No Bailout For Hard-Hit Illegal Drug Trade As Coronavirus Cuts Profits

The world has almost come to a complete standstill during this pandemic, as many businesses have shut down in the effort to combat and stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

While the US is offering unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, and some other forms of help and services to those who have been affected by the coronavirus, there is one line of business that cannot get any type of assistance despite taking a hard hit to profit margins.

Between border closings and the severing of Chinese supply chains, the pipelines traffickers need in order to make drugs such as methamphetamine and fentanyl, the coronavirus is paralyzing the highly-profitable illegal drug trade.

Though traffickers are still attempting to come up with creative ways to smuggle drugs, one particular shutdown landed at the epicenter of the global outbreak. Wuhan was one of the main sources for drug supplies.

The NY Post mentions:

“Along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border through which the vast majority of illegal drugs cross, the normally bustling vehicle traffic that smugglers use for cover has slowed to a trickle. Bars, nightclubs and motels across the country that are ordinarily fertile marketplaces for drug dealers have shuttered. And prices for drugs in short supply have soared to gouging levels.

Virtually every illicit drug has been impacted, with supply chain disruptions at both the wholesale and retail level. Traffickers are stockpiling narcotics and cash along the border, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration even reports a decrease in money laundering and online drug sales on the so-called dark web.”

The sudden halt in the drug business is causing a “supply problem and a demand problem,” as Alejandro Hope, a security analyst and former office with CISEN, the Mexican intelligence agency, describes it. “Once you get them to the market, who are you going to sell to?”

“The godfathers of the cartels are scrambling,” said Phil Jordan, a former director of the DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center.

Cocaine prices are up 20 percent in some cities, while heroin has become harder to find in cities like Denver and Chicago. In Houston and Philadelphia, supplies of fentanyl are falling, and Los Angeles is seeing prices double for methamphetamine, going up to $1,800 per pound.

Methamphetamine and fentanyl, synthetic drugs that the cartels favor most, have been among the most affected. Both are highly valued because they can be cooked non-stop throughout the year, unlike drugs that require growing seasons like heroin and marijuana.

But because these drugs rely on precursor chemicals that Mexican cartels import from China, cook into drugs on an industrial scale and then ship to the U.S., their once-lucrative illegal business is taking a major hit.

If there is one thing that this pandemic has taught the DEA, it is that “if the disruption is that significant, we need to continue to work with our global partners to ensure that, once we come out of the pandemic, those precursor chemicals are not available to these drug-trafficking organizations.”

“The quarantine of Wuhan and all the chaos there definitely affected the fentanyl trade, particularly between China and Mexico,” said Ben Westhoff, author of “Fentanyl, Inc.”

Adding, “The main reason China has been the main supplier is the main reason China is the supplier of everything — it does it so cheaply,” Westhoff said. “There was really no cost incentive for the cartels to develop this themselves.”

Mexican drug cartels are going to great lengths to try to mitigate some of their losses, trying to hold back on existing methamphetamine supplies to manipulate the market. Some cartels are even saying that “anyone caught selling methamphetamine during this time will be killed,” said Joseph Brown, the U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Texas.

Even with nations closing borders and with major security in the way, be sure enough narcotics are still making their way into the U.S. In a bust just last month, nearly $30 million worth of street drugs were seized in a new smuggling tunnel connecting a Tijuana warehouse to southern San Diego.

President Trump announced last month that Navy ships were being moved toward Venezuela. This was part of a bid to beef up counter-narcotics operations in the Caribbean following a U.S. drug indictment against Nicolás Maduro.