From Soda Bottles to Super Labs: An Analysis of North America’s Dual Methamphetamine Production Networks

FROM SODA BOTTLES TO SUPER LABS: AN ANALYSIS OF NORTH AMERICA’S DUAL METHAMPHETAMINE PRODUCTION NETWORKS

Geographical Review 105(4)

Aaron Gilbreath

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American Geographical Society: What is the main purpose of your study?

Aaron Gilbreath: The purpose of this study is two-fold.  One is to demonstrate that theory developed in economic geography can be applied effectively to the illicit economy.  The second is to offer insight into how we might reduce the availability of methamphetamine on the streets through the analysis of the drugs entire commodity chain.  

American Geographical Society: What are the practical, day to day implications of your study?

Aaron Gilbreath: This article looks at the organization and operation of groups that provide the vast majority of the methamphetamine that is consumed in the United States.  In doing so, it offers serious policy recommendations for diminishing the capacity of these groups to produce and distribute the illegal drug.  Gilbreath2

American Geographical Society: How does your study relate to other work on the subject?

Aaron Gilbreath: Most work on methamphetamine has emphasized the more immediate phenomenon of domestic production.  Few geographers have looked at the drug-trafficking organizations the provide as much as 80% of the meth consumed in the U.S.  This article explores the key differences between domestic and international methamphetamine production and provides nuance to the conversation of how to curb the drug’s availability.

American Geographical Society: What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study?

Aaron GilbreathDomestic methamphetamine production only dominates in markets where Mexican methamphetamine is not widely available.

International methamphetamine producers operate much like any transnational corporation, making decisions on product sourcing, location of production, and production techniques based on careful analysis of locational costs and the potential effects of governmental regulation.

American Geographical Society: What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study?

Aaron Gilbreath: My hope is that this analysis encourages other geographers to explore aspects of the global illicit economy, including but certainly not limited to, the drug trade. Perhaps this manner of looking at it from a mile high, and with an economic perspective, will make the subject more accessible to researchers.

American Geographical Society: How does your research help us think about Geography?

Aaron Gilbreath: Drugs tend to be a thing that we take for granted in society.  We know they are available, and we know that people use them, but we rarely think about how they get to us.   Who produces them before they are smuggled?  Is anyone in charge of these operations?  How does our demand for these goods affect living conditions in producer regions?  These questions, which have been asked by geographers about all sorts of everyday products for quite some time, are rarely applied to drugs.   Hopefully, this article helps people think of the spatial implications of the trade.   

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