When I last covered the war on allergy medicine, a D.A. from Oregon was writing in the New York Times telling us we need to make allergy medicines with pseudoephedrine require a prescription, and then Missouri looked like they were going to follow through with his advice. An assumption underlying this regulation, which I’ve questioned, is whether this will do anything to stop the flow of meth in this country. Providing some evidence in this debate, the Washington Post ran a story last week that began like this:
Mexican cartels emerge as top source for U.S. meth
IN VERACRUZ, MEXICO Exploiting loopholes in the global economy, Mexican crime syndicates are importing mass quantities of the cold medicines and common chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine – turning Mexico into the No. 1 source for all meth sold in the United States, law enforcement agents say…
Got that, Mexican smugglers are the #1 source for meth in this country, which means if we manage to stop all domestic meth production what we will have achieved is raising the prices and profits for Mexican drug gangs. “Ok,” the drug warriors might say, “that just means we have to move the war on pseudoephedrine global and stop it’s production worldwide”. Well we’ve seen how well that works, but lets just grant for a moment that for the first time ever drug warriors are actually able to completely stop production of a chemical worldwide, and pseudoephedrine is wiped off the face of the planet. The meth problem will be solved right? No, the article continues to explain why:
Ever resourceful, Mexican cartels have begun to manufacture methamphetamine using legally obtained ingredients – such as phenylacetic acid, or PAA, a honey-smelling chemical used in everything from perfumes, soaps and body lotions to food flavoring and antibiotics.
Traffickers prefer methamphetamine made from cold tablets because it is more potent, but they are increasingly relying on PAA, as resilient Mexican cartels revert to old-school recipes developed by U.S. motorcycle gangs in the 1970s that use phenylacetic acid and its chemical cousins.
At least half of all the methamphetamine seized along the border in the past year was made with precursor chemicals such as phenylacetic acid, U.S. agents told The Washington Post.
We’re not going to win this war. Rest assured though, much blood will be spilled, money wasted, and allergies suffered so that drug warriors can feel good about themselves and keep themselves busy.