Latest Heroin Hauls Follow Black Tar Geography Theory

By Jason Gotlieb 07/30/11

Heroin is seized all over the US, but the "black tar" version is found mainly in the South and on the West Coast.

Territorial: Black tar heroin Photo via

A former Newark Airport mechanic, Joseph Muniz, 59, pleaded guilty in New Jersey to conspiracy to possess and distribute heroin as a part of a smuggling ring. He would pick up dope from Colombia that had been stashed in passenger seat life jacket compartments and deliver it to an accomplice. Meanwhile, eight pounds of black tar heroin were seized yesterday from an apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina—ranked fifth among US cities for the sale and distribution of this form of the drug. An ongoing, year-long investigation led to the $500,000 haul, but no arrests have yet been made. They say things are bigger out West, and sure enough police in San Bernardino, California seized a massive 76 pounds of black tar heroin—valued at $3 million—from a local home, following a 45-minute stand-off. Frank Javier Cardona, 33, was arrested; his neighbor had reported him for firing a gun in his front yard. Black tar heroin in the US is found predominantly in the South and on the West Coast. It's produced using a cruder and less expensive process than powdered heroin and ends up anywhere from 20%-80% pure. It has some different risks attributed to it. Researchers at UC-San Francisco found black tar heroin users are at lower risk of contracting HIV than those who use powdered heroin; black tar clogs needles, meaning users are more likely to clean them thoroughly or swap them out. But additional dangers include venous sclerosis and deadly bacterial infections.

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Jason Gotlieb is a programmer, software developer, and writer living in New York. You can find him on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.