Cocaine, Part 2: The local business of selling

Cocaine arrives in East Tennessee as the result of importation by local gangs or other drug-trafficking organizations.

It is imported in kilogram quantities as powder cocaine. The cost for a kilogram locally is about $40,000.

Once it has arrived, most cocaine is converted from powder to crack cocaine.

In order to make crack cocaine, the powder is stretched by typically adding baking soda or some other inert ingredient and a liquid and it is then heated to form a hard rock-like off-white “cookie” that is then broken or “cracked” into chunks or “rocks” for sale. These rocks are then sold for about $20 per 0.2 gram dose.

Extending that math means that each kilogram of cocaine that gets stretched, cooked and sold in small quantities would generate about $150,000 in revenue or almost 400% of the original $40,000 purchase price for the kilo of cocaine delivered to Anderson County.

Gangs or other organizations typically profit from sales of rocks to individual customers.

The distribution networks are pyramid shaped with the quantities sold getting smaller as the cocaine moves down the gang or organizational pyramid and ultimately reaches the street.

When I started, cocaine was sold by low-level dealers in a couple of neighborhoods in Anderson County. Buyers would drive to these neighborhoods and buy cocaine rocks from street dealers who would emerge to approach a slow-moving car.

After several undercover law enforcement operations and large-scale arrests, these street sales ended. Dealers instead were forced to meet buyers using their cellphones.

These meetings are usually very brief and typically occur in populated parking areas at grocery stores, fast-food restaurants and shopping areas.

Dave Clark is the district attorney general of the 7th District of Tennessee – serving Anderson County.