Tag: Mexico

Have Changing Marijuana Laws Led to an Increase in Heroin & Meth Smuggling?

The Unexpected Result of Relaxing Marijuana Laws

In a sentence I never expected to write – the US’s changing attitude towards marijuana has led to a decrease in Mexican pot smuggling and a large increase in heroin and meth smuggling.

As more and more states decriminalize marijuana, legalize it for medical use, and even legalize it for recreational use…Mexican drug cartels are losing vast amount of money. Their cheaply grown, low potency pot just can’t compete with its genetically engineered and meticulously grown US counterpart.

In fact, Raul Benitez-Manaut, a professor and researcher from the National Autonomous University in Mexico, had the following to say about this strange shift,

“Legalization of marijuana for recreational use has given U.S. consumers access to high-quality marijuana, with genetically improved strains, grown in greenhouses…That’s why the Mexican cartels are switching to heroin and meth” (The Washington Post).

Join us on an exploration of this new phenomenon and what it means for American anti-drug efforts.

Learn more about the increase in Mexican produced meth

A Drastic Increase in Heroin & Meth Seizures

What exactly is happening at our shared border with Mexico? Well, according to the Post, seizures of both heroin and meth are way up. Marijuana arrests, on the other hand, are way down:

    • Since 2011, there’s been a 37% decrease in the amount of marijuana intercepted by federal, state, and local border officers.


    • There were 2,181 kilograms of heroin seized along the border in 2014.


    • While the majority of this heroin was of the “black tar” variety, some was white. This is higher quality heroin which can be snorted or smoked instead of injected.


    • There were 15,803 kilograms of meth seized along the border in 2014. This is a huge increase from the 3,076 seized in 2009.


    • The DEA estimates that 90% of all US consumed meth is manufactured in Mexico.


    • There’s also been a sharp decrease in the amount of cocaine intercepted along the border. There were 11,917 kilograms seized in 2014, down from over 27,000 kilograms seized in 2011.


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This is all a long way of telling a short story – as drug cartels in Central and South America lose their marijuana business to US growers, they’ve started to double down on smuggling both heroin and meth.

With our country currently in the grips of a heroin epidemic, and meth ever increasing in popularity, this seems like a strategic move by the cartel. It also seems like it’s working to increase the their bottom line.

What Can We Do?

There’s no easy answer to this question. While, on the one hand, it’s certainly a good thing that the production and distribution of marijuana is being taken away from illegal drug gangs – it’s a very bad thing if they’re replacing lost profits by increasing heroin and methamphetamine production.

One answer may be to take some of the same ideas currently being used for marijuana and apply them to heroin and meth. Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t think we should legalize either drug. Still, some government regulation would take the power away from the cartels.

marijuana laws have led to increased meth smuggling

While this is a dangerous road to walk, and one that’s no doubt unpopular among the majority of Americans, it is worth considering. Think about it like this – if the cartels are already hurting from lost marijuana profit, imagine how much they’d hurt if they lost heroin and meth money.

Money is the lifeblood of these criminal organizations. Take away the money and you take away much of their power. Seems like something worth exploring at the very least, right?

As for the here and now – as for today – we can only hope that most of the drugs being smuggled are also intercepted at the border.

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Dangerous Mexican Meth on the Rise in the US

A Disturbing New Trend

It isn’t blue like the famous crystals from Breaking Bad, but Americans are consuming more and more Mexican produced meth. This potent and dangerous form of meth is gaining a foothold in the United States and we should be worried.

foreign made meth
image via Wikimedia Commons

Why? Because Arizona and California border officials have seized more meth so far this year than they did during all of 2014. They’ve seized more meth in six months than they did in twelve. That’s a massive spike in both consumption and production.

Not to mention, that’s only the methamphetamine that’s been found. According to a former Armed Services Commander, we’re unable to pursue 74% of suspected marine drug trafficking. If we’re only able to seize 26% of all smuggled meth…imagine what’s getting through our borders.

Although Mexican produced meth is nothing new, the drastic spike over the last several years has officials worrying. This increase in cheaply produced and incredibly potent meth (more on that below) also coincides with an increase in Mexican based heroin smuggling.

Yeah, it’s time for concern alright. More and more drugs are coming across US borders. These drugs are cheaper to produce, which leads to lower street prices, and more powerful than in past years. Something needs to be done and quick.

Marcia Armendariz, a DEA spokeswoman, had the following to say about Mexican produced and smuggled meth and America’s demand for it,

“We started noticing the increase with meth in fiscal year 2014, so we noticed an increment on crystal meth and obviously it all starts from the demand, you know. They’re [U.S. citizens] demanding this drug” (AZ Central).

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New Statistics on Meth Trafficking

The following is the latest information US officials have about meth smuggling via the Mexican border –

  • In California, authorities seized 9,431 pounds of meth during the seven month period between October 2014 and April 2015.


  • In all of fiscal year 2014, authorities only seized 14,732 pounds of smuggled meth in California. If fiscal year 2015’s numbers continue, significantly more meth will be seized this year than last.


  • Meanwhile, in Arizona, authorities seized more than 3,200 pounds of smuggled meth between October 2014 and May 2015.


  • Compare that to the 3,200 pounds of meth seized in Arizona during all of fiscal year 2014.


  • Mexican smugglers are becoming increasingly creative in their approach to crossing the border with drugs. There are reports of meth molded into underwear, dissolved into liquid and placed in gas tanks, and other bizarre tactics.


  • Meanwhile, on our side of the border, meth production has substantially decreased. There were more than 15,000 seizures of meth labs and tertiary equipment in 2010. That number had decreased to just over 9,200 by 2014.


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Dangerous Mexican Meth

Let’s take a moment here and examine the actual methamphetamine itself. Not only is more of this chemical being smuggled into the US, but it’s stronger and more dangerous than ever before.

The first result of meth “cooking” being exported to south of the border has been the scale. Where most meth labs found in the United States are small scale, it’s a whole different story in Mexico.

meth labs
small US lab cleanup via Wikimedia Commons

Mexican cartels operate industrial sized super labs. Returning again to Breaking Bad, think of these super labs as similar to the one depicted in the show. Cartels are using laboratory grade equipment and chemicals to crank out meth on an incredibly large scale.

This leads to the second major impact Mexican produced meth has had on the US market – falling prices. A pound of American made crystal meth costs in the ballpark of $25,000 to $30,000. A pound of Mexican meth costs between $8,000 and $10,000.

That’s a significant decrease in price. This allows drug gangs and dealers to increase their profits, decrease their street level prices (gaining new customers), and gives them further incentive to buy foreign meth. In this sense, the deportation of America’s methamphetamine trade is no different from, say, the clothing industry.

Finally, this new and powerful Mexican meth is dangerous because it’s stronger and more addicting than anything previously made. Think about it – a more powerful drug is being sold for cheaper. That’s just about the perfect storm when it comes to national drug trends.

It’s no wonder meth seizures have increased so dramatically. Not only is the supply increasing, but the demand is through the roof.

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What’s the Answer?

Cheaply produced Mexican meth is flooding our streets. There’s more demand and more supply. What can we do to reduce both and fight meth use across America?

Well, the answer is as simple and as complicated as cutting the demand side of the equation. If there’s less demand, if Americans use meth less frequently, than the supply will also dwindle and we’ll see some real change.

That was the simple part. Now for the complicated – how do we reduce demand? How do we decrease America’s meth consumption?

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for that question. It’s a complicated equation that will require things like increasing youth education and outreach, increasing access to quality and affordable addiction treatment, increasing healthcare services for common medical issues associated with meth use (HIV screening, etc.), and decreasing the stigma associated with meth.

That’s a lot! To implement all those changes will take years, decades perhaps, and lots of money. That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s possible! A nationwide “recovery” from our collective meth addiction is possible and, in some areas, already underway.

That’s something we can all be excited about.

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