Welcome to your de facto foreign policy on Texas' southern border, courtesy of the Texas Legislature and US drug control policy.
Rep. Peña points to this Dallas News article ("Narcotics seizures on rise along the border," Sept. 25) by David McLemore describing a situation about which Grits has been sounding the alarm for some time - the crackdown on bathtub-gin style homemade meth handed the lucrative market to Mexican smugglers. The stuff they produce turns out to be purer and even more addictive. Whoops!
The illicit drug marking the biggest increase – and the most alarming, authorities said – is the smokable form of methamphetamine, known as "ice."
This fiscal year, customs inspectors at eight ports of entry between Brownsville and Del Rio have seized 683 pounds of meth as of July 5, the most recent month for which data are available. That compares with 627 pounds for all of fiscal 2005.
DPS agents seized 123 pounds of Mexican meth in the first quarter of fiscal 2006, compared with 28.8 in the same period in the previous. fiscal year.
In June, DEA administrator Karen Tandy told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that about 80 percent of the meth used in the U.S. is distributed by Mexican trafficking organizations and comes from large "super labs" built on the Mexican side of the border. Three are located at Monterrey, Ciudad Acuña and Piedras Negras.
The rise of Mexican ice – purer and more addictive than the meth produced in mom-and-pop clandestine labs in Texas – is due in part to the controlled sale of over-the-counter remedies containing pseudoephedrine, a chemical used in the manufacture of homegrown methamphetamine.
A state law passed in August 2005 limited individual sales of cold medicines to 6 grams, roughly two packages of cold pills, each month. Retailers were also required to move cold medicines behind the counter and record the names of purchasers.
This year, Congress passed a law similar to the Texas law, requiring all medicines containing pseudoephedrine be kept behind the counter and sold in limited amounts.
"I'm afraid what we did was create a monster," Dr. [Jane Carlisle] Maxwell said. "For it opened the doors for the Mexican drug organizations to get into meth manufacture in a big way.
"The Mexican meth is a very scary thing," said Dr. Maxwell. "That could mean people will get addicted much faster. And meth addicts tend to become paranoid and more violent. It's a threat to the entire community."
Finally, the media is beginning to pick up on what's really happened here - the pseudoephedrine restrictions in Oklahoma, Texas and now the rest of the country have had zero effect on supply, increased the purity of the drug, and, worst of all, shoved tens of millions of profits into the pockets of already exceedingly wealthy drug smuggling outfits.That's not just a failed policy, it's a catastrophic one - another case of criminal justice policy achieving the opposite result from lawmakers' stated hopes. That's the result of using the criminal justice system to treat something that's really a public health problem: drug abuse.
Maybe next session the same lawmakers will focus on proven solutions to meth addiction and the very real problems affecting Texans' public safety.