Argentina is seeking to close a judicial loophole with a new strategy to detect and crack down on the base chemical components of synthetic drugs, as the country's demand for these substances has soared in recent years.
On August 15, the Ministry of Security published a new regulation to help identify over 400 chemical substances used for the creation of synthetic drugs.
According to the government, traffickers have been avoiding prosecution by changing the chemical compositions of synthetic drugs to new formulas, thereby sidestepping the list of prohibited substances managed by Argentine authorities.
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Until now, if criminals were discovered trafficking drugs like ecstasy or LSD, but the exact formula of the substances involved was not included in the official catalog, authorities could not prosecute them for the crime. The new regulation looks to close this judicial loophole.
"It is a very important step forward in the fight against drug trafficking. We are the leading country in Latin America, [as the list now includes] seven chemical family groups,” Minister of Security Patricia Bullrich told news outlet Clarín.
The Ministry of Security views its new regulations as a regional leader in the fight of synthetic drugs as it includes chemicals from seven groups, as opposed to just two categories in the regulations of neighbors Brazil and Uruguay.
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In recent years, Argentina has been on the frontlines of a new type of drug war in Latin America. A growing middle class and party culture in cities like Buenos Aires have made the likes of LSD and ecstasy drugs of choice. Closing a loophole which specifically benefited gangs profiting from these drugs is a positive step.
The formulas behind drugs such as LSD, ecstasy, methamphetamine and others can be regularly changed to develop "new types" of products, which do not appear on official lists and make interdiction even more difficult.
Additionally, many of the substances used to fabricate synthetic drugs are not controlled by international drug monitoring conventions. This means that their legal status can differ significantly between countries.
Argentina began considering changes to its policy in synthetic drugs in early 2018 when it discovered its official catalog of banned substances was missing hundreds of chemicals mentioned on a list of 739 substances used in synthetic drugs, published the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
According to a report by the Secretariat for Comprehensive Drug Policies (Secretaría de Políticas Integrales sobre Drogas - SEDRONAR) the consumption of synthetic substances, ecstasy in particular, increased in the country by 200 percent between 2010 and 2017.
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Recent seizures, as well as detailed information from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), demonstrate that the majority of the drugs arriving in Argentina come from Europe, where illicit drug fabrication is also on the rise.
As previously reported by InSight Crime, the local market boom has been able to be supplied due to the relative ease in camouflaging and transporting these substances, as well as the diversification of traffickers’ routes towards South America. In June, a shipment of methamphetamine from Belgium was found hidden inside a toy rocking horse.
Worse, the popularity of these drugs in Argentina has made the country a potential distribution hub. In March, Uruguay warned that a synthetic drug, dubbed "pink cocaine," was appearing in the country after being brought in from Argentina.