Illegal narcotic drugs represent a $60 billion market in the U.S., and this year alone the State and Federal governments will each spend roughly $20 billion in attempting to stifle this market. The amount of money involved in the drug trade, substantially inflated due to prohibition, makes both systemic corruption and violence inevitable. The illegal drug trade is a sophisticated international network, and while no nation’s involvement is limited to one economic function, one relationship is crystal clear: Mexico serves as a high-volume channel of drugs into the United States, and drug traffickers will go to great lengths to continue serving the American consumers as long as their demand exists. A 1997 article stated that narcotics funnel as much as $30 billion into the Mexican economy each year, “more than the country’s top two legitimate exports combined.”
Despite decades of attempts to control this illegal activity, the public perception is that the United States’ war on drugs has failed to substantially reduce both the supply and demand of illegal drugs. Supply-side efforts have been plagued by conflicting political priorities and corruption in both American and Mexican administrations, while the costly anti-drug advertising campaigns and increased incarcerations of drug users have had only limited success in decreasing the demand for drugs. Furthermore, the inherent difficulty of international coordination in such an effort has hindered the success of the drug war. As James Finckenauer, Ph.D. of the National Institute of Justice states, “The complexity of the worldwide drug market and the vast resources available to narcotic producers and traffickers requires afflicted countries to collaborate if a successful end to the campaign against drugs is to be achieved.”
Today, no two bordering nations are more immersed in an anti-drug campaign than the U.S. and Mexico. This paper examines the nature of the illegal drug market, the obstacles faced by the US and Mexico in their war on drugs, as well as the current developments and a proposed alternative to the allegedly futile and misguided effort.
Over the past decade, Mexican drug organizations secured a prominent position in the cocaine market that was formerly dominated by Colombian drug cartels, and opened the doors for Mexican groups to dominate the drug trafficking market. According to a Drug Intelligence Brief by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Mexico continues to be the principal transit route for cocaine available in the United States—an estimated 70 percent of the cocaine entering the United States is smuggled across the U.S. Southwest border. Mexico is also a source country for heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine available in the United States, as well as various pharmaceutical drugs.
Drug production and trafficking, as well as the laundering of drug proceeds, is currently...