Meth seizures at US ports of entry on the rise

36,572 pounds: That’s the amount of methamphetamine seized near the U.S.-Mexico border at U.S. Border Patrol stations and Customs and Border Protection ports of entry near the border from 2005 to 2011.

Meth is seized in large quantities at ports of entry, unlike marijuana, which is more often seized at Border Patrol stations inside the United States rather than at ports.

And the problem keeps growing. In 2011, the total amount of meth seized at the ports was about three times higher than the amount seized in 2005.

Some notable port of entry regions for meth in 2011:

While those numbers are nowhere near the 17 million pounds of marijuana seized from 2005 to 2011, meth seizures have skyrocketed as Mexican cartels push more of their product into the U.S.

According to a recent study (in Spanish) by Mexican think tank Seguridad con Democracia reported on (in English) by ABC/Univision, the Sinaloa cartel controls 80 percent of the U.S. meth trade, which includes producing, transporting and distributing the drug. 

More than 1,500 miles away from the Mexico border, Chicago’s Crime Commission declared Sinaloa leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Public Enemy No. 1, CNN reported. Guzmán, whose cartel rakes in an estimated $3 billion a year from drug trafficking, has made Forbes’ list of world billionaires four years in a row.

In the U.S., meth is produced in superlabs and mom-and-pop shops. According to a 2006 report by the National Criminal Justice Reference Survey, superlabs, the larger of which usually are operated and owned by Mexican trafficking organizations, can produce 10 pounds or more of meth a day. Small toxic labs, or mom-and-pop shops, produce much smaller quantities by extracting chemicals from over-the-counter medication. 

But a lot of meth still comes from Mexico. In a 2007 interview with NPR, Dan Simmons, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent in San Diego, said 80 percent of meth on U.S. streets comes from Mexico.

Between 1997 and 2003, meth seizures at ports of entry were much higher in the West than in other areas of the U.S. The criminal justice survey reported: “Seizures have increased in the Midwest and South, quadrupling from 13 in 2000 to 63 in 2003 in the Midwest. Although the West still holds a large margin, this suggests some shift in methamphetamine trafficking from some Western ports of entry to other regions of the U.S.”

How does that compare to what’s happening in domestic labs?

According to the criminal justice survey, lab seizures range by geography. In the West, lab seizures between 1999 and 2003 declined from 4,073 to 1,810. In the South and the Midwest, they nearly doubled. While lab seizures in the Northeast historically have been low, the number has increased slightly from 4 in 1999 to 30 in 2003. 

For more information, check out our map of border drug seizures and user guide for more information.

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