Precursor chemical controls haven't reduced meth quantities, says paper

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Controls on methamphetamine precursor chemicals haven't significantly reduced overall quantities of the drug seized in the United States, but they have shifted control of the meth supply to Mexican transnational criminal organizations, says a paper in the November edition of the International Journal of Drug Policy.

The article, by three University of Central Oklahoma academics--Rashi Shukla, Jordan Crump and Emelia Chrisco--says a recent revival of small-scale domestic production hasn't had an effect on Mexican trafficking organization domination of the U.S. meth market supply. Mexican transnational criminal organizations filled early last decade a manufacturing void created by laws that made precursor chemical nasal decongestant pseudoephedrine harder to obtain inside the United States.

Domestic producers have adapted to the laws by legally buying pseudoephedrine in small quantities from multiple sources ("smurfing") and entering a new illicit market for pseudoephedrine itself, while users increasingly turn to a simplified production technique known as "shake and bake" or "one pot" to quickly produce small amounts with less pseudoephedrine than traditional wet reduction methods.

Authors don't minimize the role of small production, since not only is it toxic and dangerous, but it can contribute to the development of new meth markets.  

But even a high level of small-scale production in the United States has "virtually no impact on the larger methamphetamine market," paper authors say--and that market is now dominated by the Mexican cartels, which have a competitive advantage over their rivals that includes control of smuggling routes into the United States, a robust distribution network and production capabilities.

In short, federal laws that try to prevent production through controls of precursors haven't worked, report authors say. "In retrospect, the failure of these drug control efforts was inevitable," they add.

For more:
- go to the table of contents for the November issue of the International Journal of Drug Policy

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