Part 3—Cocaine

The 2020 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA) is a comprehensive assessment of the threat posed to the United States by the trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs, the diversion and abuse of licit drugs, and the laundering of proceeds generated through illicit drug sales. It also addresses the role domestic groups, including organized violent gangs, serve in domestic drug trafficking. The most widely trafficked drugs are discussed in terms of their availability, consumption and overdose related deaths, production and cultivation, transportation, and distribution.
The full report may be viewed at default/files/2021-02/DIR-008-21%202020% 20National%20Drug%20Threat%20Assessment_WEB.pdf
The report is divided into the following sections: Illicit Opioids and Heroin; Methamphetamine; Cocaine; Controlled prescription drugs; Marijuana; New psychoactive substances; Transnational criminal organizations; Drug threat in U.S. Territories and in Indian Country and Illicit finance. A summary of each  section will be published each week.
Production, trafficking, and abuse of cocaine consistently pose a threat to the safety and security of citizens and law enforcement, from the production zones in South America to transportation and distribution networks in the United States. Domestic availability is steady, likely driven by high levels of coca cultivation and cocaine production in the Andean Region of South America, and deaths from drug poisoning involving cocaine have increased every year since 2013.
Impact of COVID-19 on Cocaine Trafficking to the United States
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted multiple nodes of the cocaine trafficking supply line, yet has not significantly reduced the overall supply to the United States. In Colombia—the primary source country of cocaine in the United States—the pandemic has not significantly affected transnational criminal organizations’  (TCOs’) abilities to produce and smuggle cocaine, as of October 2020. COVID-19 related restrictions in South, Central and North America have not significantly impacted the  flow of cocaine to the United States. While these restrictions led to fewer opportunities for TCOs to engage in drug trafficking activities via air and land, the impact has generally not extended to maritime activity. Moreover, TCOs adapted and have continued smuggling large quantities of cocaine into the United States. Domestically, traffickers faced uncertainty and likely increased prices in an effort to maximize short-term profits in anticipation of a shortened supply as the pandemic progressed. Though availability and pricing of cocaine has varied in certain locations in the United States during the pandemic, the overall cocaine supply chain remains intact.
A steady supply of cocaine was available throughout U.S. domestic markets in 2019. Despite some reports of diminished supply during the spring of 2020, cocaine availability remained stable, although some price  fluctuations were reported across DEA Field Divisions in the early stages of shelter-in-place orders due to the pandemic. All 23 DEA Field Divisions reported cocaine was easily obtained throughout 2019. Ten  field divisions reported cocaine availability was high and 13 reported cocaine availability was moderate. The only division reporting a change from 2018 was the Louisville Field Division, where availability of the drug changed from high to moderate.
There were 196,721 cocaine reports submitted to NFLIS-Drug in 2019, a 14 %  decrease from the 229,803 reports submitted in 2018. In 2019, the number of cocaine reports to NFLIS- Drug was the lowest number reported in the past six years and is less than half of the amount reported at the peak in 2006 (640,141 reports). Still, of the top 25 most frequently identified drugs in NFLIS-Drug, cocaine ranked third overall in 2019, behind methamphetamine and cannabis/tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Sustained cocaine production at record levels in Colombia is likely stabilizing cocaine’s overall presence in the U.S. drug market.
Next series: Part 4—Controller prescription drugs.