Record Meth Seizure Suggests Mexico has New ‘Cash Crop’

The Mexican Army seized a record 15 tons of pure methamphetamine in Jalisco, in a sign that criminal groups in the region are increasingly reliant on the drug, which is easier to produce than cocaine, and immune to the drought currently affecting Mexico’s marijuana crops.

The meth had an estimated value of 58 million pesos (about $4.5 million), El Universal reports. Troops found the stash in a suburb of Guadalajara on Wednesday.

The military did not specifiy which Jalisco-based criminal group is thought to have owned the meth. Authorities have said that up to six organizations currently have a presence in the state, which is the cradle of Mexico’s meth production. These include the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG, an affiliate of the Sinaloa Cartel) and La Resistencia, an amalgamation of splinter groups from other criminal organizations, currently thought to be allied with the Zetas and opposed to the CJNG.

InSight Crime Analysis

It is relatively unusual for the security forces to seize bulk amounts of pure methaphetamine inside Mexico. According to the most recently available statistics from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the total amount of pure meth seized in Mexico in 2009 was just 8 tons. Mass seizures more typically involve precursor chemicals that are either banned or strictly controlled under Mexican law, like phenylacetic acid, ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. The army reported a record seizure of 800 tons of precursor chemicals in July 2011.

That such a large amount of methaphetamine was stockpiled in Jalisco suggests that producers are finding it more financially efficient to handle multi-ton loads, rather than small consignments. This raises the question of whether it belonged to an alliance of organizations — perhaps the Sinaloa Cartel and their affiliates — or whether the stash belonged to a single group.

Methamphetamine is relatively cheap to produce and is not at the mercy of shifting weather patterns, unlike Mexico’s marijuana and opium producers, who, according to the Mexican Army, have lost much of their crop to a prolonged drought in the northern border states. Along with stiffer competition from the US marijuana industry along the West Coast, this helps explain the jump in Mexico’s meth production in recent years. Some 640 meth labs were discovered during the five years of President Felipe Calderon’s administration, compared to 60 found during the presidency of Vincente Fox.