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Thursday, June 19, 2008

$5 Billion Dollar Shock

posted by on June 19 at 10:27 AM

What happens when the U.S. government tries to eradicate coca crops in South America? Farmers grow more of it—a lot more.

The amount of land devoted to production of coca, the leaf used to make cocaine, has grown at a dramatic pace in Colombia despite a huge American-funded counter-drug program of aerial fumigation and aggressive interdiction, a U.N. agency said Wednesday.

In a 132-page report based on satellite imagery and on-the-ground surveys, the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime said that Colombian farmers planted 245,000 acres of coca last year, 27 percent more than in 2006. Coca cultivation in the world’s three top producers, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, increased 16 percent, to 448,743 acres, a swath of land slightly smaller than Delaware.

“The increase in coca cultivation in Colombia is a surprise and shock,” Antonio Maria Costa, director of the Office on Drugs and Crime, said in a statement. “A surprise because it comes at a time when the Colombian government is trying so hard to eradicate coca; a shock because of the magnitude of cultivation.”

The findings follow almost eight years of heavy aerial fumigation of drug crops in Colombia, an American-designed strategy that has cost more than $5 billion.

Costa’s naiveté is just astounding. He’s the world’s drug czar, yet he experiences “surprise and shock” at supply and demand. Perhaps someone needs to tell him that cocaine sells for $100 a gram.

But it’s not just economics. The fumigation itself is actually propagating more coca fields. According to a report released in March, every time the U.S. sprays crops, farmers have to move to other regions, where they plant more. Betcha that if Costa had bothered to read that report, he wouldn’t be shocked.

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$50/gram for blow

Posted by achoo | June 19, 2008 10:34 AM

$100 a gram?!?! Damn, apparently we get it good and cheap in Seattle!!!

Posted by Queen_of_Sleaze | June 19, 2008 10:34 AM

$100/gram was what it cost 30 years ago. See how good deregulation works.

Posted by umvue | June 19, 2008 11:01 AM

Well at a pure gram coke goes for considerably more than $100/gm.

As recently as a two years a go you could score nearly pure coke for less than $1.00 per gram in Bogota (wholesale obviously).

By the time that one gram hits Seattle it has become at least 5 grams (20% purity is the about best you're ever gonna see here). At $50/gm retail that one gram is now worth $250. Nice return.

Oh, and Costa is a fucking idiot. A very erudite, well-mannered and humorous one, but an idiot nonetheless.

Posted by gnossos | June 19, 2008 11:31 AM

It's not just supply and demand, although it's certainly that as well. It's also the fact that trying to eradicate coca farming in South America is like trying to eradicate grape farming in fucking France: Coca use has been part of Andean culture since before a country called "Columbia" even existed, and it is not going to go away. Ever.

We might as well try to "eradicate" tea farming in China.

Posted by Doctor Memory | June 19, 2008 12:10 PM

Naww, you can get 50/50 pharmaceutical if you know grad students in the right labs.

Posted by Bison | June 19, 2008 12:20 PM

Capitalism at work! Let the markets decide! Isn't that what lasse faire capitalists say? I always thought it would be cheaper and less destructive to give the farmers a better price for their crops and just sink them at sea. Same in Afghanistan. Pay the farmers more money than they can get and destroy the drugs. The farmers then pay taxes that government can use to fight terrorism. Makes too much sense.

Posted by Vince | June 19, 2008 12:37 PM

Better yet, use the crops to make bio-fuel!

Posted by Vince | June 19, 2008 12:39 PM

@6: yeah right. But the 99.99% of the estimated 20,000 or so Seattlites who used coke in the previous month were lucky if their shit was above 15%.

Posted by gnossos | June 19, 2008 12:40 PM

And where do these farmers find new fields to grow their crop? They chop down more rainforest. Way to go, America!

Posted by Mason | June 19, 2008 1:36 PM

I'd be pretty surprised if the average quality was actually that low in Seattle. Nationwide it tends to be in the 50-60% range, and the stuff here seems pretty average.

Posted by Bison | June 19, 2008 2:04 PM

Oddly I trust DEA purity data on heroin more than for coke.

The primary reason is that everyone @ DEA knows and acknowledges that heroin is primarily a street drug and so they do street buys/tests.

But their coke purity data seems to be based more on what they gather from their dealer level busts or gram and above purchases -- rather than street level, which is where the overwhelming majority of cocaine is sold.

Also, Seattle consistently ranks far below national average for purity of street drugs -- we're at the end of the line and by the time it gets here everyone has stepped on it. Even Yakima has higher purity.

Posted by gnossos | June 20, 2008 1:07 AM

That site also says Ecstasy is $25/pill, and a gram of black tar heroin is $195. I don't think we get those stepped on in Seattle, since they're already crap.

Posted by make connections | June 20, 2008 10:27 AM

Ahh, I see that you bothered to actually look up the purity numbers and found out how ridiculous your 15% number was.

Now I'd love for you to substantiate your assertion about Seattle consistently having lower-than-average drug purities. How does the meth rate? How about heroin? Marijuana?

Posted by Bison | June 20, 2008 8:19 PM

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