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High Anxiety

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True, everything has changed, but marijuana, too? "I've noticed that my bags of weed have gotten smaller and smaller since September 11," says one user, "and they're a lot more expensive too." Pot-induced paranoia? Not necessarily.

If the war on terror is making us safer (and more anxious), with stepped-up surveillance everywhere, it's also doing something the war on drugs never quite did: putting a serious crimp in the drug supply. "Our $50 bags are now $60 bags," says a runner for a Bronx-based marijuana ring, "and we're weighing the product with stems." Of course, some dealers might just be capitalizing on drought fears. "Dealers are smart," says New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan. "They're going to raise prices for real reasons and for pretend reasons."

Still, many drug-smuggling operations have seen real collateral damage from America's new war: Last week, the DEA reported a 29 percent increase in drug seizures at the border in October compared to last year. One Manhattan dealer says he's unable to get ketamine, the animal anesthetic-cum-party drug, which comes in bulky glass bottles. "My distributor used to pay off a guy at the Canadian border," he says, "but that's not working now. There are too many people watching over him."

Back at home, high-profile busts have heightened users' -- and dealers' -- anxiety: Recently, Brennan's office seized hundreds of pounds of cocaine and marijuana from a tractor trailer parked in Hunts Point. (More bizarrely, one of the bigger busts of the fall came on September 11 -- in Battery Park City, no less, when a firefighter tipped off cops to an apartment that held nearly $100,000 worth of ecstasy.) And one longtime ecstasy dealer says he was shocked to be arrested by the DEA just weeks after September 11. "I thought they had better things to do," he harrumphs.

Still, drug users probably won't have to scrape their ATM cards for that last whiff of cocaine just yet. "No matter how much scrutiny we give to our borders, we can't seal them off," admits one U.S. Customs official. "Don't forget that this is a business for the traffickers -- they'll always find a way to get their goods to the marketplace."


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