High Intensity Drug Trafficking AreaInternational
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Appalachia HIDTA

Mission Statement: The overall mission of the Appalachia HIDTA is to measurably reduce the impact of regional marijuana production, trafficking, and distribution in the Appalachia region and other parts of the United States through multi-agency collocated and co-mingled initiatives that attack, disrupt, and dismantle the drug trafficking and money laundering organizations operating within the Appalachia HIDTA area.

General Information:
Year of Designation: 1998
Geographic Area of Responsibility:
Kentucky: Adair, Bell, Breathitt, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Floyd, Harlan, Jackson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lee, Leslie, McCreary, Magoffin, Marion, Monroe, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Taylor, Wayne, and Whitley counties
Tennessee: Bledsoe, Campbell, Claiborne, Clay, Cocke, Cumberland, Fentress, Franklin, Grainger, Greene, Grundy, Hamblin, Hancock, Hawkins, Jackson, Jefferson, Macon, Marion, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, Rhea, Scott, Sequatchie, Sevier, Unicoi, Van Buren, and White counties
West Virginia: Boone, Braxton, Cabell, Gilmer, Lewis, Lincoln, Logan, Mason, McDowell, Mingo, and Wayne counties
Contact: (606) 877-2100

Threat Abstract:

The Appalachia HIDTA was designated in 1998. It is comprised of sixty-five counties located within the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The designated region is located within easy reach of several large major population areas of the United States. At the same time, the area consists of predominately rural and rugged terrain with soil, temperature, and other climate conditions ideally suited for marijuana production. Demographic conditions of the Appalachia HIDTA, including relatively high unemployment and low median family income, create an environment where illegal activities and corruption can flourish.

According to eradication statistics, marijuana is the number one cash crop in the three states which comprise the Appalachia HIDTA. Kentucky's eradicated marijuana crop for 1999 yielded plants valued at $787,088,000. That amount exceeded the number one legitimate cash crop, tobacco, by nearly $9,000,000. Tennessee's eradicated marijuana crop for 1999 yielded plants valued at $628,226,000 which surpassed all other legitimate cash crops individually with the closest being tobacco at $217,429,000. West Virginia's eradicated marijuana crop for 1999 yielded plants valued at $70,728,000. The total value of all other legitimate cash crops grown in West Virginia combined ($57,290,450) does not reach the cash value for eradicated marijuana. A total of 1.6 million cultivated marijuana plants were eradicated. Within the past year, a number of drug trafficking organizations have been identified as operating within the Appalachia HIDTA. The makeup of drug trafficking organizations within the Appalachia HIDTA generally consist of a loose confederation of family units and other associates cooperating in marijuana cultivation and information sharing regarding new growing techniques and law enforcement activity.

Strategy Abstract:

An Executive Committee comprised of eight federal and eight local/state law enforcement leaders from the three Appalachia HIDTA states allow a regional focus and synchronization of efforts to reduce the cultivation and distribution of marijuana within Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The manpower strength of the Appalachia HIDTA includes 105 full-time, and 595 part-time personnel utilized during intense concentrated enforcement periods. All signatories of the Appalachia HIDTA Memorandum of Understanding agree to mutual cooperation, sharing resources and intelligence information, utilization of specialized equipment, and regionalized training of personnel.

Appalachia HIDTA initiatives that implement the strategy include the three enforcement initiatives entitled Eradication, Investigation, and Interdiction. Eradication utilizes a regionally focused effort with heavy participation by the National Guard and state enforcement agencies, as well as the DEA. Investigation/Money Laundering which, because of the rural nature of the region, relies heavily on existing intelligence sources from State Police outposts, local agencies, and existing drug task forces. Interdiction focuses on the transportation of marijuana into and out of the Appalachia HIDTA region by private and commercial means.

In addition to the enforcement initiatives, the Appalachia HIDTA also includes Prosecution, Intelligence, Demand Reduction, Administration, and Evaluation Initiatives. Prosecution includes fulltime state and local prosecutors to encompass the full range of culpability of violators. Intelligence includes the Investigative Support Center (ICS) and the Marijuana Signature Lab. Demand Reduction utilizes their resources to attempt to change the attitudes towards acceptance of marijuana cultivation and use. Administration and Evaluation support all other initiatives.

Investigative Support Center:

The Appalachia HIDTA Investigative Support Center (ISC) is the centerpiece of the HIDTA as it provides the collocation and commingling of vital federal and state law enforcement personnel, and databases to assist all regional law enforcement agencies in counterdrug investigations, eradication, and interdiction. The ISC provides event and subject deconfliction services for officer safety and enhanced intelligence production; strategic intelligence for refined targeting and officer resource allocation; and in-service analytical intelligence training. The ISC provides HIDTA agencies and task forces with operational analytical support for ongoing "initiative driven" case activity through access to multiple criminal and commercial databases. The ISC provides narcotics intelligence analysis, prepares threat assessments, strategic reports, organizational studies, participates in informant/defendant debriefings, cultivates new Sources of Information (SOIs), performs post-seizure and search warrant analysis, supports large arrest operations (or "round-ups"), prepares and conducts briefings for visitors to the HIDTA, and assists in trial preparations. Additionally, the ISC conducts self-initiated intelligence analysis projects to generate leads for HIDTA investigative agencies. The Appalachia HIDTA Threat Assessment requires quarterly statistical reporting so that resources and direction can be reevaluated among the HIDTA initiatives.

Initiatives that were approved to implement the 2000 Appalachia HIDTA Strategy include:

  1. Eradication—a multi-agency aerial and ground surveillance effort to identify and eliminate both outdoor and indoor-cultivated marijuana in attempts to combat marijuana distribution and consumption in the three states. Within the Eradication Initiative, agencies conduct operations to identify and eliminate both outdoor and indoor-cultivated marijuana by providing trained personnel and equipment to search for marijuana plots and grows and help eliminate the marijuana cultivation.
  2. Investigation/Money Laundering—a collocated joint operation within each of the three-state areas focused on identifying and arresting persons involved in marijuana cultivation and trafficking and/or persons or businesses that are laundering drug trafficking proceeds. It conducts follow-up investigations resulting from significant seizures from interdiction efforts.
  3. Interdiction—a multi-agency effort to investigate, identify, and immobilize inbound/ outbound major domestic/international marijuana smuggling and trafficking by focusing on highway interdiction, as well as commercial carrier and package interdiction. This includes three-state combined resource efforts on specific locations at specific times of the year. This focused interdiction effort is designed to compliment seasonal eradication efforts.
  4. Prosecution—a joint federal and state prosecution effort to aggressively prosecute all marijuana and other illegal drug-related and money laundering investigations. It concentrates on working with the other initiatives to prosecute marijuana traffickers, cultivators and violent felons to target their equipment, property, and currency assets for seizure and forfeiture.
  5. Intelligence—an operation consisting of the collocated HIDTA Investigative Support Center (ISC) and the Marijuana Signature Lab located in Frankfort, Kentucky. Together they provide strategic, operational, and tactical intelligence to law enforcement officers and agencies. The Signature Lab researches domestically produced marijuana in an effort to determine areas of origin and trace the trafficking routes within the United States. The ISC is charged with three primary functions, case support, event deconfliction, and threat assessment development.
  6. Demand Reduction—an effort to reduce marijuana use among youth and alter the public consciousness that marijuana is a benign drug. It is connected through regional prevention centers in the three states and charged with stimulating the development of a comprehensive prevention program for all Appalachia HIDTA-designated counties. This is being accomplished by leveraging existing prevention resource programs and family service organizations and integrating multi-media advertisement campaigns.
  7. Administration—a collocated group comprised of officials who are responsible for both administration of the HIDTA funds and support of the funded activities. It carries out the policies of the Executive Committee, ensures that initiatives are established and executed in an effective manner, provides program oversight, measures program effectiveness, and revises initiatives where needed. It assists in the development of new initiatives and reports periodically to ONDCP through the Executive Committee.
  8. Evaluation—a unit located on the University of Louisville campus that serves as a resource center for the Appalachia HIDTA Executive Committee, Director, and Sub-committees for the Operations Initiative. It develops baseline data and measures the effectiveness of the HIDTA objectives as well as assists the Executive Committee and Director in data collection and analysis related to fiscal and budgetary issues.


The Appalachia HIDTA has been instrumental in allowing the law enforcement agencies within the three states to focus and concentrate on the tremendous marijuana problem. Because of severe manpower and budgetary constraints, as well as the proliferation of other drugs into the area, and the growing cultural acceptance of marijuana, the participating agencies were previously unable to dedicate the necessary resources to adequately address the marijuana cultivation problem. This situation was exacerbated by a general judicial sentiment within some of the state judicial circuits that trafficking marijuana was a less serious offense than trafficking other substances. The Appalachia HIDTA has refocused the spotlight on marijuana as a serious threat to national health and well being, and allowed the participating agencies to dedicate manpower to address the threat.

Additionally, the HIDTA Executive Committee conceptualized and implemented the Marijuana Signature Lab that is the only effort of its kind in the United States. This lab mirrors DEA's efforts in their signature programs of cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin in conducting its research to determine origin and track the flow of domestically cultivated marijuana to its marketplaces within the United States and even foreign lands.

Participating Agencies:

Federal: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service—Criminal Investigation, Tennessee Valley Authority Police, United States Forest Service, United States Marshal Service, United States National Park Service, United States Attorney's Office—Eastern District of Kentucky, United States Attorney's Office—Eastern District of Tennessee, United States Attorney's Office—Middle District of Tennessee, United States Attorney's Office—Northern District of West Virginia, United States Attorney's Office—Southern District of West Virginia, United States Attorney's Office—Western District of Kentucky, Department of Defense Joint Task Force Six
State: Kentucky State Police, Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement, Tennessee Alcohol Beverage Commission, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Tennessee Department of Public Safety, West Virginia Public Service Commission, West Virginia State Police
Local: Association of Chiefs of Police (KY, TN, WV), Sheriffs Association (KY, TN, WV)
Other: Champions for a Drug Free Kentucky, Civil Air Patrol, Kentucky Army National Guard, Kentucky Commonwealth Attorney's Association, Laurel County Fiscal Court, Tennessee District Attorney's Conference, Tennessee National Guard, University of Louisville Justice Administration Department, West Virginia Air National Guard, West Virginia Army National Guard, West Virginia Prevention Resource Center, West Virginia Prosecuting Attorney's Institute

Information is provided by the Appalachia HIDTA.

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