Threat Assessments and Strategies
The Oregon-Idaho HIDTA program publishes a threat assessment on June 15th each year as well as county threat summaries. The threat assessment is an annual analysis of drug trafficking and related activities taking place in Oregon and Idaho. The primary purpose is to provide a basis for the development of the Oregon-Idaho HIDTA program's counter drug strategy by identifying and describing the organizations that engage in the manufacture, cultivation, importation, transportation, and/or distribution of illegal drugs or the diversion of prescription drugs in and through Oregon and Idaho. The counter drug strategy describes the Oregon-Idaho HIDTA program's plans to respond to the drug trafficking activities identified in the annual threat assessment
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2019 Threat Assessment Summary
Methamphetamine availability and trafficking continues to occur at a high level in the Oregon-Idaho HIDTA and remains the area’s greatest drug threat, followed by heroin; fentanyl and synthetic opioids; controlled prescription drugs; illicit marijuana; cocaine; and other dangerous substances.
Methamphetamine is widely used and trafficked in the region with most indicators – such as related seizures, deaths, arrests, and forensic samples – showing continued expansion. Crystal methamphetamine, or “ice,” is highly available as Mexican drug traffickers import methamphetamine powder, liquid, and finished product from laboratories outside the region and from Mexico. Methamphetamine labs in Oregon have remained low due to state legislation eliminating the ability to obtain pseudoephedrine without a physician’s prescription.
Over the last six years, the drug threat environment has shifted in the HIDTA from primarily methamphetamine trafficking and abuse to a dual threat that includes high availability and use of opioid-based drugs. Production of heroin in Mexico has expanded leading to greater access to low-cost product in Oregon and Idaho. In addition, high availability and misuse of prescription opioids have contributed to crossover abuse with heroin -- people who are addicted to prescription opioids have increasingly switched to heroin because it is easier to obtain, cheaper, and provides a more intense high than prescription opioids. The market for synthetic opioid drugs is continuing to evolve in the HIDTA. Fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and other dangerous synthetic opioids have become more prevalent in the region since 2013 with higher availability closely paralleled by increased overdose deaths.
The threat posed by non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs, mostly painkillers, has grown in recent years and parallels national trends. While some indicators, such as related hospitalizations, deaths and rates of prescribing, suggest a recent decline in misuse -- availability and misuse remain at a high level in the HIDTA. The rise in misuse of prescription medications can be attributed to greater availability through increased sales of controlled prescription drugs, liberal prescribing of opioids by doctors, and ease of access to the drugs through family or friends.
Marijuana use, cultivation, and trafficking are pervasive in the HIDTA. Oregon’s Medical Marijuana Act and recreational marijuana, which allow for specified quantities of marijuana to be grown, continue to be exploited for profit. In addition, illicit manufacture and distribution of cannabis extracts, such as hash oil and marijuana wax, have increased in the region and have led to a higher number of extraction labs and production-related fires and explosions.
Cocaine availability and use remain low in the HIDTA. However, some indicators, such as related seizures, deaths, and rates of use, point to elevated availability and are likely tied to increased production in Colombia, a source country for the United States. Cocaine use is most prevalent in the Portland Metropolitan area, but is available to a limited degree in other areas of the HIDTA. Other dangerous drugs such as MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), DMT (dimethyltryptamine), LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), synthetic cathinones, synthetic cannabinoids, and psilocybin remain available in the HIDTA. These substances are obtained from a variety of sources, including local production, retail outlets, the internet, and through cross border trafficking of product.
During 2017, participating agencies within the Oregon-Idaho HIDTA identified 42 DTOs with foreign and domestic connections that were actively operating in the HIDTA; 4 new DTOs were identified between January 1 and June 7, 2018.
Consistent with national trends, internationally-based Mexican DTOs continue to dominate the illicit drug market in Oregon and Idaho and represent the region’s greatest criminal drug threat. These criminal organizations control the transportation and distribution of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, Mexico-produced marijuana, and marijuana cultivated from outdoor grows on public lands in the HIDTA. Multi-state DTOs represent the second greatest criminal drug threat to the HIDTA. Multi-state DTOs identified in 2017 were mainly involved in the transportation and distribution of crystal methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine, with several DTOs active in cross-border trafficking of marijuana.
Criminal organizations that operate locally are the HIDTA’s third serious DTO threat, the majority of which were involved in trafficking and distribution of crystal methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine, with two DTOs identified during the year that operated large illegal marijuana cultivation operations. Other criminal groups, such as criminal street gangs and local independent dealers, also transport and distribute drugs, but to a lesser extent.
Drug trafficking groups in the HIDTA also engage in money laundering activities -- the legitimization of illegally obtained proceeds. Six Money Laundering Organizations (MLOs) were identified in the Oregon-Idaho HIDTA in 2017. Bulk cash smuggling, money service businesses, cash-intensive businesses, and bank structuring remain primary methods of transferring drug revenues into, through, and out of the HIDTA.
The Oregon-Idaho HIDTA counter-drug enforcement strategy is intended to be responsive to the threat indicators presented in this assessment and to complement legislative, treatment, and prevention strategies within the region. Active community anti-drug coalitions in the HIDTA are an important catalyst for community action and prevention education.