Peninsula: Methamphetamine use declines, but cocaine on the rise

North Olympic Peninsula law enforcement officials say they are seeing a decline in methamphetamine use.

That’s the good news. The bad:

Cocaine is becoming more prevalent.

By this time last year, nine meth labs had been discovered in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

This year, that number is down to three.

Statewide, the Department of Ecology is reporting a similar drop in meth manufacturing.

In the first six months of 2003, 820 meth labs had been busted statewide. The number in the same period this year: 714.

“Definitely, numbers are down,” Clallam County Undersheriff Fred DeFrang said last week. “There’s a couple things going on.

“Legislation has made ephedrine (a key ingredient in the drug) less available, and there’s an increase in cocaine use and ‘B.C. bud.”‘

“B.C. bud” is the street name for a type of popular marijuana cultivated in British Columbia.

“The marijuana we’re getting on the streets today — it’s a very potent drug,” DeFrang said. “It’s a lot stronger than we used to find.”

Coke use up in Jefferson

On the eastern side of the Peninsula, cocaine use is also apparently greater.

“We have been finding some cocaine,” Jefferson County Undersheriff Ken Sukert said last week.

“For the last several years, we had been seeing little or none.”

DeFrang said he believes Mexican drug cartels hold some of the responsibility for shifts in drug availability.

“The Mexican cartels are back to trafficking Colombian cocaine,” he said.

“The late 1980s is when the meth first started showing up. People were buying cocaine from Mexican cartels, and they were handing off meth on the side.

“Gradually they started selling meth, which is highly addictive,” he said.

Education and crackdowns in the United States and south of the border on ephedrine sales have made the drug less lucrative, DeFrang said.

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