David Mares gives us insight into the political economy of drug trafficking in his book Drug Wars and Coffee Houses. To help us understand how psychoactive substances are organized and distributed, he uses the concept of a commodity chain. A commodity chain is the system that links consumption of psychoactive substances to everything that makes it possible, and proves that if something affects one phase of the system, the other phases are affected as well. Consumers and producers in this system depend on each other, and “neither one could exist without the other” (Mares, p.13). The whole system consists of various pieces that ultimately work towards getting the consumer what they want, and from a producer who actually has what they want. Since consumers and producers are rarely ever in the same place, consumers get their substances from a transportation network. These traffickers get the substances from the producers, and just like any other business, producers need various inputs. This includes “labor, chemicals, and in the case of illegal products, perhaps weapons and corrupt officials, to produce and transport the substance” (Mares, p.13). So then we have the people who provide these inputs. Playing with drug money can get messy, so then money launderers come into the picture. The commodity chain system that Mares presents helps us organize and understand how all these roles connect to get a psychoactive substance produced and distributed to consumers.
Though the commodity chain concept helps our understanding of how these phases are connected and work together to operate the drug business, Mares recognizes that some basic questions about the process go un-answered. With the commodity chain system, we can’t really answer questions such as why people consume the drugs they do, why some people decide to get involved in the production of potentially
Cited: Mares, David R. Drug Wars and Coffee Houses: The Political Economy of the International Drug Trade. Washington, D.C.: CQ, 2005. Print. Andes, Stephen. "Charting the Possibilities of Drug Restriction." INTL 4997: International Studies Seminar - The Mexican Drug Trade. Allen Hall, Baton Rouge. 5 Oct. 2012. Lecture. "Failed States and Failed Policies: How to Stop the Drug Wars." The Economist 5 Mar. 2009: n. pag. Web.