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Article Summary

Meth Production

Mexican criminal groups, who often operate high capacity superlabs, are the primary producers of methamphetamine in the Pacific and Southwest Regions; however, Caucasian independent producers also are active, typically operating low capacity laboratories capable of producing ounce quantities of methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine production on NFS lands in the Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest Regions is limited but increasing. In 2003, USFS reported 17 methamphetamine laboratory seizures in those regions, up from 3 reported seizures in 2001.

Caucasian independent methamphetamine producers are predominant in the Midwest, Northeast, Southeast and West Regions, typically operating small, mobile, low capacity Birch laboratories.

Law enforcement reporting indicates that methamphetamine laboratories have been discovered on federal lands throughout the United States. Methamphetamine laboratories often are discovered in or near caves, cabins, recreational areas, abandoned mines, and private vehicles located on or adjacent to federal lands. Methamphetamine laboratories on federal lands vary in size from small, mobile, low capacity laboratories operated by independent producers to high capacity superlabs capable of producing 10 or more pounds of methamphetamine in a single production cycle. Often operated by organized criminal groups, superlabs produce large quantities for wholesale distribution.

Methamphetamine production methods used on federal lands vary regionally. In the Midwest, West, and Southeast Regions, Caucasian independent producers using the Birch reduction method are predominant. In the Pacific and Southwest Regions, Mexican criminal groups and, to a lesser extent, Caucasian independent producers using the hydriodic acid/red phosphorus method are most common.

Methamphetamine Production Methods

Ephedrine/Pseudoephedrine Reduction:

Hydriodic acid/red phosphorus: Often associated with Mexican DTOs, this method can yield multipound quantities of d-methamphetamine. The precursor chemicals used in this method of production include ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, hydriodic acid, and red phosphorus.

Birch (also called the Nazi method): Most often used by small-scale, independent methamphetamine producers, this method yields ounce quantities of d-methamphetamine. Precursor chemicals include ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, anhydrous ammonia, and sodium or lithium metal.

NFS Lands

There are no conclusive estimates regarding methamphetamine production on federal lands; however, anecdotal and law enforcement reporting indicate that despite decreasing numbers of reported methamphetamine laboratory seizures, methamphetamine production on federal lands is a growing threat. Seizure data from NFS and DOI reveal fluctuations in the number of reported methamphetamine laboratories seized on federal lands in recent years. In 2003, 56 reported methamphetamine laboratories were seized on NFS lands, while 83 were seized on DOI lands that year, compared with 187 and 41 laboratories seized on NFS and DOI lands, respectively, in 2002.

DOI Lands

Methamphetamine production on DOI lands appears to be increasing. The number of reported methamphetamine laboratory seizures on DOI lands increased from 28 in 2001, to 41 in 2002, to 83 in 2003. In 2003, the greatest number of reported methamphetamine laboratory seizures on DOI lands occurred on lands managed by FWS (38 laboratories), followed by BLM (31 laboratories), NPS (8 laboratories), and BIA (6 laboratories).

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