The good news is that the number of clandestine meth labs in the area is down. The bad news is that Franklin County and other parts of Missouri are being flooded with imported crystal meth smuggled in from Mexican “super labs.”

That’s according to local law enforcement officers who point out that the Mexican meth is more potent  — up to 90 percent pure — and less expensive than it used to be. It also is being supplied by sophisticated and very dangerous drug cartels.  

The rise of imported meth is the result of supply and demand economics. 

Local law enforcement authorities, particularly the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit, have been effective in choking off the local supply. 

They have cracked down on the smaller mom and pop labs that have plagued our county for years. But more significantly, they have persuaded cities and counties across the state to pass laws requiring prescriptions to purchase allergy and cold medications containing pseudoephedrine, the vital ingredient needed to make meth. 

There is no question those laws have made a dramatic impact in the production of meth in Franklin County. When the availability of pseudoephrine was restricted, the meth labs moved elsewhere. The laws may be controversial, but they work. 

Unfortunately, when the local supply was curbed, the cartels moved in to fill the void. In that respect you could argue that we are victims of our own success. It begs the uncomfortable question: Which is worse, the homegrown meth maker or the professional cartels?

But the real point on the issue of drugs is that where there is demand, there will always be suppliers. That is the reality when it comes to drugs in our county and across the country. And, sadly, our country has a voracious demand for drugs. 

In fact, you could argue that America’s considerable and relentless demand for drugs created the Mexican cartels. That’s what Mexican leaders have been arguing for years. 

It’s also a point used to support the argument that the so-called “war on drugs” is futile and has been a waste of time and resources. Despite 40 years or so of a concerted effort by local, state and federal efforts to eradicate drugs, they are as plentiful and potent as ever. 

As long as people want drugs they will be available, one way or the other, from one source or another. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand.

That argument is gaining traction as our country re-examines its drug policies. The legalization of marijuana in two states with more likely to follow, is recognition that, at least with softer drugs, a different approach is warranted. Better to tax it and keep the cartels out of the game.

Others argue that making drugs more available is not the answer to keeping our communities healthy and safe. 

The Office of National Drug Control Policy says there has been a decline in U.S. drug use compared to 30 years ago. While that may be true, the use of some hard drugs like heroin are on the rise across the country and here in Franklin County. 

Authorities say it is reaching epidemic proportions. And it is being imported by the Mexican cartels by the tons.  

Like Mexican meth, the heroin that is currently being imported is cheaper, purer and highly addictive. Heroin overdoses in this area and in surrounding counties are increasing at an alarming pace. 

Officials say heroin is now a bigger problem than meth in Franklin County. They say a relentless demand for the drug is fueling an epidemic. 

Sound familiar?