Over the past few years we have seen more and more states enacting strict controls on access to cold/allergy medicines containing PSE – Psedo-Ephedrine, an important ingredient in making methamphetamine.
Besides the hassles to consumers with colds or allergies, and increased costs for both retailers and state/local governments- what has this really accomplished?
It has had no noticeable effect on either the availability, nor the demand, for methamphetamine. True- many states have seen a reduction in the number of meth labs.
But I would argue the main effect of these laws has been to hand the Mexican Cartels a rich new revenue source. During this time period we have seen the rise of “Super labs” south of the border, and seizures of staggeringly large amount of precursor chemicals (675 tons in December 2011) . Indeeed- as I was writing and researching this a report in the news out of Mexico- 15 tons of pure meth seized. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57373799/15-tons-of-pure-meth-seized-in-mexico/
15 tons. And roughly twice that amount is usually seized each year- and yet proves little more then a hiccup in the supply.
The US drug intelligence reports Mexico is the main source for methamphetamine in the US, and has been an increasingly large player since 2004- coincidentally since the US started passing laws to crack down on US production.
And this seems to coincide with the rise in both power and violence of the Mexican cartels.
Look- I hate methamphetamine. I don’t think it’s particularly interesting or worthwhile, and its cost/benefit ratio is too skewed to be worthwhile. (and by cost I do not mean financial- I mean it’s cost to the user, to those around them, and to society).
But I feel prohibition has proven to be far more harmful. It has helped fund the rise of the mexican cartels with all the negatives that has brought. We have created a society where it is hard, and sometimes impossible, for one to get help when they have a problem with the drug. A world where tens of thousands end up with police records just for what they choose to ingest- a police record then can cause problems finding work and housing for years, or decades, can prevent ever being able to get student loans…all things that can make recovery- and staying recovered- even harder.
For more then a decade the US tried alcohol prohibtion, and finally admitted it was a failure and switched from prohibition to a legalization, taxation, and regulation model. But in the intervening 80 years we have seen the same failures in the prohibition of other drugs, and indeed- prohibition creating the same serious problems for both society and the individual.
Is it really so complicated to realize that prohibition has failed? That drugs need to be treated as a health issue- and not a criminal one? That it is time to admit our mistakes and start trying to find a solution that makes things better- instead of worse?
As an aside- one must wonder where the cartels would be today if we had never banned cannabis? It was after all prohibition of cannabis that allowed the gangs on both of the united states borders to become wealthy, and to evolve their business model, leading us to where we are today.