California Meth Seizures Underscore Mexico Cartel Dominance

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California seized a record amount of methamphetamine at ports of entry during the 2014 fiscal year, highlighting a trend that indicates Mexican cartels may be ramping up methamphetamine production.

During the 2014 fiscal year, which ended on September 30, the San Diego US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) field office seized 14,732 pounds of methamphetamine, reported the San Diego Union Tribune. This figure — which includes seizures at US ports of entry on California’s border with Mexico as well as airport and seaport operations in the San Diego area — represents 63 percent of all synthetic drug seizures at US ports of entry.

According to CBP figures reported by the Union-Tribune, methamphetamine seizures at California ports of entry rose by 300 percent between fiscal years 2009 and 2013. In the last fiscal year alone, seizures of the drug increased by eight percent, while cocaine, marijuana, and heroin seizures dropped.

A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) assistant special agent told the Union-Tribune that Mexican cartels were “flooding the US marketplace with their cheap methamphetamine” and that the price of the drug has decreased “tremendously” since 2008.

InSight Crime Analysis

The increase in methamphetamine seizures at California ports of entry suggests that Mexican methamphetamine production is on the rise. DEA figures show that methamphetamine seizures increased not only in California, but along the entire southwest border between 2008 and 2012, while cocaine seizures dropped between 2011 and 2012. Additionally, plummeting methamphetamine prices suggest that increasing amounts of the drug are available on the market.

This apparent rise in production could be the result of a number of different factors including crackdowns on methamphetamine production in the United States and the relatively low cost of producing methamphetamine in Mexico. In spite of stricter controls implemented in 2006, precursor chemicals are still likely easier to obtain in Mexico, where they can be smuggled in from Central America or Argentina, than the United States.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the US-Mexico Border

It is also possible that the legalization of marijuana in two US states has pushed Mexican cartels to diversify their revenue streams in case more states follow suit and profits from marijuana trafficking decrease.

Regardless of the reason for the spike in methamphetamine seizures, Mexican cartels appear to have taken over the US methamphetamine market. According to the US Justice Department’s 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment, Mexico is the principal source of methamphetamine for the US market, and according to U-T San Diego, the DEA estimates that Mexico produces 90 percent of the methamphetamine consumed in the United States. 

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