ILLEGAL drug trafficking isn't just an ordinary street crime. It is huge. Picture this. The Medellin Cartel, at the height of Pablo Escobar's career, supplied an estimated 80 percent of the cocaine smuggled into the United States, turning over $21.9 billion a year in personal income. Escobar was the wealthiest criminal in history, with an estimated known net worth of $30 billion by the early 1990s, making him one of the richest men in the world at his prime.
The cartel originally imported most coca from Bolivia and Peru, processing it into cocaine inside Colombia and then distributing it through most of the trafficking routes and distribution points in the US, including Florida, California and New York. The cocaine trade is assessed a valuation of $10 billion per year in US dollars. Colombia's share of coca production is estimated at 43 percent of global production. Between 1993 and 1999 Colombia became the main producer of coca in the world along with cocaine, and one of the major exporters of heroin. As of 2013, studies show that Colombia is the world's largest cocaine producer—although there are reports that the country is again back as #1.
Coca leaf is the raw meterial for the manufacture of the drug cocaine—in the same way that opium poppy is for heroin. And despite prohibition of such drugs, still these “cash crops” are a great value to pharmaceutical industry. Production of cocaine began to increase greatly in response to increased medical use in late 1880s, after the discovery of cocaine’s value in performing eye surgery in 1884. Meantime, traditional medical uses of coca are foremost as a stimulant to overcome fatigue, hunger, and thirst. It is considered particularly effective against altitude sickness. It also is used as an anesthetic and analgesic to alleviate the pain of headache, rheumatism, wounds and sores etc etcetera.
Both raw material and finished-product drug command huge profit. So much so that even the CIA stuck its hands on it. In 1996, journalist Gary Webb published reports in the San Jose Mercury News, detailing how Contras, had been involved in distributing crack cocaine into Los Angeles whilst receiving money from the CIA. Contras used money from drug trafficking to buy weapons. The Contras is a label given to the various US-backed and funded right-wing rebel groups that were active from 1979 to the early 1990s in opposition to the left-wing, socialist Sandinista Junta of National Reconstruction government in Nicaragua.
So illegal drugs are not just illegal drugs. Control of the raw materials remains a huge political issue as well. The Golden Triangle is is one of Asia's two main opium-producing areas. It is an area of around 367,000 sq miles that overlaps the mountains of three countries of Southeast Asia: Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. Along with Afghanistan, The Triangle has been one of the most extensive opium-producing areas of Asia and of the world since the 1950s. Most of the world's heroin came from the Golden Triangle until the early 21st century when Afghanistan became the world's largest producer. Myanmar is the world's second largest producer of illicit opium, after Afghanistan and has been a significant cog in the transnational drug trade since World War II. It is estimated that in 2005 there wеrе 167 sq miles of opium cultivation in Myanmar.Meantime, Afghanistan's opium poppy production goes into more than 90 percent of heroin worldwide. Opium production in the country Afghanistan has been on the rise since US occupation started in 2001. More land is now used for opium in Afghanistan than is used for coca cultivation in Latin America. In 2007, 92 percent of the non-pharmaceutical-grade opiates on the world market originated in Afghanistan. This amounts to an export value of about $4 billion, with a quarter being earned by opium farmers and the rest going to district officials, insurgents, warlords, and drug traffickers. In addition to opiates, Afghanistan is also the largest producer of cannabis (mostly as hashish) in the world.