Illegal drug trade
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The illegal drug trade is a global black market, dedicated to cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and sale of drugs, which are subject to drug prohibition laws. Most jurisdictions prohibit trade, except under license, of many types of drugs by drug prohibition laws while there is also a trade in avoiding paying tax on what are legal drugs, such as tobacco.
A UN report said "the global drug trade generated an estimated US$321.6 billion in 2003." With a world GDP of US$36 trillion in the same year, the illegal drug trade may be estimated as nearly 1% of total global trade. Consumption of illegal drugs is widespread globally.
Addictive drugs were first prohibited in the west in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, though Chinese edicts against opium smoking were made in 1729, 1796 and 1800. An Illegal Drug Trade emerged during the 19th century; China retaliated by enforcing the ban on imports of opium, and two Opium Wars broke out. In the First Opium War, the Chinese authorities had banned opium, but the United Kingdom forced China to allow British merchants to trade opium with the general population. Smoking opium had become common in the 19th century, and British merchants increased their trade with the Chinese. Trading in opium was (as it is today in the heroin trade) extremely lucrative. As a result of this illegal trade, an estimated two million Chinese people became addicted to the drug. The British Crown (via the treaties of Nanking and Tianjin) took vast sums of money from the Chinese government through this illegal trade, which they referred to as "reparations".
In 1868, as the result of the increasing use of opium, the UK restricted the sale of opium in Britain via the 1868 Pharmacy Act . In the United States, control remained a state responsibility until the introduction of the Harrison Act in 1914, following the passing of the International Opium Convention in 1912.
Between 1920 and 1933 alcohol was banned in the United States. This law was considered to have been very difficult to enforce and resulted in the growth of vast criminal organizations, including the modern American Mafia.
Because drugs traded on the black market can provide a secretive source of money, they have long been used by organizations such as the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to fund covert operations and proxy wars. CIA involvement in heroin trafficking began with the French Connection in Marseille and continued with anti-Communist operations in Southeast Asia. In the early 1980s, the CIA used cocaine as a medium to launder money in Central America (allegedly as part of the Iran–Contra affair).
The Australian Crime Commission's illicit drug data report for 2011–2012 was released in western Sydney on 20 May 2013 and revealed that the seizures of illegal substances in Australia during the reporting period were the largest in a decade due to record interceptions of amphetamines, cocaine and steroids.
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In many countries, drug smuggling carries severe penalties. These include lengthy periods of incarceration, flogging, and even the death penalty (in Singapore, Malaysia, etc.). In December 2005, Van Tuong Nguyen, a 25 year old Australian drug smuggler was hanged in Singapore after being convicted in March 2004. In 2010, two people were sentenced to death in Malaysia for trafficking 1 kilogram/2.2 pounds of cannabis into the country.
Drug trafficking is widely regarded as the most serious of drug offences around the world. However, sentencing often depends on the type of drug (and its classification in the country into which it is being trafficked), the quantity trafficked, where the drugs are sold and how they are distributed; for example if the drugs are sold to underage people, then the penalties for trafficking may be harsher than in other circumstances.
Effects of illegal drug trade on societies
The countries of drug production have been seen as some of the worst affected by prohibition though countries receiving the illegally-imported substances are also affected by problems stemming from drug prohibition. For example, Ecuador has allegedly absorbed up to 300,000 refugees from Colombia who are running from guerrillas, paramilitaries and drug lords, says Linda Helfrich. While some applied for asylum, others are still illegal, and the drugs that pass from Colombia through Ecuador to other parts of South America create economic and social problems.
In many countries worldwide, the illegal drug trade is thought to be directly linked to violent crimes such as murder; this is especially true in developing countries, such as Honduras, but is also an issue for many developed countries worldwide.
After a crackdown by U.S. and Mexican authorities in the first decade of the 21st century as part of tightened border security in the wake of the September 11 attacks, border violence inside Mexico surged. The Mexican government estimates that 90% of the killings are drug-related.
A report by the UK government's drug strategy unit that was subsequently leaked to the press, stated that due to the expensive price of highly addictive drugs heroin and cocaine, that drug use was responsible for the great majority of crime, including 85% for shoplifting, 70-80% of burglaries and 54% of robberies. "The cost of crime committed to support illegal cocaine and heroin habits amounts to £16 billion a year in the UK" (note: this is more than the entire annual UK Home Office budget).
Due to its illicit nature, statistics about profits from the drug trade are largely unknown. In its 1997 World Drugs Report the UNODC estimated the value of the market at US$400 billion, ranking drugs alongside arms and oil amongst the world's largest traded goods. An online report published by the UK Home Office in 2007 estimated the illicit drug market in the UK at £4–6.6 billion a year
In December 2009, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, claimed that illegal drug money saved the banking industry from collapse. He claimed he had seen evidence that the proceeds of organised crime were "the only liquid investment capital" available to some banks on the brink of collapse during 2008. He said that a majority of the US$352bn (£216bn) of drugs profits was absorbed into the economic system as a result. "In many instances, the money from drugs was the only liquid investment capital. In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system's main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor...Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drugs trade and other illegal activities... There were signs that some banks were rescued that way". Costa declined to identify countries or banks that may have received any drug money, saying that would be inappropriate because his office is supposed to address the problem, not apportion blame.
Illegal cocaine trade via West Africa
Cargo planes are now also used as a method of transport from the production countries to West-Africa. Before this, the cocaine was only shipped to the USA. Because the market became saturated there, illicit drug traders decided to increase shipping to Europe. When these new drug routes were uncovered by the authorities, West Africa was chosen as a stop-over. In 2005, the first major cocaine shipment was intercepted by the police. In 2007, 30% of all cocaine shipped to the UK was estimated to come from West Africa. In 2009, 50% of all cocaine shipped to the UK was estimated to come from West Africa.
Especially in Guinea-Bissau, the drugs have been traded with the help of political leaders such as former presidents, the son of dictator Lansana Conté, and chiefs of staff of the army.
According to the UN,[who?] the value of illicit drug smuggling in Guinea-Bissau is higher than the value of the country's GDP. Policemen are often bribed. A policeman's normal monthly wage of 75 € is less than 2% of the value of 1 kilogram of cocaine (7000 €).
The money can also be laundered using real estate. A house is built using illegal funds, and when the house is sold, legal money is earned.
Trade of specific drugs
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While the recreational use of (and consequently the distribution of) cannabis is illegal in most countries throughout the world, it is available by prescription or recommendation in many places, including Canada and some US states, with Washington state and Colorado being the two first states to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Importation and distribution is prohibited at the federal level. Cannabis use is tolerated in some areas, most notably the Netherlands which has legalized the possession and licensed sale (but not production) of the drug. Many nations have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Due to the hardy nature of the Cannabis plant, marijuana is grown all across the world and is today the world's most popular illegal drug with the highest availability. Cannabis is grown legally in many countries for industrial, non-drug use (known as hemp) as well. Cannabis-Hemp may also be planted for other non-drug domestic purposes such as seasoning in Aceh.
The demand for cannabis around the world, coupled with the drug's relative ease of cultivation, makes the illicit cannabis trade one of the primary ways in which organized criminal groups finance many of their activities. In Mexico, for example, the illicit trafficking of cannabis is thought to constitute the majority of many of the cartels' earnings. and thus the main way in which they (the cartels) finance many other illegal activities ranging from the purchase of other illegal drugs for trafficking and weapons that are ultimately used to commit murders (causing a burgeoning in the homicide rates of many areas of the world, but particularly Latin America).
Alcohol is illegal in a number of countries, such as Saudi Arabia and this has resulted in a thriving illegal trade in alcohol being commonplace. It was illegal in the United States during the time known as prohibition in the 1920s and early 1930s.
Up until around 2004 the majority of the world's heroin was produced in an area known as the Golden Triangle (Southeast Asia).[page needed] However, by 2007, 93% of the opiates on the world market originated in Afghanistan. This amounted to an export value of about US$64 billion, with a quarter being earned by opium farmers and the rest going to district officials, insurgents, warlords and drug traffickers. Another significant area where poppy fields are grown for the manufacture of heroin is Mexico.
According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the price of heroin is typically valued 8 to 10 times that of cocaine on American streets, making it a high-profit substance for smugglers and dealers. In Europe (except the transit countries Portugal and the Netherlands), for example, a purported gram of street heroin, usually consisting of 700–800 mg of a light to dark brown powder containing 5-10% heroin base, costs between 30 and 70 euros, making the effective value per gram of pure heroin between 300 and 700 euros. Heroin is generally a preferred target for smuggling and distribution over unrefined opium due to the cost-effectiveness and increased efficacy of heroin.
Because of the high cost per volume, heroin is easily smuggled. A quarter-sized[clarification needed] vial can contain hundreds of doses. From the 1930s to the early 1970s, the so-called French Connection supplied the majority of US demand. Allegedly, during the Vietnam War, drug lords such as Ike Atkinson used to smuggle hundreds of kilos of heroin to the U.S. in coffins of dead American soldiers (see Cadaver Connection). Since that time it has become more difficult for drugs to be imported into the United States than it had been in previous decades, but that does not stop the heroin smugglers from getting their product onto U.S. soil. Purity levels vary greatly by region with, for the most part, Northeastern cities having the most pure heroin in the United States. (According to a recently released[when?] report by the DEA, Camden and Newark, New Jersey and Philadelphia, have the purest street grade A heroin in the country.)
Penalties for smuggling heroin and/or morphine are often harsh in most countries. Some countries will readily hand down a death sentence (e.g. Singapore) or life in prison for the illegal smuggling of heroin or morphine, which are both, internationally, Schedule I drugs under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
According to the Community Epidemiology Work Group, the numbers of clandestine methamphetamine laboratory incidents reported to the National Clandestine Laboratory Database decreased from 1999 to 2009. During this same period, methamphetamine lab incidents increased in midwestern States (Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio), and in Pennsylvania. In 2004, more lab incidents were reported in Missouri (2,788) and Illinois (1,058) than in California (764). In 2003, methamphetamine lab incidents reached new highs in Georgia (250), Minnesota (309), and Texas (677). There were only seven methamphetamine lab incidents reported in Hawaii in 2004, though nearly 59 percent of substance abuse treatment admissions (excluding alcohol) were for primary methamphetamine abuse during the first six months of 2004. As of 2007, Missouri leads the United States in clandestine lab seizures, with 1,268 incidents reported. Often canine units are used for detecting rolling meth labs which can be concealed on large vehicles, or transported on something as small as a motorcycle. These labs are more difficult to detect than stationary ones, and can often be obscured with the legal cargo on big trucks.
Methamphetamine is sometimes used in an injectable form, placing users and their partners at risk for transmission of HIV and hepatitis C. "Meth" can also be inhaled, most commonly vaporized on aluminum foil, or through a test tube or light bulb fashioned into a pipe. This method is reported to give "an unnatural high" and a "brief intense rush".
In South Africa methamphetamine is called "tik" or "tik-tik". Children as young as eight are abusing the substance, smoking it in crude glass vials made from light bulbs. Since methamphetamine is easy to produce, the substance is manufactured locally in staggering quantities.
The government of North Korea currently operates methamphetamine production facilities. There, the drug is used as medicine since no others are available; it also is smuggled across its border with China.
The Australian Crime Commission's illicit drug data report for 2011–2012 stated that the average strength of crystal methamphetamine doubled in most Australian jurisdictions within a 12-month period and the majority of domestic laboratory closures involved small "addict-based" operations.
Temazepam, a strong hypnotic benzodiazepine, is illicitly manufactured in clandestine laboratories (called jellie labs) to supply the increasingly high demand for the hypnotic drug internationally. Many clandestine temazepam labs are in Eastern Europe. The way in which they manufacture the temazepam is through chemical alteration of diazepam, oxazepam or lorazepam. Clandestine "jellie labs" have been identified and shutdown in Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Latvia and Belarus.
In the United Kingdom, temazepam is the most widely-abused legal, prescription drug. It's also the most commonly abused benzodiazepine in Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, India, Russia, People's Republic of China, New Zealand, Australia and some parts of Southeast Asia. In Sweden it has been banned due to a problem with drug abuse issues and a high rate of death caused by temazepam alone relative to other drugs of its group. Surveys in many countries show that temazepam, MDMA, nimetazepam, and amphetamines rank among the top illegal drugs most frequently abused.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Drug trafficking|
- UNODC – United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime – World Drug Campaign
- "The Forgotten Drug War", published by the Council on Foreign Relations
- Illicit drug issues by country, by the CIA
- United Summaries of EU legislation: Combating drugs
- LANIC Drug Production, Consumption, and Trafficking page
- The illicit drug trade in the United Kingdom – 2007 Home Office report
- Global Drug Trade Market Data at Havocscope Black Markets