I used to get emails from a listener complaining that our stories about drug busts and dealer convictions shouldn’t include the street value of the drugs, how much cash a dealer may have been carrying or how much a drug ring moved into the community. He feared that by letting people know how much money was involved in the illegal drug trade others would be convinced to get into it–as if there are a bunch of law-abiding citizens listening and thinking “Wow, why am I spending 40-hours a week doing spreadsheets when I can be making so much more in the glamorous world of selling drugs!”
Including details of the amounts of cash involved in the illegal drug trade here in the Fox Valley provides great insight into just how much is wasted–usually by people that can ill-afford to throw away their money on something that provides no value to their lives. Consider this week’s busts in Fond du Lac county that broke up a drug ring that had sold $9.6-MILLION in cocaine and crack in a little less than a year. And District Attorney Eric Toney admitted that was a conservative estimate of the group’s sales–it easily could have been more than 10-million dollars. Keep in mind, this drug ring involved just 16-people transporting and distributing the drugs. I know more than a few small business owners here in Oshkosh that would love to see those sales numbers from that small a workforce.
As I mentioned, this drug operation took money away from folks that likely aren’t just spending disposable income to get high every once in a while. Crack addicts aren’t usually the highest-functioning members of society. So that $9.6-MILLION was taking away money from back-to-school shopping for kids, or meals on the dinner table, or a stable housing situation. And who is asked to pick up the tab for providing those services when these drug addicts can’t? That’s right, the rest of us. How do you think non-profits like the United Way feel when they struggle to meet fundraising goals of just a million dollars–and then they hear that many of the people they serve are wasting ten times that much on drugs?
And unlike purchases on other vices–like alcohol or gambling–illegal drug purchases do nothing to boost the local economy. Yes, low-level sellers reuse some of what they make on the drugs to buy stuff from local stores–but usually they are users too, selling so they can afford their own addictions. I don’t know what the average markup is on illegal drugs–but I’m guessing that most of that $9.6-MILLION went back to higher-level traffickers in big cities like Milwaukee and Chicago–where the cash is used to buy stolen guns for gang members–or to pay people with clean criminal records to pass all background checks to purchase guns for those gangs. Eventually some of that cash makes it back to the Mexican drug cartels that terrorize people south of the border and drive them to seek illegal refuge here in the US.
If $9.6-MILLION in just Fond du Lac County shocks you, consider that this ring was moving cocaine and crack–which are not nearly as commonly abused as heroin and other opiates–or as much marijuana as potheads are smoking. It makes you wonder how much less “help” in the forms of government programs and charitable programs we’d have to provide to our neighbors if they weren’t blowing so much of their cash–literally.