The Reality of the Cocaine and Methamphetamine Markets of the EU

The European Drug Report 2017

The EMCDDA 2017 report “European Drug Report Trends and Development” presents an analysis of the cocaine and methamphetamine drug markets of Europe but the picture presented is limited by dated data in this case 2015 and the use of seizures by the state as an indicator of market trends and reality. What is of vital necessity to reports as this is knowledge of reality on the ground of drug markets gathered through field work in the terrain of these markets. A task which academia evades with shameless passion as you gaze upon the fear in their eyes when you indicate the need for such work.

Cocaine: The EMCDDA report indexed trends between the price per gram and the purity of cocaine for 2006 to 2015 show the trend that commenced after 2006 for the purity of cocaine to rise whilst the price falls reaching an indexed price of 92 to 104 purity. The marketing strategy of the Mexican Transnational Trafficking Organisations (MTTOs) to raise the purity level whilst lowering the price of the product is being rolled out across the EU but the desired equilibrium between price and purity is yet to be attained. This strategy is rooted in a product mix which maximises profit and in the EU the methamphetamine market is underdeveloped and the heroin market is not under the hegemony of the MTTOs. But the strategy will be rolled out in an attempt to deepen cocaine markets whilst expanding cocaine smuggling to the east and north of the EU to break out of the dependence on the traditional cocaine markets of the west. Already the signs of this are apparent in Germany and Poland. There were 89,000 seizures with 69.4 tonnes of cocaine seized with Spain continuing to be the premier landing zone of the EU but what is noteworthy is the diversification of entry points to the EU with the UK, Belgium, France, Italy and Germany being the prime zones external of Spain. Spain is the prime landing zone created under the old order of the Colombian traffickers whilst the MTTOs and their primary affiliate in the EU: Italian organised crime especially the Ndrangheta are investing in alternate routes and operational centres. The MTTOs and their affiliates have formed operational alliances with Polish organised crime which is a potent instrument for the move to the east. But this is not the complete picture as this picture is based on seizures and seizures are driven by the internal power relations of the EU member state. The report states that Belgium, Germany and Portugal reported increases in quantities seized but what of The Netherlands? Does the level of seizures in The Netherlands reflect the volume of cocaine being smuggled into The Netherlands especially via containerised cargo? No it does not at all as The Netherlands is on fire as a trafficking point. The report cited the seizure of 78 kilos of coca leaves and 377 kilos of coca paste in Europe in 2015 but does not mention the shipments of coca leaves and coca paste seized in Latin America on the way to Europe. The report states that the seizures of coca paste in the EU “suggest” that cocaine hydrochloride is being produced in the EU. What else do you do with coca paste that affords a profit to smuggle it into the EU? Like Duh! The report says nothing on trafficking coca leaves to the EU. The message is clear that offshore cocaine production facilities now exist in the EU where raw materials, coca leaves, and an intermediate product, coca paste, necessary to manufacture cocaine hydrochloride are being trafficked to the EU. Whilst your entire interdiction machinery is configured to find cocaine hydrochloride you must now retool to detect coca paste and coca leaves. It is very simple in the EU to process coca leaves into cocaine hydrochloride in a single facility. There is now a need for coca paste and coca leaves sniffer dogs. The threat is multifaceted but the response remains divorced from the nature and reality of the threat. The threat constantly evolves but the response is constantly hoping to catch up but it never does. This is not engagement this is a discourse of social control. This new multifaceted strategy to maximise profit in the cocaine markets of the EU is the product of the MTTOs.

Methamphetamine (meth): A map of the seizures of illicit drugs for 2015 shows a geographical distribution of illicit drug seizures with cocaine seizures dominating in the western quadrant as Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Italy, UK, Ireland, along with Austria, Slovenia, Denmark and Greece. For amphetamine seizures the countries are: Germany, Poland, Hungary, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Bulgaria. For meth the countries are: Latvia, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Slovakia. For MDMA they are: Turkey, Croatia, and Romania. There is then a huge potential market in the countries where amphetamine and methamphetamine seizures dominate to expand the cocaine markets of these countries but more importantly to flood the drug markets with the cocaine/meth nexus favoured by the MTTOs. The actual seizures per member states of the EU plus Norway and Turkey for meth shows the highest number of seizures ranked according to number of as follows: Germany, Norway, Turkey, Czech Republic with total seizures of 0.9 tonnes. The meth market is underdeveloped but already the form of the future market is taking shape with Germany, Norway and the Czech Republic as operational centres. The 2017 report indicates that the Czech Republic is now a manufacturing point for industrial grade meth for both local consumption and export utilising ephedrine, pseudo ephedrine and other precursors. This development in the Czech Republic is in the roll out stage as more production points for industrial grade meth under the control of organised and transnational organised will be established. The impact of industrial grade meth of the quality and pricing produced and marketed by the MTTOs and their affiliates will have an immediate impact on the market for synthetic drugs. The data in the report for the price of meth and the purity illustrate the severity of the impact industrial grade meth will have on demand as presently the price per gram is way too high and the purity much too varied MTTO ice will offer lower prices with a higher purity for the price point compared to present market conditions. One therefore expects that the targeted markets will be Germany, Norway, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria with Turkey as an export way station. These markets will also be exposed to the cocaine/meth nexus necessitating the march of trafficking routes eastwards. Given the operational strength of the premier EU affiliate of the MTTOs in Germany, the Ndrangheta, one expects that Italian organised crime is playing the lead role in realising this strategic imperative.

Of the total number of drug seizures for 2015 41% was for herbal cannabis, 28% cannabis resin, 2% cannabis plants, 9% for cocaine and crack, 5% amphetamine, 5% heroin, 2% MDMA and 8% other substances. This picture potently illustrates the failed policing of the war on drugs as the least profitable, most problematic illicit drug to traffick herbal cannabis accounts for 44% of seizures as the lowest hanging least ripe fruit is repeatedly picked for political purposes with cannabis accounting for 71% of seizures whilst cocaine, heroin and amphetamine seizures account for 19% of all seizures. There is then a fixation on cannabis/ganja interdiction and justifying its designation as an illicit drug to the point of being a crusade for without illicit ganja the war on drugs will be exposed in all its nakedness revealing its failure to interdict the most profitable illicit substances. The position that the largest illicit drug market is the cannabis market does not factor in the value of the commodity on wholesale and retail markets, the diversity and abundance of the supply side of the market because of the nature of the plant and the instability and propensity for violence that ensues as market domination and protection of turf is paramount in this illicit business to ensure sustainable maximisation of profits because of the abundance of supply from various sources from imports to domestic grow-ops. This is why the profits generated by cocaine, heroin and meth outstrips that of cannabis and the reason why the traffickers of these drugs are transnational organised crime players who are now taking as affiliates or as affiliates of affiliates the cannabis traffickers a most potent illustration of the power relation dominated by the globalised transnational traffickers as the MTTOs. Which reveals that the illicit drug trade is fully integrated into the licit economy and the political order and that the war on drugs is simply an instrument of social control.

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