Friday, February 4, 2011

Anti-Meth Laws and Lessons in Unintended Consequences

A few years ago, legislators across the U.S. passed a bunch of laws to track cough syrup purchases in order to discourage meth production. Not surprisingly, not only has this failed to slow down the meth trade, but it's led to a host of unintended consequences:
But an Associated Press analysis of federal data reveals that the practice has not only failed to curb the meth trade, which is growing again after a brief decline. It also created a vast and highly lucrative market for profiteers to buy over-the-counter pills and sell them to meth producers at a huge markup...
Since tracking laws were enacted beginning in 2006, the number of meth busts nationwide has started climbing again. Some experts say the black market for cold pills contributed to that spike. Other factors are at play, too, such as meth trafficking by Mexican cartels and new methods for making small amounts of meth. 
For all of you out there who are still unemployed, apparently you can make not-insignificant sums of money buying over-the-counter pills and selling them to meth labs:
It's long been an article of faith among libertarians that [making products with pseudoephedrine hard to purchase over-the-counter] was simply going to push manufacture to Mexican gangs, but  now Keith Humphreys tells me that it hasn't even done that.  Instead, armies of "smurfers" are getting around the sudafed purchase limits; a box of pseudoephedrine-laden pills purchased for $7 to $8 can bring $40 to $50 from meth dealers.
[Note: I am in no way condoning working as a pseudoephedrine smurfer - I'm sure that's a terrible life choice.]

Not that anyone could have predicted this would happen - oh, wait, yes, people did predict that this exact thing would happen. Alright, politicians, in the future, can we think through laws before we pass them and try to mitigate the effects of unintended consequences?

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