China A Hotbed of Illegal Online Drug Sales

The New York Times reports that Chinese companies are selling illegal drugs like flakka, spice, and bath salts online, reinforcing their role as a leading producer and exporter of synthetic drugs.


“In a country that has perfected the art of Internet censorship, the open online drug market is just the most blatant example of what international law enforcement officials say is China’s reluctance to take action as it has emerged as a major player in the global supply chain for synthetic drugs,” notes Dan Levin of the Times.

In addition to Internet censorship, China’s drug laws are among the harshest in the world. It’s where drug traffickers potentially face the death penalty and police can send casual drug users to compulsory drug rehabilitation centers without trials, judges, or appeals.

China is a leading source for synthetic drugs including methamphetamine, as well as the majority of the ingredients needed to manufacture methamphetamine, in part due to the poor regulation of its chemical industry. The latter is a problem for Mexico especially, where Mexican drug cartels have easy access to Chinese chemical factories selling these precursor ingredients.

According to a former Mexican ambassador to China, Jorge Guajardo, the Chinese government has been unwilling to help stymie the flow of “precursors” into Mexico, when he had asked them to restrict the export of these chemicals. Mexico produces 90% of the meth consumed in the U.S.

As synthetic drug production flourishes in China, evidenced by such events as when an entire village was raided in January 2014 for providing a third of the meth made in China in recent years, the country is increasingly being identified as a key source. One assistant district attorney in New York calls it the “ground zero” of synthetic drugs found in Australia, Europe, Mexico, and the U.S. 

Not only is China fueling addictions abroad, the number of addicts in the country is estimated at roughly 13 million, most of them meth users, according to a Chinese anti-drug official.

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