* NAFTA. The trade agreement has increased truck traffic from Mexico across the border more than 50 percent since 1993. Traffickers often hide drugs in shipments of food that would spoil if the trucks were searched thoroughly.
* Government corruption in Mexico and among U.S. border agents.
* A generally porous border.
In the early 1990s, the Mexican gangs started to smuggle unprecedented amounts of the drug into Arizona and other border states. That surely accounts in large measure for the unprecedented surge of meth use in the Valley then and beyond.
It's surprising it took so long for the Mexicans to get involved. They already had smuggling routes for coke, pot and heroin, sometimes as middlemen and sometimes on their own. And the profit margin for the gangs is staggering.
Seizures of meth along the Mexican border concurrently soared from about 14 pounds in 1992 to 1,350 pounds in 1995. New Times spoke with Douglas residents who say they've smelled the stench of meth cooking right across the border in Agua Prieta.
The extent to which the Mexicans are involved in methamphetamine became clear in June 1994, when DEA agent Richard Fass was murdered during an undercover operation.
Fass, 37, had passed himself off as a dealer willing to pay $167,000 for about 22 pounds of meth. But his Mexican suppliers tried to rob him of the money, which led to a shoot-out at a Glendale strip mall at 51st Avenue and Grand.
Three Mexicans were convicted of murder in the case. A fourth, the alleged mastermind of the plot, apparently fled the country. Two DEA agents work full-time to find him.
The Mexicans aren't just smuggling methamphetamine into the States, they're cooking it here as well, with chemicals smuggled across the border. U.S. agents seized just 14 pounds of raw ephedrine--its importation is tightly controlled in the States--at the border in 1992. In 1996, agents seized about 1,700 pounds of the substance.
This month, the feds arrested more than 100 people in California, Texas and North Carolina after a months-long investigation centered on the Mexican drug gangs. They also uncovered a large meth lab in downtown Los Angeles during the dragnet.
And in May, a Mohave County narcotics task force arrested 23 Mexicans after the unit uncovered a lab in a Lake Havasu City home. The lab was cooking almost six pounds of meth per week, capable of netting about $1 million a year.
Price Report. Excerpts from an August 1997 global drug price report site on the Internet:
Speed: USD $20/1U4 gram
$150 1U8 oz
Quality: B One gram good for a three day weekend
of nonstop action, depending on tolerance.
Notes: Best contacts for bulk are Sinaloan Cowboys
from Mexico, but these guys are scary. Very tight
group. Don't fuck with them.
1) Peanut Butter
Both USA $25/1U4 gram $100 1U16 oz.
Quality: 1) Long and Strong
2) Not worth its weight in dirt
Notes: Should get better now that the Hell's Angels
are in town.
USD $250 1U4 oz
Notes: It helps to know your friendly illegal Mex brother
working at the resorts. They're bringing in
USD $300 1U4 oz
Quality: B (what damn elves)
Notes: Big batch just in from Phoenix. Very clean
and strong. No ammonia. I can type 500 wpm now!
Even my mom slams this shit!
Summit County Ice
USD $950/ 1 oz
Quality A: Up for weeks w/very little amounts.
Availability: Make your own lab. We did, and so did
our friends! Ephedrine reduc. method is best.
Red P. widely available right now.
Built for Speed?
While meth (or any drug) is an inert substance that we cannot attribute blame to, by its nature it has raised the question, "Are we really built for speed?" It seems that the human body, while naturally resilient to much self-inflicted abuse, may not be a reliable container for the soul at high speeds. While methamphetamine may have the ability to chemically fuel the ride, physically it may just prove the limitations for human society.
--Todd C. Roberts, URB Magazine, October 1995
DeiDra Mounce wraps her month-old baby boy in a comforter, and rests him gently on a sofa next to her. Sitting inside the cluttered Scottsdale apartment she shares with her mother and stepfather, she can't stop yawning.
"Yeah, I'm tired," she says. "But it's for a different reason than it used to be. It's a good tired."
She pulls out her state identification card, which depicts a skinny girl with saucerlike eyes and a frozen smile.