International Drug Trafficking

Erik D. Fritsvold

in Criminology

ISBN: 9780195396607
Published online July 2012 | | DOI:
International Drug Trafficking

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The global illegal drug trade is massive in scope with sweeping consequences for the developed and developing world. With an estimated annual value of between $300 billion and $400 billion, international drug trafficking dwarfs the value of many staple legal commodities in the global economy. This massive underground criminal marketplace further destabilizes regions rife with unrest, provides revenue for entrenched organized criminal groups, undermines cornerstone institutions, corrupts law enforcement, infiltrates the financial sector, and further complicates issues of national security. Recent decades have dramatically reconfigured international drug trafficking. While the United States remains the largest consumer of illicit drugs, recent years have witnessed a modest shift away from punitive prohibition policies; several states have relaxed marijuana laws, and there has been a modest deescalation of penalties at the federal level. The last decade has also witnessed significant increases in cocaine use in Europe that has further established this region as a hub in the global market for illicit drugs. In addition, the primary source of the world’s opium has largely relocated from the Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia to Afghanistan and the Golden Crescent; this shift has had profound impacts on large-scale conflicts and the political economy of the region. While cocaine production continues to fluctuate, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and other traditional coca-cultivating countries in South America continue to produce the lion’s share of the world’s cocaine. Colombia remains a leader in the production of cocaine, although the power of the Colombian drug cartels has decreased in recent decades. Originally subcontracted to smuggle drugs into the United States by Colombian cartels, Mexican drug trafficking organizations have emerged as, potentially, the dominant force in the drug economy of the new millennium. These deep-rooted criminal groups established control over longstanding smuggling routes into the United States. Given the scope and mutually constitutive nature of international drug trafficking with global social, economic, and political dynamics, an empirically based understanding of this issue is imperative. Gathering reliable information about an inherently criminal, inherently clandestine industry is challenging. This article seeks to tackle this task by compiling a global, interdisciplinary, and methodologically diverse series of resources. Policy reports from various organizations provide macro-level quantitative data. Historical accounts reveal the social, political, and economic embeddedness of the drug trade. Ethnographies and case studies of drug-dealing groups and peasant farmers provide vivid qualitative data on the lived experience of the underground economy. More specifically, these resources focus on a series of subtopics, including the political economy of illegal drugs, transnational organized crime, money laundering, corruption, violence, and alternative policy. In combination, the following resources attempt to rely on empirical evidence and science in an area that has sometimes been dominated by bombastic claims and fear-driven politics.

Article.  11314 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Criminal Justice ; Criminology

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