Illegal Drug Trade
The illegal drug trade is a global black market dedicated to the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of drugs that are subject to drug prohibition laws. Most jurisdictions prohibit trade, except under license, of many types of drugs through the use of drug prohibition laws.
A UN report has stated that “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.
The United States
The effects of the illegal drug trade in the United States can be seen in a range of political, economic and social aspects. Increasing drug related violence can be tied to the racial tension that arose during the late 20th century along with the political upheaval prevalent throughout the 1960s and 70s. The second half of the 20th century was a period when increased wealth, and increased discretionary spending, increased the demand for illicit drugs in certain areas of the United States.
A large generation, the baby boomers, came of age in the 1960s. Their social tendency to confront the law on specific issues, including illegal drugs, overwhelmed the understaffed judicial system. The federal government attempted to enforce the law, but with meager affect.
Marijuana was a popular drug seen through the Latin American trade route in the 1960s. Cocaine became a major drug product in the later decades. Much of the cocaine is smuggled from Colombia and Mexico via Jamaica. This led to several administrations combating the popularity of these drugs. Due to the influence of this development on the U.S. economy, the Reagan Administration began “certifying” countries for their attempts at controlling drug trafficking. This allowed the US to intervene in activities related to illegal drug transport in Latin America. Continuing into the 1980s, the United States instated stricter policy pertaining to drug transit through sea. As a result, there was an influx in drug-trafficking across the Mexico–US border. This increased the drug cartel activity in Mexico. By the early 1990s, so much as 50% of the cocaine available in the United States market originated from Mexico, and by the 2000s, over 90% of the cocaine in the United States was imported from Mexico. In Colombia, however, there was a fall of the major drug cartels in the mid-1990s. Visible shifts occurred in the drug market in the United States. Between the years 1996 and 2000, US consumption of cocaine had dropped by 11%.
In 2008, the United States government initiated another program, known as The Merida Initiative, to help combat drug trafficking in Mexico. This program increased US security assistance to $1.4bn over several years, which helped supply Mexican forces with “high-end equipment from helicopters to surveillance technology.” Despite US aid, Mexican “narcogangs” continue to outnumber and outgun the Mexican Army, allowing for continued activities of drug cartels across the US-Mexico border.
Although narcotics are illegal in the US, they have become integrated into the nation’s culture and are seen as a recreational activity by sections of the population. Illicit drugs are considered to be a commodity with strong demand, as they are typically sold at a high value. This high price is caused by a combination of factors that include the potential legal ramifications that exist for suppliers of illicit drugs and their high demand. Despite the constant effort by politicians to win the war on drugs, the US is still the world’s largest importer of illegal drugs.
Throughout the 20th century, narcotics other than cocaine also crossed the Mexican border, meeting the US demand for alcohol during 1920s Prohibition, opiates in the 1940s, marijuana in the 1960s, and heroin in the 1970s. Most of the U.S. imports of drugs come from Mexican drug cartels. In the United States, around 195 cities have been infiltrated by drug trafficking that originated in Mexico. An estimated $10bn of the Mexican drug cartel’s profits come from the United States, not only supplying the Mexican drug cartels with the profit necessary for survival, but also furthering America’s economic dependence on drugs.
With a large wave of immigrants in the 1960s and onwards, the United States saw an increased heterogeneity in its public. In the 1980s and 90s, drug related homicide was at a record high. This increase in drug violence became increasingly tied to these ethnic minorities. Though the rate of violence varied tremendously among cities in America, it was a common anxiety in communities across urban America. An example of this could be seen in Miami, a city with a host of ethnic enclaves. Between 1985 and 1995, the homicide rate in Miami was one of the highest in the nation—four times the national homicide average. This crime rate was correlated with regions with low employment and was not entirely dependent on ethnicity.
The baby boomer generation also felt the effects of the drug trade in their increased drug use from the 1960s to 80s. Along with substance abuse, criminal involvement, suicide and murder were also on the rise. Due to the large amount of baby boomers, commercial marijuana use was on the rise. This increased the supply and demand for marijuana during this time period.