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Mexico Steps Up to Corner the U.S. Meth Market

Seizures of homemade meth labs are down by as much as 40 percent in several states throughout the country, but that could be because meth dealers are now selling cheaper versions of the drug from Mexico.

The Drug Enforcement Administration reported 11,573 seizures last year, up 363 from 2012. However, it’s a far cry from the nearly 24,000 labs that were seized back in 2004. Part of the decline in meth lab seizures is due to state and federal lawmakers limiting the sale of pseudoephedrine – a cold medicine and key meth ingredient – during that same time period. The lack of pseudoephedrine made it difficult for large batches of meth to be made or obtained.

The Law of Supply/Demand

Mexican meth has addressed this problem by making their batches with the organic compound phenylacetone. This key ingredient is banned in the U.S., but still legally available across the border.

The crystal meth coming through Mexican cartel pipelines is also much more pure than the meth users are often sold in the States. In fact, Mexican meth has increased from 39 percent purity in 2007 to a modern purity of nearly 100 percent. Its price has also dropped sharply, from around $290 per pure gram to around $100 per pure gram. Methamphetamine coming from Mexico had traditionally been shipped to large urban cities, but it’s now showing up in mid-sized cities and small towns throughout the nation.

Mexico to the Rescue?

Though it’s hard to believe, some law officials actually see the rise of Mexican meth as a morbid positive.

Though it’s hard to believe, some law officials actually see the rise of Mexican meth as a morbid positive.“The great news is that meth from Mexico doesn’t explode, doesn’t burn down your house and your neighbor’s home, doesn’t contaminate your property, doesn’t kill children the way meth labs have done here in the U.S. for decades,” said Jason Grellner, chief narcotics officer of Franklin County, Missouri.

Mexican Smuggling Tactics

Mexican drug traffickers have gotten more and more brazen in their smuggling tactics. They’ve even started to push meth across the border by disguising it in liquid form.

Smugglers place powdered methamphetamine inside tequila bottles or detergent containers, then dissolve it further in a special solution. Once it’s safely across the border, local meth cooks can evaporate the liquid and use chemicals such as acetone to make chunks of the familiar crystallized drug.

Border officials, however, have been able to spot this liquid form of meth and seize many of the shipments bound for the U.S. In fact, last May, investigators from San Bernardino, CA, arrested two Mexican smugglers, seizing 206 pounds of crystal meth and 250 gallons of the liquid. The haul could have produced 1,250 pounds of crystal meth and ultimately earned a street value of $7.2 million.

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Related Reading: The 9 Craziest Ways People Have Ever Smuggled Drugs