Record drug seizures don?t dent drug use

By By John Stafford

By John Stafford

The Utah Highway Patrol set new records this year with massive drug-related seizures of marijuana, cocaine, cash and vehicles. However, these seizures of about $9.6 million worth of marijuana, 50 lbs. of cocaine and 32 lbs. of meth are not yielding dramatic results in supply reduction.

The Drug Enforcement Administration reports that despite these record seizures, drug prices for cocaine and marijuana have remained stable throughout the state. Although the price for an ounce of methamphetamine has risen from around $700 to about $1,100, it’s because the reduction of locally produced meth has been accompanied by an increase in the availability of more expensive Mexican meth.

Although strict anti-methamphetamine legislation and aggressive law enforcement have been factors in cracking down on local methamphetamine production, they have also served as a catalyst for the more dangerous Mexican drug trafficking organizations to dominate distribution throughout the southwest. As local chemistry enthusiasts with a sweet tooth for meth find it increasingly difficult to secure that industrial-size crate of Sudafed, the Mexican drug cartels are making it rain with their newfound Utah revenue.

Unfortunately, this isn’t in the form of some good ol’ fashioned Lil’ Wayne-esque booty shaking, but in an ongoing war that saw a record-breaking 5,612 drug financed executions of rival cartel members and government officials last year alone, according to the Mexican newspaper El Universal. Apparently the Utah Highway Patrol is not the only group that can put up impressive numbers and shatter records.

According to the Utah State Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, admissions for treatment of marijuana have increased steadily, suggesting a rise in the number of people who use the drug and are not having a difficult time finding it. The fact that a record number of seizures does little to curtail drug use is not specific to Utah. It is an all too common reality in states such as California, where Bruce Mirken, the Marijuana Policy Project’s San Francisco-based director of communications, acknowledged that “Record-setting busts each year have done nothing to reduce the marijuana supply or keep marijuana out of the hands of kids, but they have succeeded brilliantly in driving the growers to more dangerous locations, putting national parks and residential communities at risk.”

It isn’t hard to see that despite law enforcement efforts to disrupt the supply of drugs, the people who want to use them are still able to get them. Drug arrests have tripled since 1980, and recent FBI reports indicate that nationwide drug-related offenses account for approximately one-third of all arrests. These arrests, however, have yet to substantially reduce demand as overall national drug use rates have continued to rise since 2000, securing the United States’ spot as the country with the highest level of marijuana and cocaine use in the world.

This goes along with the fact that both the federal and state governments spend billions of dollars every year fighting a war on drugs, which since its declaration in 1980 has contributed to the United States having a higher proportion of its population incarcerated than any other country in the world and increased violence from Canada to Colombia, all while failing to keep drugs off of the streets.

The Utah Highway Patrol can boast about their record seizures, but until we as a nation put more focus on fighting addiction than locking up addicts, the so-called “war on drugs” will continue to be a losing battle.

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