Anti-Meth Laws Have Created Black Market in Cold Pills, AP Reports

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #666)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

The Associated Press is still on a roll. We reported last week on the AP's "occasional series" on the failures of drug prohibition, and now the news organization is out with another devastating piece of reporting, this time on the unintended consequences of laws designed to stifle home methamphetamine manufacture.

[image:1 align:left caption:true]In a Monday "AP IMPACT" article (not part of the "occasional series) titled Meth Flourishes Despite Tracking Laws, AP reported that state laws mandating electronic monitoring systems to track purchases of legal cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine that are used in meth manufacture "not only failed to curb the meth trade," but "also created a vast and highly lucrative market for profiteers to buy over-the-counter pills and sell them to meth producers at a huge markup."

Because of booming demand created in large part by the tracking laws, pill buyers can buy a box of pills for $7 or $8 and resell them for $40 to $50. That has created whole networks of people who "smurf," or make repeated small purchases of the cold pills and then sell them to meth cooks. Some are not even interested in meth, but can be homeless people looking for a few bucks or even college kids seeking weekend beer money.

"It's almost like a sub-criminal culture," DEA agent Gary Boggs told the AP. "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."

The electronic monitoring laws "invite more people into the criminal activity because the black market price of the product becomes so much more profitable," said rural Missouri detective Jason Grellner. "Where else can you make a 750% profit in 45 minutes?" asked Grellner, former president of the Missouri Narcotics Officers Association.

Looking at DEA data from 2000 to 2009, the AP found that the number of meth busts has started climbing again since tracking laws were enacted beginning in 2006. Meth-related activity, including arrests, drug seizures, and the discovery of abandoned meth cooking sites, was up 34% in 2009, the news organization found. In the three states -- Arkansas, Kentucky, and Oklahoma -- that have electronically tracked cold pill sales since 2008, the 2009 increase was nearly double the national increase, at 67%.

The report also found that while the tracking laws had a strong initial impact, meth producers quickly turned to smurfing to obtain the pseudoephedrine they needed. By 2009, the DEA reported 10,064 meth-related incidents, a 62% rise over the previous two years.

The AP did note that Oregon, which began requiring a prescription for pseudoephedrine products in 2006, had seemingly been successful in repressing meth cooking. It had 191 meth-related incidents in 2005 and only 12 in 2009. But that law has left hundreds of thousands of law-abiding consumers suffering because of the actions of a few.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


kickback (not verified)

drug prohibition is the taxpayer funded gift that just keeps on giving .

Tue, 01/11/2011 - 9:36pm Permalink
undrgrndgirl (not verified)

omg! way!!


/snark off/

Thu, 01/13/2011 - 10:06pm Permalink
Ray (not verified)

For every prohibition you create you also create an underground.  ~Jello Biafra

Point proven.

Fri, 01/14/2011 - 11:04am Permalink
maxw22d (not verified)

We've been here before.

The current meth plague begins with Big Government (alias Tobacco)  using spy planes and electric meter monitoring to crack down on "grow houses".  Those who were In It For The Money abandoned cannabis and switched to meth which is easier to produce clandestinely.

Before that, the l980's saw US planes spray paraquat on cannabis crops in Colombia, whereupon those who were In It For The Money switched to cocaine.

In the l970's the US suppressed the hashish crop in Afghanistan, and today Afghanistan produces 90% of the world's heroin. 

There is no disaster Big 2WackGo (through its stooge US government and military) won't tolerate in order to fend off its nemesis, cannabis (and low-dosage utensils, vaporizers etc. to replace the high profit cigarette).  That's where to start in order to understand the Drug War.

Fri, 01/14/2011 - 6:24pm Permalink

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