Crystal Meth is one of the few drugs that makes me doubt my belief that drug prohibition laws should be repealed — it’s affects are stunningly deleterious to addicts. The problem with trying to control production is the fact that it can be whipped up using common household chemicals and over-the-counter cold medications. There’s also a variety of methods, most of them dangerous, that can be used to produce meth.
Given all of that, it was decided the best plan of attack was to track and limit how much cold medicine you can legally buy. The idea being that if you tried to buy more than a reasonable amount of cold medicines that can be used in meth production the authorities could be notified. This did put a dent in meth production, for awhile at least.
Ultimately the meth producers did what any enterprising business would do and outsourced the acquisition of cold medicines to people looking to make a quick buck:
“It’s almost like a sub-criminal culture,” said Gary Boggs, an agent at the Drug Enforcement Administration. “You’ll see them with a GPS unit set up in a van with a list of every single pharmacy or retail outlet. They’ll spend the entire week going store to store and buy to the limit.”
Inside their vehicles, the so-called “pill brokers” punch out blister packs into a bucket and even clip coupons, Boggs said.
[…] In some cases, the pill buyers are not interested in meth. They may be homeless people recruited off the street or even college kids seeking weekend beer money, authorities say.
Because of booming demand created in large part by the tracking systems, they can buy a box of pills for $7 to $8 and sell it for $40 or $50.
The tracking systems “invite more people into the criminal activity because the black market price of the product becomes so much more profitable,” said Jason Grellner, a detective in hard-hit Franklin County, Mo., about 40 miles west of St. Louis.
“Where else can you make a 750 percent profit in 45 minutes?” asked Grellner, former president of the Missouri Narcotics Officers Association.
Oops. It’s that damned law of unintended consequences again.
Most of these laws were enacted back in 2006 and in spite of them, or perhaps even because of them, meth production has been on the rise after that initial minor drop. By 2009 it had increased by 34% and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon:
The increase was higher in the three states that have electronically tracked sales of medication containing pseudoephedrine since at least 2008. Meth incidents rose a combined 67 percent in those states — 34 percent in Arkansas, 65 percent in Kentucky and 164 percent in Oklahoma.
Supporters of tracking say the numbers have spiked because the system makes it easier for police to find people who participate in meth production. But others question whether the tracking has helped make the problem worse by creating a new class of criminals that police must pursue.
Not only are more people making and using meth than ever before, but the laws have increased the number of people profiting from its production. Once again the Powers That Be are attempting to control the problem by cutting off the supply instead of dealing with the demand. So long as there are people out there providing a demand for meth the criminals will find a way to produce it and for every one we incarcerate there are a dozen more available to fill the void.