Methamphetamine Production and Trafficking: Who is Responsible?

Unlike cocaine and heroin, which are rarely produced domestically, methamphetamine is both imported into the United States and produced domestically.

We know that transnational drug trafficking organizations, and especially those headquartered in Mexico, are responsible for the importation, and much of the distribution of, methamphetamine within the United States. While some of these organizations are headquartered outside of the United States, they actually operate "super-labs" within our borders.

These are often poly-drug organizations which are served by a vast network of transporters, distributors and money brokers who distribute not only methamphetamine, but also cocaine, heroin, marijuana and MDMA throughout America.

Although the sheer number of small, toxic laboratories (STLs) found throughout the United States is greater than the number of super-labs, the latter are actually responsible for the greater share of methamphetamine being used and distributed throughout our nation.

The most common ingredient in methamphetamine is pseudoephedrine. STLs typically divert the pseudoephedrine from pharmacies and discount stores.

The large, Mexican-controlled super-labs that make large quantities of methamphetamine for importation and distribution, however, get much of their pseudoephedrine from or through Canada.

My testimony will address our efforts to work with Canada to deprive producers of easy access to bulk quantities of pseudoephedrine. With respect to domestic production, there are essentially four reasons that methamphetamine is produced within our borders.

The first is simply the market phenomenon of continuing demand as use increases.

The second is the ease of attaining information on making methamphetamine – recipes, techniques, and sources are all easily accessible on the Internet, and books on the subject can easily be ordered online.

The third is the ease of purchasing the ingredients for making methamphetamine within the United States.

The fourth reason is more subtle. For users and dealers, cooking methamphetamine has developed into a social activity where methamphetamine users can share information on methods of cooking and using methamphetamine, who in the "meth world" may be working undercover for police, and what sort of criminal enterprises, such as identity theft, may be feasible to enable the illegal acquisition of the ingredients used in methamphetamine.

Source:  Office of National Drug Control Policy, Febr 2004 Statement of Deputy Director for State and Local Affairs, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy before the House Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources.