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White House: Cocaine market in U.S. under 'stress'

December 20, 2010 | 11:43 am

Cocaine dealer arrested sydney herald sun

The cocaine market in the United States is under "significant stress," reports the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Cocaine production has dropped in Colombia due to recent eradication efforts, putting stress on the U.S. market in 2009, the office announced this month. And although a direct connection between data is not sufficiently made clear, use of the drug also dropped last year in the United States, where most Colombian cocaine is destined after being moved by Mexican drug-trafficking organizations.

"Although a wide array of data now confirm the decline in use and availability of cocaine in the United States, there are still far too many Americans using drugs that drive violence and instability in other nations," said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House office. "That is why the Obama administration is working to restore balance to our drug control efforts by emphasizing demand reduction at the same time we are supporting our international allies in their efforts to curb the supply of these drugs."

Seizures are up globally and overall purity of the coca-based drug has declined sharply, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said in its 2010 World Drug Report. (Read the "Cocaine Market" chapter here.)

Coca-leaf production is on the rise in Colombia's neighboring countries. But most cocaine originating from Bolivia or Peru is destined for Europe, the U.S. said.

Yet, worldwide, the retail market remains robust in cold dollar amounts. According to the U.N. report, citing data from 2008, users in North America spent $38 billion on cocaine that year (at an average of $108 a gram) and Europe spent $34 billion on the drug (at $101 a gram, on average).

The third-biggest market in economic terms is Oceania, which includes Australia, due to the drug's high retail cost there. The relatively small population of users in the Pacific spent $291 on average for a gram of cocaine in 2008.

The drug is contributing to a spate of cocaine-related heart attacks in Sydney, where "South American and Mexican drug barons battle for supremacy," the Herald Sun reported Saturday.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: A suspected dealer is arrested after selling a kilo of the drug to an undercover police officer in Sydney, Australia. Credit: The Herald Sun

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