In the 1980s the drug problem reached crisis proportions in the United States. Illegal drugs came into the country from many sources, but basically marijuana came from Colombia, Mexico, Belize and Jamaica, and cocaine came from Colombia, Bolivia and Peru. Drug smuggling has changed dramatically since 1973, when the Coast Guard deployed just six cutters in drug interdiction. Sezures of marijuana shipments escalated through 1982, then began to drop off as smugglers shifted to cocaine, which was more profitable and easier to conceal than marijuana. In 1982, the Service seized 3.5 million pounds of marijuana and 2, 00 pounds of cocaine; in 1987, 1.3 million pounds of marijuana were seized along with seven tons of cocaine. In the 1990s heroin began to appear in large quantities.
Until the late 1980s, most of the cocaine was smuggled into southern Florida, the marketing and distribution center for the business, and most of it came into the United States by the shortest route from Latin America, via Colombia. By the late 1980s, the Coast Guard had improved its interdiction efforts, which drove the smugglers ashore. By the early 1990s, most cocaine began to be shipped into the United States over the land border with Mexico, and illegal drugs began to show up in container ships.
To interdict drug shipments, the Coast Guard depends on a defense in depth. First, it tries to stop drugs in the deparure zone in the southern Caribbean, where it currently employs seven or eight cutters and where the U.S. Navy also is present in support of the interdiction effort. Navy ships all cary a Coast Guard Tactical Law Enforcement Team to conduct boardings. Second, the Coast Guard tries to interdict drugs in the transit zone, the choke points in the Caribbean, employing six or seven cutters in the three principal Caribbean passages. Third, the Coast Guard tries to interdict drugs in the arrival zone, maintaining six to eight cutters off the coast of Florida. All cutters are supported by aerostat balloons, fixed radar sites, and aircraft that help by spotting air and maritime traffic.
At least one-third of all the foreign terrorist organizations, as of 2002, participate in, and profit from, the drug trade. If you buy or sell any illegal drug...any illegal drug... as far as we're concerned, you, too, are a terrorist.