sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Drug War in Mexico (Redux)

If the US stopped importing illegal drugs from Mexico...

This is the way it always begins.

Ok, let's examine what would happen:

(1) Addicts are addicted, which means that they'll find drugs or addicting substances somewhere else, legal or illegal. History proves that this is the case time and time again. So replacing Mexican importation routes with new sources and routes outside Mexico would only have a modest and temporary impact on the American drug problem.

(2) Various experts have different opinions but many who are familiar with the problem speculate that 25% of the Domestic Mexican Economy is derived directly or indirectly from the drug trade. Knock one leg from a chair and what happens?

(3) Prevention and treatment of addicts has had very limited success by anyone's measure.

(4) Enforcement nabs roughly 15% of the narcotics that enter the United States - maybe less. Over the past thirty years the US has sent five times as many people to prison for trafficking narcotics as they did before and the price of cocaine has dropped by about 80% during that time period. Supply and demand tell you what incarceration has done to solve the problem.

(5) Legalization is a dismal hope. Alcohol is the only addictive intoxicant made available on a commercial basis. There are about four times as many alcoholics as there are people who are addicted to illegal drugs. About one half of all Americans behind bars are there because of drunken violence (including domestic violence).  Full availability of narcotics would expand this problem significantly. Libertarian sentiments aside, it won't work in the real world.

(6) Legalizing marijuana/cannabis would decrease imports from Mexico by 1/5th according to a Rand study. Mexicans in the drug business would simply shift to opium or would expand the already insanely high laboratory production of methamphetamine products.

(7) The Drug War in Mexico between rival traffickers and the Mexican Government results in somewhere between 1,000 deaths (official Mexican statistics) and 3,000 deaths (studies by those outside government in Mexico) per month. Nothing that the US is doing or could do is likely to have much impact on those numbers.

If you read down this far hoping that I had some sort of innovative solution that nobody else has thought of, you're wrong. There is a HOPE program that has been successful in Hawaii and elsewhere in which addicts are not treated, they're tested. A positive test sends you back into custody.

The Mexican solution to their problem with violence is to return to the old system under the PRI Party where the Army manages the drug distribution network through Mexico with one large cartel (the Sinaloa Federation being the Mexican Government's cartel of choice at the moment) handling most of the business. It won't work, but it's the solution that you hear tossed about in Mexican government circles (soto voce). The drugs will still pass through Mexico, but 'managed' by the government.

We will not see a drug free world or a world free of drugs because people want them and are willing to pay a great deal for them. The drug genie was never in a bottle so the concept of "putting it back in" is foolish.

Hardening the US Border will have a greater impact on illegal imports from Mexico than anything else we can do. Remember, I work on the Mexican Drug Problem for a living and talk with traffickers all of the time. This thing they fear above others. I'm not saying that it will do much more than drive the street price up and force traffickers to find other routes or other drugs.

In Southern California the use/addiction to heroin is on the increase. WHY (I hear you asking that question even if you didn't)? Because it's relatively easy to ship a pound of heroin (not a kilo = 2.2 lbs) across the US/Mexico border and a pound of heroin has a street price of $60,000.00. Easier to ship, more profit - makes sense. Thus this is the trend. And it's becoming more fashionable to put a spike into your arm these days among young people.