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In China, Illegal Drugs Are Sold Online in an Unbridled Market – The New York Times


“They just didn’t see what was in it for them to look into their own industries exporting these chemicals,” said Jorge Guajardo, the former Mexican ambassador to China.

China’s chemical factories and drug traffickers have exploited this opportunity, turning the nation into a leading producer and exporter of synthetic drugs, including methamphetamine, as well as the compounds used to manufacture them, according to seizure and trafficking route data compiled by American and international law enforcement agencies.

China is now the source of a majority of the ingredients needed to manufacture methamphetamine by Mexican drug traffickers, who produce 90 percent of the meth consumed in the United States, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

As governments around the world have stepped up regulation of these so-called precursor chemicals, the Mexican cartels have increasingly turned to Chinese chemical factories.

Mr. Guajardo, Mexico’s ambassador from 2007 to 2013, said his efforts to persuade Chinese authorities to restrict the export of these chemicals, which are banned in Mexico, came to naught. Instead, he said, Chinese officials said the problem was best handled by Mexican customs agents or claimed that Mexico’s written requests for assistance had used the incorrect typeface or were improperly translated into Chinese.

“In all my time there, the Chinese never showed any willingness to cooperate on stemming the flow of precursors into Mexico,” he said in a telephone interview.

via In China, Illegal Drugs Are Sold Online in an Unbridled Market – The New York Times.

The source chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine, a long acting analog of amphetamine which is a Schedule I (no accepted medical use, high potential for abuse) drug in the United States, used to be widely available here.  One of the main ingredients would have been pseudoephedrine, an over-the-counter drug used as a nasal decongestant for colds and allergies; the market for pseudoephedrine has been controlled by a rationing system all over the US for the last few years.  So the illicit manufacturers of methamphetamine switched to ordering their chemicals from China, a more convenient source in any case.

Now, methamphetamine is a popular drug on the black market in the US, one of the most popular drugs of abuse and a way for poor and mentally disturbed persons to pass the time (and lose their teeth) here.  It is imported from Mexico in most cases, along with heroin; the traffic in marijuana has been greatly reduced by growers here, and was insufficiently profitable to begin with.

As the world’s largest manufacturing powerhouse, China has become the source for both legal and illegal drug precursors as well as finished drugs.  The Chinese government has been passive about trying to control the illegal drug traffic and appears to blame the users and middlemen in other countries for the problem.  A few malefactors in China have been arrested, jailed, or even executed, but the traffic continues unabated and large suppliers remain a ready source for almost any drug that can be used legally or abused illegally all over the world.

Ironically, this traffic is the inverse of the opium traffic of the early nineteenth century, during which England and other Western countries went to war twice to force the Chinese government to allow the unrestricted sale of opium to Chinese consumers, who became addicted in vast numbers to smoking opium.  The fatally weakened Chinese government failed to prevent Western incursions, which resulted in a vast backlash among the Chinese people, a revolution which overthrew the Chinese imperial system and installed an equally weak republican government, which was unable to resist the invasion of the Japanese, and eventually a prolonged civil war and the installation of a unified and putatively communist totalitarian regime in 1949.

Attempts to control this traffic have failed, and the logical response to this problem is to end legal prohibitions on the sale and consumption of drugs.  Monitoring by government agencies of the extent and types of drug trafficking is a reasonable approach, but prohibition has been shown to be worse than useless.  Any readers who doubt this statement should brush up on their history: sale of potable alcohol was prohibited in the US from 1920 to 1933, with disastrous consequences.  The rise and consolidation of violent criminal gangs, as well as widespread disrespect for the rule of law, is directly attributable to Prohibition.  If that history is insufficient, perhaps the recent drug wars in Mexico, with the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent Mexican citizens, should be studied.

Experts in drug abuse are in general agreement that the appropriate response to this problem is medical therapy for the abusers, along with education for the general public as to the true effects and side effects of known drugs.  The actual initiating cause of drug abuse is mental disturbance, partly due to societal deficiencies such as poverty, childhood deprivation, and discrimination.  A law enforcement response to this problem is sure to fail in the long run and produce negative effects such as increased criminal sophistication in response to prohibition.

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