ST. LOUIS – Flanked by leaders from the world’s largest producing nations of methamphetamine precursor chemicals, and some of the principal consumers of finished meth and controlled pharmaceuticals, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and John P. Walters, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), urged all producing and transit nations for precursor chemicals used to produce methamphetamine and other drugs to expand efforts to prevent illegal diversion of the products.
China, India and Germany are among the top five global exporters of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine – chemicals used in the production of methamphetamine. The United States, Mexico and Canada are traditionally major importers of these precursors. Significant law enforcement and regulatory actions by all six of these countries have contributed to progress against methamphetamine and precursor producers and traffickers. However, traffickers have changed their tactics in response and additional aggressive actions are required. Major methamphetamine labs, both in North America and in Asia, are still acquiring the precursor chemicals they require to churn out large amounts of methamphetamine consumed in the United States and around the world.
For the first time, leaders from Mexico, Canada, China, Germany and India joined federal, state, and local law enforcement professionals from throughout the United States at the National Methamphetamine Chemicals Initiative (NMCI) conference, an initiative of the ONDCP. Attorney General Mukasey and Director Walters opened the conference, which took place in Missouri, one of the states hardest hit by methamphetamine.
Despite existing global cooperation implementing systems of pre-export notification and provision of legitimate trade data for precursor chemicals to bodies like the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), many nations have not dedicated resources to prevent diversion commensurate with the size of their enormous chemical industries. Many nations around the world have large, vibrant and complex chemical industries and have yet to develop the law enforcement and regulatory capacity to prevent precursor chemicals and pharmaceutical products from being diverted to the illegal market. Moreover, numerous countries lack the law enforcement and infrastructure capacity to monitor their trade and are often unknowingly transshipment and diversion points for precursor chemicals. The six countries at this NMCI conference are endeavoring to work with the INCB in order to attack this issue from both the supply and demand side and aid these countries in building better oversight capabilities.
“The successes we’ve had in the fight against methamphetamine are due to our combined efforts – here and abroad – to target meth at every level of production and distribution,” said Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey. “We’re pleased with what we have done and the inroads we have made. But we cannot allow our successes to diminish our efforts. The threat posed by methamphetamine is still too great, and calls for continued vigilance and cooperation.”
Citing significant strides against methamphetamine production, trafficking and use domestically, Director Walters indicated that international cooperation is critical to further progress against meth within the United States. “The meth problem in this country is changing rapidly,” said Director Walters. “Small toxic labs, which poison local communities with their products and byproducts, had been rising at an alarming rate. But a series of local, State, and Federal actions have contributed to stunning declines in meth lab seizures and use. But this is not the time for declarations of victory; this is the time for follow through. We must engage our international partners to go beyond the first steps of chemical control; to take meaningful action against global drug trafficking organizations; and to help us sustain the hard-fought progress realized by first responders, prevention and treatment professionals, and public policy leaders across this Nation.”
Attorney General Mukasey and Director Walters offered a multilateral statement that calls for continued information sharing and controls against precursor diversion, supports monitoring of global trade activity in precursor chemicals, and highlights the need for control mechanisms against the diversion of controlled pharmaceuticals.
The United States has demonstrated how pressures against both supply and demand can influence the meth market. Following concerted youth prevention and treatment efforts, national survey data in the U.S. indicate a 64 percent reduction in youth meth use since 2001. Results from workplace drug screenings conducted in 2007 show a more than 50 percent decline in the number of people testing positive for methamphetamine over the past two years. From January to December of 2007, the price per pure gram of meth increased 84 percent, from $152.39 to $280.06, while purity during the same time period decreased 26 percent. Simultaneously, there has been a 70 percent decrease in meth lab seizures throughout the country from 2004-2007.
Traffickers initially scrambled to fill the supply void caused by reductions in domestic labs with meth produced in other countries, including Mexico. But Mexico, under the leadership of President Calderon, drastically reduced the amount of imports of methamphetamine precursors in 2007, and has ceased to issue import permits for key meth precursor chemicals. Sellers of products containing meth precursors must deplete their remaining supplies by 2009. Estimates indicate that the Mexican precursor controls have already contributed to a nearly 50 percent decrease in meth seizures along the U.S. Southwest Border.
Recognizing these bold and effective efforts, Attorney General Mukasey presented Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora with an NMCI IMPACT Award. Presented annually at the NMCI conference, the 2008 award is the first ever given at this conference to a foreign official for their contributions reducing the methamphetamine problem.