Wednesday, January 25, 2006


As you may be aware, a number of jurisdictions have moved cold medicenes containing pseudophedrine behind the counter, in an effort to curb production of methamphetamine in home-based labs. As anyone with a passing understanding of the drug war (or just anyone who had seen the movie "Traffic") could have told you at the time, these laws were likely to be ineffective at actually decreasing the use of meth due to the introduction of alternative supply chains to meet the demand, would be an annoyance to consumers of cold medicenes, and would carry with them a string of unintended consequences.

Now, via today's NY Times, we see confirmation of those beliefs. Law enforcement officials in Iowa (and elsewhere) are admitting that the decreased supply of meth from home-based labs has been more than made up for by an increase in imported meth from Mexico. And the imported crystal meth is more pure than the domestic variety, which may result in a high addiction rate (although I would propose that this "cost" is more than offset by the greater purity causing less unexpected consequences resulting from taking drugs with unknown content). Furthermore, the Mexican meth costs a lot more than the home-cooked stuff (due to a high risk premium associated with importing an illegal drug) which has increased the crime rate as those who once cooked at home on the cheap to support their habit are now resorting to theft in order to pay for the drugs.

Pretty standard issue stuff in the never-ending war on drugs. Trying to stop drug use by cutting out suppliers is like the game of Whack-a-Mole: as soon as you stamp out one of them, another pops up to replace it. And the new supply lines might be carrying some pretty nasty baggage along with it. It is absolutely clear a new method is needed to fight the drug war: why will the law enforcement establishment and the government refuse to see this? (I ask this rhetorically, of course. We know why: a lack of willingness to admit when you've been wrong about something, and the fact that so many jobs in the police force and the DEA are dependent upon the indefinite continuation of the status-quo war on drugs.)


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