Missouri Meth Tracking System Creates Black Market, Who Knew?

For the first time in about 3 months, I took Metro to work. It was uneventful. I did have an opportunity to glance at the newspaper, rifle through a magazine, and read a few articles from the Plain Dealer on my kindle.

Then, this one shot up at me: Meth ingredient tracking system creates new kind of criminal. I got a kick out of it because I am a former resident of Missouri, and I remember when my dad had to go get some drugs for Betsy when she was sick, he was prevented from purchasing multiple kinds of Sudafed. My dad is not a meth maker, but wanted to get a variety of medicines in case one, but not the others, worked. He’s like that. I had to go to the store and buy some for her because Missouri tracks people’s purchases of cold medicine that contain pseudoephedrine and limits their ability to buy that medicine.

The idea was that people who make meth in their trailers in Bonne Terre or wherever, shouldn’t have the ability to go to Walgreens and buy up their stock of Sudafed. In theory, it seems likely to work. In reality, it doesn’t really work. What did people do?

Electronic systems that track sales of the cold medicine used to make methamphetamine have failed to curb the drug trade and instead created a vast, highly lucrative market for profiteers to buy over-the-counter pills and sell them to meth producers at a huge markup.
An Associated Press review of federal data shows that the lure of such easy money has drawn thousands of new people into the methamphetamine underworld over the last few years.
“It’s almost like a subcriminal culture,” said Gary Boggs, an agent at the Drug Enforcement Administration. “You’ll see them with a GPS unit set up in a van with a list of every single pharmacy or retail outlet. They’ll spend the entire week going store to store and buy to the limit.”
Inside their vehicles, the so-called “pill brokers” punch out blister packs into a bucket and even clip coupons, Boggs said.
At the height of the meth epidemic, several states turned to the electronic systems, which allow pharmacies to check instantly whether a buyer has already purchased the legal limit of pseudoephedrine — a step that was supposed to make it harder to obtain raw ingredients for meth. But it has not worked as intended.
In some cases, the pill buyers are not interested in meth. They may be homeless people recruited off the street or even college kids seeking weekend beer money, authorities say.
Because of booming demand created in large part by the tracking systems, they can buy a box of pills for $7 to $8 and sell it for $40 or $50.

Electronic systems that track sales of the cold medicine used to make methamphetamine have failed to curb the drug trade and instead created a vast, highly lucrative market for profiteers to buy over-the-counter pills and sell them to meth producers at a huge markup.An Associated Press review of federal data shows that the lure of such easy money has drawn thousands of new people into the methamphetamine underworld over the last few years.”It’s almost like a subcriminal culture,” said Gary Boggs, an agent at the Drug Enforcement Administration. “You’ll see them with a GPS unit set up in a van with a list of every single pharmacy or retail outlet. They’ll spend the entire week going store to store and buy to the limit.

“Inside their vehicles, the so-called “pill brokers” punch out blister packs into a bucket and even clip coupons, Boggs said.At the height of the meth epidemic, several states turned to the electronic systems, which allow pharmacies to check instantly whether a buyer has already purchased the legal limit of pseudoephedrine — a step that was supposed to make it harder to obtain raw ingredients for meth. But it has not worked as intended.In some cases, the pill buyers are not interested in meth. They may be homeless people recruited off the street or even college kids seeking weekend beer money, authorities say.

Because of booming demand created in large part by the tracking systems, they can buy a box of pills for $7 to $8 and sell it for $40 or $50.

Say it ain’t so! You mean people won’t just quit making meth when you set up a tracking system with purchase limitations? Of course, I’ve seen people with meth mouth, and knew people who used to be addicted to this deadly drug.

But, a policy like this has a few ramifications to consider:

  • The cost of Sudafed and other goods increases to cover the cost of the reporting system and its requirements. Higher prices for consumers and/or lower wages for employees.
  • People’s ability to get the drugs they want or need are inhibited.
  • The cost of meth amphetamine rises due to the black market.
  • The reporting and limitation requirements cause more crimes to be committed, as individuals compel or force others to buy Sudafed for their operations.

The article later notes:

The tracking systems “invite more people into the criminal activity because the black market price of the product becomes so much more profitable,” said Jason Grellner, a detective in hard-hit Franklin County, Mo., about 40 miles west of St. Louis.

“Where else can you make a 750 percent profit in 45 minutes?” asked Grellner, former president of the Missouri Narcotics Officers Association.

Hayek was famous for saying: “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine the can design.” Instances like these, while well intentioned, have adverse effects that need to be considered.

This reminds me of two other Hayek quotes I photoshopped for a contest a few months back that apply. Remember, when governments start limiting your freedoms to “prevent” certain behaviors, they limit legitimate behavior as well as make things more difficult for those who play by the rules.

doing wrong

hayek planning

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  1. Liked: Missouri Meth Tracking System Creates Black Market, Who Knew? (from JimSwift.net) http://ping.fm/TCR5D

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