas; nonetheless, distribution of the drug has spread to smaller communities, largely facilitated by independent distributors who travel to large cities to purchase midlevel quantities for distribution in their home communities.

MDMA (ecstasy).

In Arizona, MDMA was pretty much ignored until Sammy "the Bull" Gravano was implicated in a distribution ring.

MDMA is widely available in every region of the country, principally in large metropolitan areas but increasingly in smaller cities and towns. Reporting from law enforcement and public health agencies indicates that MDMA is now considered a mainstream drug in many areas. MDMA, like other drugs, is widely available in nightclubs and schools, at parties and shopping malls and on street corners. MDMA is often sold with other drugs such as crack cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin.

The demand for MDMA appears to be increasing among both adults and adolescents; however, data from national-level studies indicate that the rate of increase has slowed.

MDMA produced in several countries is available in U.S. markets, but the Netherlands and Belgium continue to be the source of most of the MDMA in the United States. Domestic MDMA production remains limited. Arizona's only successful MDMA lab was reported in Flagstaff, involving Northern Arizona University students. However, an Arizona State Professor was implicated in the beginning stages of developing MDMA production locally.

Predatory Drugs.

DEA considers GHB, Rohypnol, and Ketamine among the drug category of "Predatory Drugs." Often, Predatory Drugs are used against victims of rape and other violent crimes.


Pharmaceutical controlled substances, which include narcotics, depressants, and stimulants, are a growing drug threat to the country. Pharmaceutical controlled substances are commonly diverted through fraudulent prescriptions, unscrupulous physicians and pharmacists, and theft. The number of armed robberies of pharmacies has increased substantially over the past 2 years. These robberies have particularly targeted the Schedule II narcotic OxyContin, which commands a very high street value.

Diverted narcotics such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and codeine are available in drug markets throughout the country, and this availability may be increasing. The overall demand for diverted narcotics is high and increasing, as are the consequences associated with their abuse. In Arizona, hydrocodone, oxycodone, and OxyContin are sold on the street for $1 per milligram.

The addictive nature of these drugs makes the abusers prime candidates for Drug Courts. Often it is an otherwise productive member of society that gets addicted to the drugs.

Drug Courts.

The DEA and I support Drug Courts. Drug Courts brings accountability within the confines of the law and it showers that accountability with compassion.

We in law enforcement want our work to have lasting results. We know that we can arrest the drug trafficker, and we are going to continue to do so. We can put people in jail, but until we stop the demand for drugs in our country, we are not going to completely solve the drug problem we face as a nation.

So what you are doing is important: stopping the addiction, reducing the demand. If you want to strike a blow against terrorism, then stop the demand for drugs in our country, because many times that is what funds and gives revenue to those who want to wreak violence upon our society.

As you may remember, Arizona's Medical Marijuana Initiatives/decriminalization efforts of 1996, 1998, and 2002, were misguided attempts by a few, well-funded, Legalization Lobby. Then, on last November's ballot, there were 2 competing Propositions; 203 and 302. Proposition 203 would effectively decriminalize all drugs. Proposition 302 would finally give the courts the power to effectively deal with the problem of drug abuse. Luckily, the voters recognized the difference, Proposition 203 failed and Arizona Prop 302, passed in November.

Drug courts work because of mandatory testing, immediate sanctions for drug use, frequent appearances in front of the same judge, and close supervision of rehabilitation. In short, accountability.
We all know that, the goal of treatment for addicted offenders is two-fold: To return a productive individual, free of addiction, to society, and to reduce the expense of drug-related crime to society.

Clearly Defined Target Population and Eligibility Criteria:

Drug Courts cannot solve all drug problems. They cannot be all things to all people. A clearly defined target population includes looking at the charge and the related behavior of the offender group. Clearly defined target populations must be focused to benefit the community. Examples may be juveniles, homeless, prostitutes, methamphetamine or heroin addicts or some other population that would benefit the community. Drug Cartel leaders and significant associates do not fall into this category.

Drug Testing:

Drug testing is an affirmation of success and promotes accountability. Design drug testing to be frequent, random, and observed. Document testing policies and procedures in writing.

Not used as a plea bargain tool:

Drug dealers and other criminals need to be treated as the criminals that they are. Drug Courts may not be the proper forum for adjudication of their criminal acts for disposition of a case. Judges, prosecutors, treatment workers and all other stakeholders should be cautious in the types of offenders that are allowed to participate. If Drug Courts are to be successful in Arizona, we all must stand guard against abuses of Drug Courts.

In closing, based upon the threat facing Arizona and the United States, Drug Courts make sense. Drug Courts are balanced with compassion and accountably. They are economical compared to other alternatives. They save lives for the benefit of the individual and to society.

To quote our President, "We must do this for one great moral reason: over time, drugs rob men, women, and children of their dignity and their character."

Governor Napolitano and distinguished guests thank you for what you do and thank you for the opportunity to represent DEA on this important topic.

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