By JG Vibes
May 15, 2013
Over the years drugs have continued to get stronger and more dangerous on the black market, and that is no mistake as i will explain later in this article. Recently during a drug bust in Canada a new synthetic street drug was discovered that could be the most dangerous thing to turn up on the market yet.
Montreal police said Monday they found a Can$3 million (US$3 million) drug stash that included their first ever black market discovery of a synthetic drug that is “40 times stronger than heroin.”
Authorities seized more than 300,000 tablets of the illegally-produced synthetic prescription drug desmethyl fentanyl, as well as marijuana, hashish and ecstasy from a makeshift Montreal laboratory on April 25, said a statement. So powerful is the drug that one of the policemen involved in the bust was hospitalized with heart palpitations after briefly coming in contact with it, even though he was wearing a protective mask.
This steady increase in potency of street drugs is an inevitable result of prohibition, as many economists have recognized with “the iron law of prohibition”. The Iron Law of Prohibition states that:
The iron law of prohibition is a term coined by Richard Cowan which states that “the more intense the law enforcement, the more potent the prohibited substance becomes.” This law is an application of the Alchian–Allen effect. It is based on the premise that when drugs or alcohol are prohibited, they will be produced only in black markets in their most concentrated and powerful forms. If all alcohol beverages are prohibited, a bootlegger will be more profitable if he smuggles highly potent distilled liquors than if he smuggles the same volume of small beer. In addition, the black-market goods are more likely to be adulterated with unknown or dangerous substances. Therefore the “iron law” says that the more you try to enforce prohibition (bigger budgets, larger penalties, etc.) the more potent and dangerous prohibited drugs become.
The law is based on the research of Mark Thornton, an economist associated with the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He first showed that the potency of marijuana increased in response to higher enforcement budgets. He later expanded this research in his dissertation to include other illegal drugs and alcohol during Prohibition in the United States (1920-1933). The basic approach is based on the Alchian and Allen Theorem. They argue that if you add any fixed cost (e.g. transportation fee) to the price of two varieties of the same product (e.g. high quality red apple and a low quality red apple) the more expensive variety will get exported more often. When applied to rum-running, drug smuggling, and blockade running the more potent products become the sole focus of the suppliers.
Mark Thornton gives some more examples of this in one of his articles about the spread of crystal meth addiction:
The scourge of crystal meth is another example of the “potency effect” or what has been called the “iron law of prohibition.” When government enacts a prohibition, increases enforcement, or increases penalties on a good such as alcohol or drugs, it inevitably results in substitution to more adulterated, more potent, and more dangerous drugs.
In the case of crystal meth, authorities have tried to restrict the supply of the basic ingredient, which is a common component in cold medications. They required that such medications be sold in pharmacies from behind the counter and limited to a one-month supply. More recently, some states have required that buyers be tracked electronically to prevent purchasing from multiple pharmacies.
In response, meth producers have recruited large numbers of intermediaries, including their friends, relatives, college students, and even children and the homeless. These recruits buy the cold medicine and can sell it to the labs for a 500 percent profit. A review by the Associated Press shows that thousands of people are being lured into this drug trade. “Law enforcement was surprised,” St. Louis County Sgt. Tom Murley said. “People that normally wouldn’t cross the line are willing to do so because they think it’s such a sweet deal, and because of the economy.”
In the black market one of the major drawbacks is that there is no accountability among the people selling the drug. Since anyone can get kidnapped and thrown in a cage for even dealing with the stuff, it really doesn’t make sense for people to be plastering their names and logos all over the drugs. In this age of corporate mercantilism logos and branding may seem like a really tacky idea, but when looking at the black market we can see the value in such things. Someone who is selling a product with their name on it, is going to go through far greater lengths to ensure the quality of their product, as opposed to someone who would remain anonymous.
This anonymity creates an incentive for people to be dishonest with what they sell. This could lead to rip offs, or downright contamination of the drug with unwanted harmful substances. This is why there was bathtub gin that would make you go blind if your drank it during alcohol prohibition. This is also the reason why some of the harder street drugs today are cut with toxic chemicals that increase the chance of overdose ten fold. The fact that the drugs need to be smuggled also creates the incentive to make drugs more potent, and thus in some circumstances more dangerous. The increased potency and decreased availability inevitably leads to a massive increase in cost. The increased cost is a whole other issue with its own unique side effects in regards to drug safety. When the price of the real drugs go up, people just start huffing paint thinner, smoking bath salts and cooking up crystal meth in their basements, which is then even many times more dangerous than the unbranded drugs on the black market.
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J.G. Vibes is the author of an 87 chapter counter-culture textbook called Alchemy of the Modern Renaissance, a staff writer, reporter for dev-test.intellihub.com and Executive Producer of the Bob Tuskin Radio Show. You can keep up with his work, which includes free podcasts, free e-books & free audiobooks at his website www.aotmr.com
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