Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Marijuana confiscations and teen use on rise, and so are Mexican-cartel pot farms on public lands

Two key indicators of marijuana usage were up in 2009; was one factor the increasing role of Mexican cartels in marijuana production, a significant industry in some rural areas? Here's what we know:

The fiscal 2011 budget request from the Drug Enforcement Administration says marijuana seizures doubled from 1,539 metric tons in fiscal 2008 to 2,980 metric tons in fiscal 2009, which ended Sept. 30. Meanwhile, reported use of pot by teens also increased from 2008. "Several factors play into this number, and in any given year the amount of drugs seized by DEA can fluctuate," DEA spokesman David Ausiello told Ryan J. Reilly of Main Justice. But that's a pretty big increase. One official from the Marijuana Policy Project, a lobbying group that advocates legalization of marijuana, told Reilly he suspected the increase was a result of drug seizures from cartels. (Read more)

Part of the cartel growth may be attributed to Mexican drug gangs adopting an age-old domestic pot-growing strategy of using public land. "Pot has been grown on public lands for decades, but Mexican traffickers have taken it to a whole new level: using armed guards and trip wires to safeguard sprawling plots that in some cases contain tens of thousands of plants offering a potential yield of more than 30 tons of pot a year," Alicia A. Caldwell and Manuel Valdes of The Associated Press report. AP interviews with drug enforcement agents across the country pinpointed Mexican gangs as "largely responsible for a spike in large-scale marijuana farms over the last several years." (Read more)

As drug seizures and cartel activity are increasing, new data from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America reveals marijuana use among teens is also on the rise. The 2009 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, sponsored by MetLife Foundation, shows the number of teens in grades 9-12 who had used pot in the last month had grown by 19 percent, from 32 percent in 2008 to 38 percent in 2009. The group called for earlier intervention by parents as a key deterrent. (Read more)

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