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   ARTICLES : DRUGS : 5.23.01
Global Narcotics Distribution and the Economy of Black Market Trade

James Kent

Who profits most from the War on Drugs? The bad guys, of course.

IT'S NO SECRET that illegal narcotics are one of the world's largest industries. Proceeds of black market drug trades are estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars each year — consistently outpacing the food, oil, textiles, software, and even pornography industries in gross market capitalization. However, if you analyze the industrial complexity of the narcotics market you will quickly see that it is little more than a simple agricultural industry with high-risk distribution channels. The source products of the narcotics industry (weeds, shrubs, and flowers) have negligible intrinsic value in the global marketplace in and of themselves. However, when you institute a policy of militaristic global prohibition on those source plants — like the one set in place by the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (1988 Vienna Convention) — what results is an industry where a few pennies worth of dried plant extract is suddenly a rare and exotic item of invaluable black market trade.

Thanks to the policy of militant global prohibition (a.k.a. "The War of Drugs"), what was once a few pennies worth of plant extract can now fetch a few thousand dollars in U.S. currency by the time it hits the streets — and that mere handful of dried plant extract can now be easily converted into cash, sex, guns, slaves, gold, or any other black market trade item you may need anywhere in the world. This is the true result of global prohibition: The War on Drugs fails miserably at halting or even slowing down narcotics production and use, but it succeeds masterfully at artificially inflating the value and perceived threat of what is in reality a few pennies worth of dried plant extract. It seems that the War on Drugs — an expensive policy which is sold to the public as a moral crusade — is really little more than a brilliantly executed militant price-fixing scheme that effects every citizen on this planet. Through the War on Drugs, the U.S. government has in effect taken a simple herbal product (one that could be produced in any flower pot in the world with nothing more than water, dirt, seeds, and sunshine) and turned it into a substance so rare and reviled that not only can it get you high, but it can also get you arrested, beaten, locked up, robbed, and potentially shot and killed for just being associated with it.

But artificial market inflation is nothing new to the U.S. Government. Anyone who has studied economics and finance knows there are many different ways to artificially inflate a market — including monopolies, embargoes, hoarding, propaganda (hype), and, of course, prohibition. The main problem with a market that has been artificially inflated through prohibition is that all profits made in that market go directly criminal syndicates — unofficial agencies that aren't subject to market regulation or taxation. What's more frightening than the sheer volume of profits being made by these criminal syndicates is the high percentage of black market profiteers who routinely roll their capital resources into arms and soldiers for ever-escalating turf wars between competing black-market distribution agencies (a.k.a. "gangs" or "cartels") and various government distribution interdiction agencies (border patrols, coast guards, DEA, etc.). These black market turf wars are fought exclusively over distribution rights in specific areas, and all levels of the narcotics distribution empire (from the cartels to the street gangs) war with each other in order to monopolize distribution in heavily populated urban areas. The government's role in this scuffle is to thin the street supply and, in effect, keep the retail street prices in these key markets as high as possible. This is no secret. The DEA routinely measures its success by the current street price of any given controlled substance. It should be noted, of course, that the potential for government corruption built into this black market distribution model is all but implicit.

But the dangers of black market narcotics distribution (as necessarily imposed by global prohibition) do not stop at price fixing, ever-escalating gang warfare, and a heightened potential for police corruption. Global prohibition also ensures that any narcotics which ultimately reach the street level are likely to be extremely dangerous and of questionable quality. Substances that actually get sold on the street come in varying levels of purity and potency, and often turn out to be something entirely different than what they are sold as. The consumer rarely knows what they are getting, and criminal syndicates are notorious for having no regulatory agencies which track customer satisfaction and quality control. Addiction is what fuels the black market for narcotics, and black market distribution cannot help but contribute in a very active and serious way towards the high levels of infection, overdose, and addiction associated with illicit drug use. If that's not bad enough, the youth market is the primary target of the black market narcotics trade, and that's no secret either. Young addicts last longer as regular customers, and black market street channels (by their very nature) are more accessible to minors than anyone else.

And lastly, as the War on Drugs persists each year, we continually see more and more of our public institutions being hobbled. The police are undermanned and are unable to effectively curb the flow of drugs hitting our streets; the public health community is unable to treat the growing problems of infection and addiction; the judiciary is unable to handle the drug caseload or even explore alternative solutions within the draconian legal guidelines; the prisons are overcrowding with non-violent drug offenders, often meaning early releases for other criminal and violent offenders; politicians are unable to find the money or support they need to continue fighting the war; parents are just as powerless as ever to protect their children; and the children are in more danger than ever before. When you step back and look at the big picture, it's easy to see who the big winner in the War on Drugs is: It is the Black Market, hands down. Who are the big losers? Everybody else.

So why would the United Sates Government and the United Nations adopt a global narcotics policy that puts all the money and all the control of the world's largest distribution industry into the hands of the black market? The black market is obviously the least likely to be sympathetic towards its customer base, and it is most likely to spend its massive proceeds in extravagant militaristic ways. This War on Drugs turns our streets and playgrounds into war zones, and it all but ensures that our children will be exposed only to the most dangerous and most addictive drugs in the most hazardous conditions imaginable. Does this sound like a policy of insanity to anyone else but me?

As long as the USA and the United Nations insist on carrying out a policy of militant global narcotics prohibition, there will be no way to take the control of the narcotics industry away from the black market. The taxpayers will continue to pay the price for a noble War on Drugs, but the only real result of this war will be a higher street markup for the criminal syndicates who's primary mode of market penetration and industry regulation is armed aggression. It should be clear by now that prohibition does little — if anything at all — to curb the use of narcotics in our society, and it only succeeds in bringing more guns and more violence to our communities. Parents used to fear that their kids would get mixed up with drugs and "go bad," but now our children are twice as likely to be shot and killed on the street as a result of random prohibition-related violence than they are of actually overdosing.

And this is called progress?

Tags : psychedelic
Rating : Teen - Drugs
Posted on: 2001-05-23 00:00:00