Federal Drug Enforcement Cracks Down on Meth and Fentanyl
(10 May 2023) Federal drug prosecutions have begun to slowly rise after falling for decades. The latest available case-by-case records from all 94 U.S. Attorney offices show that 2,231 defendants were convicted of federal drug offenses in March 2023, the largest recorded monthly total since March of 2016.

On an annual basis, this represents the third year in a row that federal narcotics convictions have increased. If this monthly rate continues for the second half of this fiscal year, convictions could exceed 19,000 by the end of September. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) accounts by far for the largest number of federal criminal referrals resulting in drug convictions. During FY 2023, referrals on which it was the lead investigative agency accounted for 44 percent of all federal drug convictions.

There has also been a sharp shift in the drugs being targeted. Federal convictions involving fentanyl were rare five years ago. During FY 2017 there were just 63 convictions recorded. During the first half of FY 2023 there have already been more than 1,200. Meth convictions are up by 60 percent, while convictions for marijuana offenses are sharply down. During FY 2017 there were over 3,500 convictions involving marijuana. During the first half of this year there were around 350 or one-tenth that level.

The Southern District of California (San Diego) has been the most active federal district for over a decade. It had the highest number of federal drug convictions, and also ranked first relative to the size of its population. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigations have been responsible for most of this activity.

The U.S. Attorney Office in North Dakota ranks second in having the most drug convictions relative to the size of its population. The Southern District of West Virginia (Charleston) has the third highest number of federal drug convictions relative to its population size.

These results are based on an analysis of detailed case-by-case government records obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) under court order after successful litigation against the U.S. Department of Justice under the Freedom of Information Act.

For full details, including trends since the federal "war on drugs" was declared by President Nixon, see full report at:

In addition to these most recent overall figures, TRAC continues to offer free monthly reports on selected government agencies such as the FBI, ATF, DHS and the IRS. TRAC's reports also monitor program categories such as official corruption, drugs, environment, civil rights, immigration, white collar crime and terrorism. For the latest information on prosecutions and convictions through March 2023, go to:

Even more detailed criminal enforcement information for the period from FY 1986 through March 2023 is available to TRACFed subscribers via the Express, Going Deeper, and Analyzer tools. Go to for more information. Customized reports for a specific agency, district, program, lead charge or judge are available via the TRAC Data Interpreter, either as part of a TRACFed subscription or on a per-report basis. Go to to start.

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