Methamphetamine seizures at U.S. ports of entry on the California-Mexico border reached unprecedented levels in fiscal 2014, as drug trafficking organizations strive to smuggle growing quantities of the low-cost Mexican-made product into the United States.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures show 14,732 pounds of meth seized by the San Diego field office during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, accounting for 63 percent of the synthetic drug seized at all land, air and sea ports of entry nationwide.Border_Crossing_X-Ray_at_San_Ysidro-JD_r620x349

With the California border as their main smuggling route, “the Mexican cartels are flooding the U.S. marketplace with their cheap methamphetamine,” said Gary Hill, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s assistant special agent in charge in San Diego.

Undercover agents are purchasing meth in San Diego for $3,500 a pound, versus about $11,800 for a pound of cocaine, Hill said. “We have seen the trend of the price of meth decreasing tremendously since 2008.”

Methamphetamine, a highly addictive synthetic drug, once was primarily produced in the United States, and San Diego was infamous as its manufacturing capital. But with a U.S. law enforcement crackdown on the precursor chemicals used to make meth, the drug is now largely produced in Mexico.

The DEA estimates that 90 percent of the meth consumed in the United States is manufactured in labs south of the border.

Mexican cartels are finding it far less expensive to produce meth in Mexico than importing cocaine from South America, Hill said. “The overhead is tremendous for cocaine,” while for meth, “the overhead is minimal. They oversee the manufacturing. There is no middleman.”

Hill said that production is largely controlled by the Sinaloa cartel and Knights Templar, groups that also control the smuggling routes on the California border, offering a theory as to why such as large proportion of the seizures would be coming through ports of entry such as San Ysidro, Otay and Calexico.

“That’s our supposition,” Hill said. “They control the gateway at San Diego and they seem to be the ones who are most involved in manufacturing the methamphetamine, so it kind of goes hand-in-hand.”

While San Diego has remained a transit center, much of the drug that makes it into the country is headed for distribution hubs farther north, according to Joe Garcia, interim special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego.

“Los Angeles has become a huge transshipment point,” Garcia said, with the drug ending up in a wide range of locations. “Our investigations take us through all corners of the country, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, North Carolina, Seattle, San Francisco, Montana. It’s going into Canada as well.”

Garcia dates the upward trend in meth seizures on the California border to 2009. “What we noticed first was an increase in smuggling among teens. Initially it was marijuana, then there was a shift to hard narcotics, where meth was the main hard narcotic being smuggled.”

CBP figures show a 300 percent increase in meth seizures at California ports of entry from fiscal 2009 to 2014.








  1. Doc says:

    How can anyone say that meth is NOT a major problem – worldwide?

  2. KC says:

    Seriously. I’m not sure why this isn’t more of a topic of conversation in the media and among people. It’s the single biggest problem facing people and our water, food, housing resources in our lifetime. i’d hate to think it’s because so many people are on it(!)