International Drug Trafficking

Subject: Law
Pages: 9
Words: 2282
Reading time:
9 min
Study level: Bachelor

Preface

Crime can be examined in a multitude of instances with a broad range of topics. As discussed previously there is no single global definition of crime. Crime is viewed dissimilarly by different communities. Despite this, international drug trafficking is considered to be an offense “punishable by law” and seen in communities as a transnational threat. Within this report, I intend to investigate and highlight the issue of international drug trafficking. This report identifies how international drug trafficking is considered a crime and the harms and effects of these activities. In this report, I delve into the legal aspects of international drug trafficking including policies and sanctions. The report presents the knowledge allowing me to propose a policy regulatory scheme to control, proscribe or outlaw international drug trafficking, as this issue is extremely prevalent in our society and affects our community.

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Definition

International drug trafficking is defined as an illicit trade of narcotics, which involves the cultivation, production, distribution, and sale of various substances prohibited by law (United Nations n.d.a). It is considered a transnational threat and a danger to the health and social fabric of society. The global drug trade is so large that similar to any industry it can be measured through economic terms of distribution, sales, and revenue. Since the industry operates on the black market as an illegal enterprise, it is difficult to determine its exact scale. However, many governments and organizations rely upon analyzing the demand for narcotics. Since drug enterprises receive revenue solely from sales based on demand, which is always exceeded, this method provides an estimation for the scale of the global narcotics trade. The UN estimates the illicit drug market to be worth $320 billion or 0.9% of the world GDP (Organization of American States 2013).

Organized crime and illegal terrorist groups are directly linked to the global drug trade. They have developed a sophisticated system of drug production, transportation, distribution, and sale. The unregulated and illicit market serves as a method to finance their operations. The income is used to expand production, intimidate or influence politicians, and invest in ideology. Drug trafficking accounts for roughly 35% of all illegal activities that involve organized crime groups staying ahead of property crime, smuggling, human trafficking, and excise fraud (UNODC 2017c). The scale of the global drug trade has grown primarily due to the financing and expansion aided by organized crime.

The globalization of the 21st-century world economy has created a widespread distribution network for drug trafficking. To this point in history, drugs have been a relevant societal concern causing socio-economic decay and numerous population health issues. Most countries focused on combatting the epidemic domestically. Governments and international organizations began to focus efforts on protecting borders. For instance, customs agencies around the world install imaging devices that allow inspecting the contents of passengers’ luggage at airports, train stations, and borders. Drug detection teams utilize canine sniffer dogs to prevent forbidden substances smuggled across the borders. The recent occurrences of drug trafficking by air using drones enabled corresponding agencies to establish 24-hour surveillance, ground-based radars, reconnaissance aircraft, and other measures (NDCP n.d.).

The drug trade is considered a major issue for social stability around the world. However, there are nation-states, which benefit tremendously from the industry as the countries serve as centers of drug production. The resulting cash flow contributes to the country’s economy, usually suffering from widespread poverty (Jenner 2011). The drug trade has an impact on legal businesses and the international economy. Large sums of money having no legitimate origin or the support of proper business practices are laundered and integrated into the global financial system. In order to become legal, money obtained from criminal activities needs a financial record that can indicate its source. This can be achieved through different techniques such as structuring. The sum is divided into smaller amounts and used to invest or buy products and services without raising suspicion. Another money-laundering scheme involves using enterprises with intensive and poorly-controlled cash flows such as car washes, strip clubs, parking lots, stock exchange markets, and other businesses.

In addition, the money is used for purposes of corruption that destabilizes national and financial institutions. Businesses become involved as their distribution networks are utilized for the purpose of drug trafficking. Furthermore, money laundering schemes can create false market parameters, which impact competition and revenues (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction 2016). Modern financial authorities are negligent in controlling the finances associated with the international drug trade.

As expected, the international drug trade affects a wide range of people involved in transnational crime. Front companies created for the purpose of laundering ill-gotten money often lower the price of their services and products to attract more customers and generate large amounts of profit for smaller periods of time (Aluko & Bagheri 2012). Since these companies do not suffer from corresponding losses, they can stay competitive in the market. Such predatory pricing practices affect other business owners in a particular niche forcing them into aggressive and often destructive competition. In addition, all customers of such quasi-legitimate companies unwillingly assist drug dealers in multiplying their capital. This offense influences not only communities and society but also the World’s GDP, as discussed previously.

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Drug trafficking is substantially affecting the international economy. Occurrences of illegal trans-border transference of substances force countries to elaborate stricter safety measures that overcomplicate and slow the process of product exchange. A slow exchange often incurs losses for all parties. These transnational crimes affect individuals as well, such as the communities, drug mules, and many other stakeholders. Drugs that are not used for medical use are heavily affecting the health and wellbeing of users and the individuals closest to them. Another instance in relation to harm is the ones enforcing the current laws and policies. They are on the frontline of harm afflicted by those rebelling from these crimes and risking their welfare. International drug trafficking is harming individuals beyond borders adversely affecting all communities it happens to reach.

Potent and addictive drugs (particularly opiates) were historically present as far back into history as the earliest humans. In the 19th century, nations began to enact regulations after seeing the societal effects drugs produce. At one point, China took an isolationist position on trade with Europe as the British sought to legalize the opium trade. The British Pharmacy Act of 1868 was the first legislation seeking to regulate drug usage and commerce in a Western country (Musto n.d.). Drug-related legislation always has a standard formula to encompass any related activity such as cultivation, production, transportation, sale, or usage of the substances. However, some countries have taken a more liberal approach and chosen to simply prohibit the drugs without classifying them as a criminal act but making them a health issue.

International prohibition of narcotic substances seems to complicate the control over them and indirectly facilitates their transition from the state-monitored sector of trade to the black market. Room and Reuter (2012) argue that international drug prohibition policies hinder the possibilities of both low-income and high-income states to better manage adverse effects of domestic drug trafficking and use. For instance, in several countries such as Germany, Spain, and Switzerland public health initiatives have developed into policies that advocate for the provision of sterile drug injection equipment for individuals to address the spread of HIV. International Narcotics Control Board contradicted such policies as non-conforming to drug treaties (Room & Reuter 2012). Under such agreements, individual use of heavy injected drugs is still illegal, and, therefore, services for users are also considered as unlawful.

All known national and international jurisdictions have laws regarding the prohibition of drugs. However, there is a difference in the enforcement and punishment of drug-related charges in various countries. Australia criminalizes the transport, possession, usage, and supply of drugs, including cannabis. The country follows the National Drug Strategy, which attempts to balance supply-demand and harm reduction strategies. Australia and several other nations have implemented a policy to limit consequences for regular drug users in possession of lesser amounts of narcotics and focused on social rehabilitation (State Library 2016). Although drug trafficking is illegal internationally, some European nations chose to decriminalize individual narcotic possession. Cannabis has been fully legalized in Uruguay. However, all jurisdictions have no tolerance for the trafficking of hard drugs on a large-scale (Graham, 2014).

There are major international drug control treaties that most nations have signed. The most recent is the 1988 United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. 185 out of 193 UN country members are currently a part of this international treaty (United Nations n.d.b). The other state members such as Somali or South Sudan could either secretly profit from drug trafficking or find the agreement too restrictive to effectively mitigate the effects of international drug flow. The convention focuses on establishing methods to combat trafficking and related activities such as violent crime and money laundering around the world through international cooperation. This helps to resolve jurisdictional issues such as extradition (UNODC 2017b). Australia is directly involved in these multilateral conventions.

Policing and Sanction

As a major international issue, a significant amount of resources is aimed at policing the drug trade. The UN police and INTERPOL work together with national law enforcement agencies to disrupt and dismantle networks used for trafficking. Assessments of the local police are made to establish competent mechanisms, which deal with drug-related criminal activities (UNPOL n.d.). International and national jurisdictions have policies similar to the Kingpin Act in the US that directly apply sanctions to large narcotics traffickers and their organizations. On a larger scale, such treaties give countries and global organizations tools to combat drug criminals by limiting access to property and financial activity (OFAC 2014).

Furthermore, countries spend a significant amount of money on drug control agencies, specifically to fund treatment programs and law enforcement. Australia spends approximately $1.7 billion on such activities (UNSW 2013). Meanwhile, the US, which is heavily involved in international drug control, spends $27 billion annually (Office of National Drug Control Policy 2017). However, the bigger problem is to identify funds and assets that belong to criminals, as they tend to hide, divide, and legalize them frequently. Another issue is finding hard evidence that links suspected major drug lords to their operations, as they often do not participate in illegal activities themselves opting to use multiple accomplices.

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Policy Proposal

There are a variety of factors that policy should target in order to combat the global narcotics trade. Terrorists and criminal organizations depend on drug trafficking as a major source of income. An effective approach to limit production is to target the flow of revenue to these enterprises. The core effort should be focused on cross-border collaboration to prevent the supply-chain and distribution networks to restrict illicit money laundering, corruption, and investments. Financial institutions can collaborate with law enforcement agencies to identify suspicious accounts, persons of interest, and information that can be traced. Further, money and product flows are physically controlled through patrol of the main trafficking routes and hubs or via online marketplaces specializing in the drug trade (UNODC 2017a). Policy and implementation resources should be directed at large-scale production and distribution of narcotics.

On the other hand, centuries of utilizing conventional methods for locating and seizing drug consignments and arresting those who facilitate the production and trade still have not eradicated drug trafficking. Drug businesses have a tendency to evade control and escape justice due to being a part of the shadow economy. Given that, international organizations and domestic drug enforcement agencies could consider taking steps towards developing alternative non-harmful methods of heavy drug use. Research into that sphere could allow governments around the world to shift from prohibiting to controlling the use of drugs for medicinal or other purposes, thus bringing it under state jurisdiction and reducing the black market for illicit substances. The positive experience of the Netherlands regarding the control for marihuana could be put under scrutiny and used for elaborating a similar approach for legalizing heavy drugs and synthesizing some other, non-harmful substances from them.

The three broad components of the historic drug control policy are eradication, interdiction, and alternative development. However, most programs and operations rarely encompass all three aspects. Instead, they focus on controlling supply through eradication in hopes of raising costs for producers and consumers of drugs to the point where demand falls. Overall, such an approach failed in the long-term perspective because it did not focus on the core problem, which causes the drug epidemic (Fukumi 2016). The policy should emphasize sustainable development in local communities and internationally in order to direct resources towards socio-economic growth. International cooperation is specifically effective at aiding countries that have limited resources or serve as central points for drug production. The most effective drug control strategy seems to be based on long-term and large-scale sustainable development.

From the research conducted, the next step is to identify which is the best solution for countering the international drug trade. The suggested proposal plan will examine the best viable option to control, proscribe or prohibit international drug trafficking successfully. The report identifies the groundwork and the basis for the next assessment, in which a proposed plan will be formulated. Allowing to develop ideas from the current environment, legal status, policies, and sanctions highlighted in the report. This report lets us understand the current international threats and difficulties to analyze in the next stage of the assessment. Finally, international drug trafficking is extremely prevalent and the issues mentioned are extremely difficult to eradicate but mitigation would be ideal. As mentioned above, international drug trafficking is identified as a transnational threat that is dangerous to the health and social fabric of society.

Reference List

Aluko, A & Bagheri, M, 2012, ‘The impact of money laundering on economic and financial stability and on political development in developing countries: the case of Nigeria’, Journal of Money Laundering Control, vol. 15, no. 4, pp.442-457.

European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction 2016, The impact of drug markets on legal business and the economy. Web.

Fukumi, S 2016, Cocaine trafficking in Latin America, Routledge, Abingdon.

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Graham, G 2014, ‘Drug laws around the world – does anyone get it right?’, The Telegraph. Web.

Jenner, M 2011, ‘International drug trafficking: a global problem with a domestic solution’, Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 901-927. Web.

Musto, D n.d., The history of legislative control over opium, cocaine, and their derivatives. Web.

OFAC 2014, Narcotics sanction program. Web.

Organization of American States 2013, The economics of drug trafficking. Web.

National Drug Control Policy n.d., Shielding U.S. borders from the drug threat. Web.

Room, R & Reuter, P, 2012, ‘How well do international drug conventions protect public health?’ The Lancet, vol. 379, no. 9810, pp.84-91.

State Library 2016, History of Drug Laws. Web.

United Nations n.d.a, Drug trafficking. Web.

United Nations n.d.b, Narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. Web.

UNODC 2017a, Executive summary: conclusions and policy implications. Web.

UNODC 2017b, Legal framework on drug trafficking. Web.

UNODC 2017c, The drug problem and organized crime, illicit financial flows, corruption and terrorism. Web.

UNPOL n.d., Serious and organized crime. Web.

UNSW 2013, Australian government spending on drugs (drug budgets). Web.