It is perhaps fitting to start this overview of drugs in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Rampart, just west of downtown, the site of the Rampart Division Scandal that tarnished the city. The building I’m in houses the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area for Los Angeles (LA-HIDTA). HIDTA was formed in 1990 to address narcotics activity in (usually urban) areas designated as a major drug-trafficking vicinity within the United States (there are 28 such areas across the country, with another recently added in Ohio by President Trump).
An underlying mission behind HIDTA might be to mitigate the inter-agency rivalry so common between individual agencies. Thusly, within these walls representatives of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the LAPD, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), and well over a dozen other local, state, and federal agencies co-exist and collaborate to suppress the scourge of dope in the City of Angels (one of those present acknowledges that four other units active in the area are not represented here, although their presence is known, and likely monitored).
The DEA agents I’m meeting represent 50-plus years of experience in combating the influx of mind-altering substances into America. Now approaching middle age, they serve in administrative or media liaison positions. While the DEA’s jurisdiction spans the entire world, the people in the room have been stationed primarily in the southern and western United States.
The world of narcotic trafficking today is a global affair, one in which the more traditional, tribal conflicts of ethnicity and racial animosity take a backseat to the more tangible matters of economic growth, i.e., cash flow. Recently in the Mississippi prison system, two Chicago gang transplants, the Black Gangster Disciples and the White Simon City Royals, formed a mutually beneficial union. In return for protection within the prison walls, the Disciples aided the Royals with their drug trade on the streets. This strange arrangement between groups not traditionally tolerant racially, will replicate itself in other locales, between Latin Cartels and their Asian, Black, White, and Chicano minions on the street.
Sym·bi·o·sis – noun
—interaction between two different organisms living in close physical
association, typically to the advantage of both.
—a mutually beneficial relationship between different people or groups.
Within the continental United States, the Mexican cartels reign supreme as the primary importers of mind-altering substances, meaning that they supply all of the various racial criminal apparatuses of any consequence dealing dope within these boundaries. If history has any bearing on the progression of civilization, it shows that the pursuit of currency trumps issues of politics, religion, or any ideology connected to the human experience.
Initially however, forces with a common ethnicity bring these substances over the border, as LASD Lieutenant Glenn Walsh acknowledges.
“The cartels looks for people in the US who are from their local area, are related in some way, or have ties to Mexico in some way,” Walsh said.
Once the product is in country, the choice of business associates becomes a matter of expedience.
“That’s about where the concern of ethnicity ends,” Walsh continued.
“Once the drugs are in the US, the cartel will use anyone to facilitate the transfer of drugs (to the consumer).”
Like any other commercial concern, their primary focus is maximizing the profit margin.
As the Southern California Drug Task Force (SCDTF) Assistant Director, Walsh is at the hub of HIDTA-LA, in this latest chapter of a two-decade-plus career. He started as a drug recognition expert in the L.A. County Jail, and progressed throughout the L.A. metropolitan area, much of it in drug suppression. From this vantage point, Walsh has seen shifting trends in types and methodology of drugs means by which they are transported, as well as the attitudes and procedures authorities use to address this social issue.
Change of Venue
While crack cocaine, fentanyl and other opium derivatives hog the headlines in the media, all reputable parties agree that methamphetamine remains the primary substance of abuse, regardless of consumer race or locale.
“For methamphetamine we used to see small individual labs that would produce a few ounces at a time. These smaller batches were not high quality and were usually ‘cut,’” Walsh explained.
The stereotypical “speed freaks,” cooking up “meth” in out-of-the-way trailer parks in the Antelope Valley, has largely given way to more organized labs across the border, maintained by the cartels. This means that African Americans, largely stereotyped as abusers of crack cocaine, are increasingly likely to be exposed to meth as well. (Note: This contradicts 2016 revelations by John Ehrlichman interviewer Dan Baum, which claim that Nixon’s oppression to drugs was a ploy to win the Presidency and further subjugate the Black populace.)
“That led way to super labs which could produce multiple pounds, to hundreds of pounds, at a time. The quality was a little better, but it was still cut. That led to the California legislation’s changing the laws to restrict the access to the required chemicals for manufacturing. This pushed production into Mexico.”
“In Mexico they now have super labs that are producing very high quality meth, hundreds of pounds at a time, for cheap. When I first started working narcotics, in 2002, a pound of meth was around $4,500.
When California changed the laws and the precursors were more difficult to obtain, the cost of a single pound went to about $9,000. Currently a pound of methamphetamine is around $2,300.
Rethinking the business model
“when Prohibition failed, we pursued, in successive “wars,” other drugs, like opium, heroin, marijuana, LSD and now cocaine. We’ve lost all of these wars; we’ll lose this one too. While they haven’t eradicated drugs, our wars have achieved other goals, however dubious; perhaps that’s why they’re launched in the first place.”
—from “Drug Wars As Victimization and Social Control” by Robert Elias.
“If we looked at our society, we used to have areas in our city that were ethnically-based neighborhoods, the cartels would stick to the neighborhood their people lived in…maybe decades ago we could try to break drugs down by ethnicities, but that is not where are now. Drugs, and/or drug cartels, do not care about your race, culture, religion, political affiliations, age, gender, economic status, area you live in,education level, or job title, etc,” said Glenn Walsh of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department.
Methamphetamine, long associated with bikers and working-class Whites, is rapidly gaining traction in the Black community, especially its gay subculture. Affluent West Hollywood was rocked with the 2017 news of the meth overdose/death of Gemmell Moore in the home of Ed Buck, a wealthy White Democratic political power broker who allegedly had a fetish for injecting young Black men with the drug for his sexual gratification. As this article went to print, reports filtered in that gay or transgender vagrants are using public bathrooms near Dorsey High School to smoke meth and have sex during the day. These transients are reportedly more likely to bounce between neighborhoods, and interact with people outside their personal social groups.
This is true on a global scale as well. The Medellin Cartel that terrorized Miami in the 1970s and 80s eventually succumbed to law enforcement pressure, and the trafficking business veered westward, empowering the Mexican cartels so prominent today. More recently, Latin American smugglers are avoiding the risk impacted by authorities on the west coast, and looking to the affluent bastion of Western Europe. To reach these areas, they cross the Atlantic and use Africa as a weigh station to reach the intoxicant-starved clientele in the north. As Walsh tells it, a kilo of cocaine bringing in an average of $24,000 in Los Angeles will command as much as $70,000 in Europe.
This intercontinental leap-frogging is said to bring together new and intriguing associations. Afghan terrorists encounter Mexican cartels on the “Dark Continent,” whey they exchange the fruits of their opium poppy fields for cocaine from Latin America. The tenets of Islam are therefore bent to fuel the coffers of Jihad.