The Cocaine industry has witnessed a cocaine production boom in the last recent years, due to the massive production of cocaine by some famous South American cocaine-producing countries such as Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, and Chile.
The drug cocaine is produced from the leaves of the coca plant, which is an ancestral cash crop to many South American countries. Cocaine Production involves a series of very interesting and industrious processes which will be explained in the paragraphs below.
Cocaine is manufactured in these countries in clandestine laboratories with a number of different chemicals and then trafficked through South and Central America to Mexico to be smuggled into the United States and other parts of the world.
The vast majority of cocaine production occurs mostly in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia because these countries are the main places where the coca plant is cultivated naturally and in sufficient quantities to produce mass amounts of cocaine.
In one method, dried coca leaves are soaked with lime water or other alkaline liquids and then extracted with kerosene in metal drums. Workers use sulfuric acid to extract the dissolved cocaine and form a liquid solution to which lime is added, leading to precipitation of coca paste.
At this point, workers then add acid and potassium to remove impurities, followed by bicarbonate, to cause the base to separate. The base is further dissolved in a solvent like acetone and then soaked again in acid. Finally, the cocaine paste is filtered through a cloth to separate, then dried.
Alternately, the base can be dissolved in a solvent, such as acetone, ether, or ethyl acetate, and heated in a bath of hot water. Methyl ethyl ketone is another solvent that workers add to the hot liquid mixture, along with hydrochloric acid, leading to cocaine hydrochloride crystallizing in the solution.
What Are The Steps Involved In Cocaine Production?
This first stage begins in jungle labs. It involves the soaking of coca leaves in gasoline inside metal drums.
Secondly, Gasoline containing cocaine alkaloid is drained from the drums and filtered into a barrel with diluted acid. The gasoline will be removed from the acid layer and sodium bicarbonate or ammonia will then be added to the solution to make a cocaine base.
This third step basically involves the filtering of the cocaine base through a cloth.
Step 5 is a more technical stage. The dried Cocaine base is again dissolved in a solvent such as “ethyl acetate”, “acetone”, or “ether” and then heated in a hot water bath called a “Bańo maria.”
“Methyl ethyl ketone” is added to the boiling liquid along with concentrated hydrochloric acid which results in the crystallization of cocaine hydrochloride.
Stage 6 involves the removal of excess solvents from the cocaine hydrochloride, first by hand, and then using a machine called a hydraulic press.
Here, the solvents are finally removed using microwave ovens creating the basis for powder cocaine.
The solution is boiled until the cocaine forms an oily substance that drops out of the solution and settles at the bottom of the container.
At this final stage, excess water, sodium chloride, and other impurities can be removed after cooling the oil to a rock-like substance. The resulting product is crack cocaine and further processing of crack cocaine results in the production of a finer and purer form of the drug called cocaine.
How Is Cocaine distributed?
The distribution of Cocaine is a complex chain that usually involves many different groups and stages too.
Coca cultivators most often sell coca leaves or coca paste to laboratories for processing. Cocaine Cartels own the labs which process this Coca into cocaine, and the cocaine base or cocaine hydrochloride then changes hands into local cocaine trafficking agents.
They smuggle and sell the cocaine to a larger organization that can arrange for another organization to ship it into other countries.
Cocaine distributors circulate cocaine through South and Central America. They smuggle it to Mexico, or less frequently through the Caribbean sea. Some of the cocaine is sent to Europe, Australia, Africa, or Asia through sailing vessels on the Atlantic Ocean.
A huge amount of this illegally trafficked cocaine ends up in the United States where there is a ready market for cocaine, especially in urban cities like Miami, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, etc.
Cocaine is often transported from Colombia to Mexico or Central America by sea, and then into the United States via land borders. It is estimated that about 90% of U.S. cocaine comes through the U.S.-Mexico border, mostly through Texas. A smaller amount comes through California and Arizona.
Once the cocaine gets to the United States, for example, It is first sold to wholesale dealers who then sell it to mid-level drug dealers, who in turn sell it to low-level street dealers (“Street Distros”), from whom consumers can purchase smaller quantities of the drug.
“Street Distros” often employ a number of individuals to play roles such as holders, transporters (also called mules), delivery people, counters of money or incoming drugs, people to keep a watch, backup personnel, enforcers of debt payments, and a few others.
Along the supply chain, cocaine is cut with adulterants like amphetamines, baking sugars, caffeine, acetaminophen to reduce its purity and create higher profit margins.
The main countries in the cocaine trade include those where coca plants are grown and processed, such as Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru. Countries that transport cocaine across national lines, such as Mexico or Caribbean countries including Haiti, The Bahamas, and The Dominican Republic.
Mexican drug cartels, such as the “Guadalajara Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartels“ often transport cocaine from South America into the United States and other countries and are distributors rather than suppliers.
Cocaine distribution is generally a very deadly and bloody game, people involved in this game have a very low life expectancy as they might die anytime. Some lucky persons end up in prison cells since Cocaine is an illegal drug in most world countries.
NB: One surprising fact about cocaine distribution is the fact that the kingpins are mostly top government and law enforcement officials who can’t let go of the business because of how lucrative and profitable it is.