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The Almighty Buck Science

Up To 90 Percent of US Money Has Traces of Cocaine 441

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the having-more-fun-than-me dept.
mmmscience writes "Scientists have found that up to 90% of US paper money has some cocaine contamination, up from the 67% mark measured two years ago. Looking at bills from 17 cities, it's no surprise that the city with the highest level was Washington DC, where up to 95% of bills gathered there tested positive. From a global standpoint, both Canada and Brazil tested rather high (85% and 80%, respectively), but China and Japan were well behind the curve at 20% and 12%. The researchers hope that studies such as these will be of help to law enforcement agencies that are attempting to understand the growth and flow of drug use in communities."
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Up To 90 Percent of US Money Has Traces of Cocaine

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:49AM (#29092829)
    Apples and oranges. Japan doesn't have Lindsey Lohan as a citizen.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yes, but at some point in time, I'm sure Keith Richards passed through...
    • by Mandi Walls (6721) on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:37PM (#29093747) Homepage Journal
      Everyone in Japan has Hello Kitty coke spoons.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Apples and oranges.

      Why yes, how did you know my apples and oranges have traces of cocaine as well?

  • Looking at bills from 17 cities, it's no surprise that the city with the highest level was Washington DC, where up to 95% of bills gathered there tested positive. From a global standpoint, both Canada and Brazil tested rather high (85% and 80%, respectively), But China and Japan were well behind the curve at 20% and 12%. The researchers hope that studies such as these will be of help to law enforcement agencies that are attempting to understand the growth and flow of drug use in communities.

    Nope, sorry, has nothing to do with growth and flow. Merely that China and Japan are better at properly labeling and storing their valuable narcotics and opiates. Given the cost of the substance, you would think the American & Canadian coke heads would be better at keeping it separate from other things. But when you need to carry only coke and money with you ... the cost of that second briefcase probably outweighs the amount of coke you lose just shoving money and coke into one briefcase. Being able to do it in a frenzied haphazard manner isn't just how it's done in Martin Scorsese films, it's a necessary skill of coke users and traffickers. I wonder what "essence of G-string" levels respective countries have on their smallest denominational bills?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I think you misunderstand. It's not the carrying of cocaine in your wallet/pocket/purse that contaminates the dosh, it's the snorting of it through a rolled up note.
      • by Z00L00K (682162)

        Which means that if there suddenly is a law that invalidates all money contaminated with cocaine things would get interesting.

        • ... for the banks or vendors or anywhere else with automated machines that spread dust from one bill all over their equipment and any subsequent bills ever processed.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Reece400 (584378)
            With how some bill counting machines flap the bills around, it's suprising there isn't a nice layer of cocaine dust over half of the bank.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by cayenne8 (626475)
              "With how some bill counting machines flap the bills around, it's suprising there isn't a nice layer of cocaine dust over half of the bank."

              Hmm...well, that would go a LONG way in explaining our current financial/banking situation.

      • by TheCarp (96830) * <sjc&carpanet,net> on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:08PM (#29093201) Homepage

        I would imagine that its both that AND then having that money rub up against other money as it goes into you wallet and then to the bank, and then through mechanical counting machines. How sensitive is the test? How many bills could one "nose straw" collect?

        This is, btw, nothing new. I read this same statistic in an article on civil property seizure 10 years ago. Its been known for years.... the police can confiscate any cash you have, at any time. If even one bill tests positive for cocaine, its all suspect.

        But its civil court, so no need to worry. They have to show a "preponderance of evidence" that it was used for something illegal. ALl you have to do is prove that it wasn't. Your not going to let essentially being guilty until proven innocent deter you are you? No worries though, its not criminal.... so all you lose is your cash.

        Sounds fair doesn't it?

        -Steve

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by crrkrieger (160555)

          The most common test for the seizure of currency is a dog sniff. It is little know that cocaine is, in fact, odorless. Drug dogs do not detect cocaine. They detect a biproduct of the production of cocaine called methyl benzoate. Methyl benzoate is a volitile organic compound that dissapates quickly. If a dog hits on it, it is a clear sign not only that the money has been in close contact with cocaine, but that it was RECENTLY so.

          Take a look at this case United States v. $30,670 in U.S. Funds, 403 F.3d

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by russotto (537200)
            Methyl benzoate isn't specific to cocaine, and it is not just a byproduct of manufacture of cocaine, but is produced by cocaine hydrochloride (powder cocaine) exposed to humid air. So if there's cocaine on the bills, and the air is humid, there will be methyl benzoate as well. Further, if the bills were exposed to methyl benzoate from some other source, a dog trained to alert on it would detect it.
          • a dog "hit" (Score:5, Interesting)

            by zogger (617870) on Monday August 17, 2009 @02:33PM (#29095627) Homepage Journal

            And any handler can claim his dog "hit" on something as well, and use that as probable cause to confiscate the loot. And if someone was to loudly protest the confiscation of their money at some "random courtesy checkpoint", the cops can just shoot you and claim you made a "threatening furtive gesture" or were "interfering" or "resisting some lawful order" or anything else in cop CYA speak they dream up.

              The point being made was, in some areas the cops use this "dog drug hit" BS as an excuse to outright rob people and get away with it or for intimidation to get people to confess to something else or whatever. They even go so far as to terrorize school kids with these dogs inside the schools. It's a con more than anything else. And it can be even worse than that for some people with phony dog-police type work [aol.com]

            For legitimate rescue, I think dogs are great, useful, for most anything else as it intersects police work...starts to get wonky quickly.

                Of course I am also in favor of ending the retarded prohibition laws, because they just cause more harm than good. If a 200 dollar day coke or smack or whatever habit was legal, it might cost all of two bucks, and I don't think there'd be much in the way of crime associated with it like it is today. It would still be technically "bad" IMO, the habit and what it does to people, but we as a society would get rid of a lot of the vast collateral damage associated with it being illegal.

    • Weird. How do they snort their cocaine if not with a rolled up bill? If they aren't doing cocaine how can they have stock brokers or film actors? If they are doing heroin instead, where is the surge in jazz musician population that we should expect?

    • I wonder what "essence of G-string" levels respective countries have on their smallest denominational bills?

      Thanks, now I will be wondering what "Essence of stripper schlong" my 1's have...shudder
  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SigILL (6475) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:50AM (#29092865) Homepage

    Don't get caught with US dollars on you in Dubai.

  • 100% of folding money has traces of Cocaine.

    Beat that.....
  • by InfinityWpi (175421) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:52AM (#29092893)

    This has to be why people love the smell of their money. Just hold it up to your nose and sniff... and you get a minor contact high from the drugs.

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      What if I only run plastics and coins?

      It's hard to snort credit cards and coins!

    • Ass Pennies (Score:4, Funny)

      by hduff (570443) <hoytduff@NoSPAM.gmail.com> on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:11PM (#29093269) Homepage Journal
      Dude! Dont' sniff it! Don't forget "ass pennies". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ass_pennies#Ass_Pennies [wikipedia.org] "I've been sticking $30 in pennies up my ass for the past 11 years! That's 3,000 pennies a day; 21,000 pennies a week; 1,092,000 pennies a year! To date that's 12,012,000 pennies, 8 times the population of Nebraska. Those pennies were in my ass! You think you're better than me? Oh, you're not better than me. You handle my ass pennies every day. You pick up my ass pennies for good luck. You throw my ass pennies in fountains and make wishes on them. You give my ass pennies to your little daughter to buy gumballs with. You handle my ass pennies every day! All of you! You all handle my ass pennies! Oh, I laugh at you before you can laugh at me. Because your pennies have been in my ass. You hear me? Your pennies have been in my ass!"
  • by Rooked_One (591287) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:53AM (#29092899) Journal
    ... to money
  • by lobiusmoop (305328) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:53AM (#29092901) Homepage

    when Bush recommended an 'economic stimulus'.

  • by neonprimetime (528653) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:53AM (#29092905)
    ... be using where's george [wheresgeorge.com] to plan their next drug busts?
  • Hrmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by acehole (174372) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:54AM (#29092931) Homepage

    I roll up 100 dollar bills to snort up other 100 dollar bills. Its a vicious circle.

  • by bagboy (630125) <neo@arcti c . net> on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:55AM (#29092939)
    Please, could it not simply be that when the money is bundled together it is cross-contaminated?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      Also, money goes through a lot of hands. The suggestion is that 90% of Americans are cocaine users, which is patently false.

      • by the_humeister (922869) on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:07PM (#29093175)

        No, the suggestion is that most of the paper money in America has been in contact with cocaine users.

        • by SydShamino (547793) on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:14PM (#29093317)

          Which is also very likely false. Money just doesn't flow in that way. On the other hand, it seems likely that most automated money processing machines have been in contact with contaminated bills. And I expect that those machines aren't regularly thoroughly cleaned and contaminate all subsequent bills, which in turn contaminate subsequent machines.

          "Traces" has no definition above one molecule (or could be even less if you're into holistic medicine /grin). One bill handled with coke-covered hands or used to snort could contaminate tens of thousands of other bills with "traces" of coke.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by clone53421 (1310749)

        Actually, it's suggesting that there's a 90% chance any single bill has gone through a cocaine user's hands at least once in its lifetime.

        If an average bill had changed hands, say, 10 times, then it comes to about 20% rather than 90%. (80% of non-contamination ^ 10 people = 10.7% chance it's still not contaminated. Thus about 90% of bills would be contaminated in this case.)

      • by onion2k (203094)

        That's not the suggestion at all. It's implying that, at some point in time, 90% of the notes in circulation has been used to take cocaine. That could be by 1 very prolific addict for all we know. The article doesn't give any indication.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by fermion (181285)
      If it true that 20% of the people control 80% of the money, then it is clear that the those 20% are cocaine users, while the rest of us use crack, which is mostly filler ingredients. And, since we don't have the money, this explains why crack is so prosecuted. No defense money means that the public prosecutors don't have to work very hard to get a conviction.
    • by Vellmont (569020) on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:19PM (#29093405)

      The cross-contamination comes from high-speed counting devices in banks becoming contaminated. They then spread the cocaine to other bills as they're counted. This isn't anything new. I think I first heard about this at least 15 years ago.

      The article is about the contamination rate going up. The implication is drug use is up. The other possibility is the spreading mechanism is more efficient for whatever reason. (Different machines, less machines? Stickier cocaine?). Assuming drug usage is up without knowing if anything else has changed in this uncontrolled experiment is potentially very misleading.

  • by urdak (457938) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:55AM (#29092949)

    I don't know about you, but the cocaine isn't the thing that worries me - I'm more worried about the fact that 90% of the bills I use have been up someone's nose!

  • So guys... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:56AM (#29092957) Journal
    I see Plan Columbia has been a smashing success, just like all the other attempts at Prohibition 2.0: This Time Without Constitutional Justification.
    • by Shakrai (717556) on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:11PM (#29093275) Journal

      I see Plan Columbia has been a smashing success, just like all the other attempts at Prohibition 2.0: This Time Without Constitutional Justification.

      That's not true. If I'm growing pot in my backyard for my own consumption it's clearly going to affect interstate commerce and is therefore subject to regulation by the Federal Government.

      I mean, think about it. If I'm growing it myself then I'm not buying it from someone else who got it across state lines. We also shouldn't forget the impact on interstate commerce that comes from the munchies. It's a safe assumption the ingredients in those Doritos and Big Macs had to cross one or more state lines at some point during production.

      • by Duradin (1261418)

        Hmm, given that we're supposed to want renewable energy so that we don't have to send oil money to foreign countries, shouldn't the gov't be supporting local (US) drug operations so all that drug money doesn't leave the country?

  • .006 micrograms? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gad_zuki! (70830) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:56AM (#29092959)

    These types of studies come out pretty often, usually with the same hysterical tone. When you start talking about stuff in such tiny amounts then just about any substance can be found. There's cocaine in the air in many places if you go as low as parts per billion. There's uranium in the water. There's the ash of dead people in your air. There's fly eggs in your soup. There's pesticides in your baby's bottle.

    If anything, this is more interesting in our ability to detect small amounts of things than a social statement.

    • by larry bagina (561269) on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:00PM (#29093053) Journal
      And if you were in the elevator with me this morning, you got more than trace amounts of late night taco bell.
    • by Chris Burke (6130) on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:06PM (#29093153) Homepage

      If anything, this is more interesting in our ability to detect small amounts of things than a social statement.

      Oh well I wouldn't be too sure that there aren't any social statements to be made. After all, they didn't detect cocaine in most Japanese money, so it's not like its the effect of some world-wide minuscule cocaine miasma, or at least its one that varies by location and thus presumably by quantity in the country.

      So what this tells me about our societies is that Japan is an untapped market! Oh man! I'm on the next flight to Tokyo via L.A. Though I guess I'll have to practice my balloon-swallowing first.

  • tested high (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    From a global standpoint, both Canada and Brazil tested rather high...

    Hah!
  • by greywire (78262) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:58AM (#29093001) Homepage

    I am curious what the break down is on the types of bills being used. Is there a preference for $20 or $100 bills? I always preferred the $100, partly for show, but also because they tended to be crisper..

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Monday August 17, 2009 @11:59AM (#29093019) Homepage
    Bill's can get cocaine on them without ever having been directly in contact with cocaine. The most common way this occurs is if a bill has cocaine on it and then it goes in or out of some sort of feeder machine (such as that on an ATM), it can leave small amounts of coke residue that then rub off on other bills. Given that, part of the disparity may be due to different types of ATMs and similar technology. Similarly, it isn't implausible that the increase in the percentage of bills with cocaine on them (as reported in TFA) might be due to some set of subtle technological changes that make it easier for cocaine to spread from bill to bill.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Mishotaki (957104)
      Man i wanna be a ATM maintenance guy! you get free cocaine as a bonus while working!
  • Come on - we want 100% from you.
  • Well, that helps answer the question Where's George. [wheresgeorge.com]

    Apparently, he's been some pretty nasty places.

  • by noundi (1044080) on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:02PM (#29093073)

    Scientists have found that up to 90% of US paper money has some cocaine contamination, up from the 67% mark measured two years ago.

    The contamination "spreading" is solely due to clean bills getting in contact with contaminated bills. 90% of the US dollars have not been used to sniff cocaine. If 67% were contaminated two years ago it is only logical that in time the rest would be bound to become contaminated as well, even if cocaine had seized to exist completely.

    • is that it really shows how much the dollar circulates vs. other moneys. Yuan and yen are spread all over the world (though China is pushing for it to be) which would explain why these are at the bottom.
  • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:02PM (#29093075) Homepage
    "Up to 90% of Scientists Studying Money Also Do Cocaine."
  • by pz (113803) on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:02PM (#29093081) Journal

    There are so many sources of cocaine and like substances in our society that it's no wonder it can be found everywhere (looking at currency is more sexy than say, doorknobs, and I'd imagine the same level of contamination), legal and otherwise. Benzocaine, for example, is a common numbing agent for oral use that is in the same chemical family. So is novacaine. They just don't have the popular cachet, but I'd be pleasantly surprised if the testing used could distinguished between them. I imagine if you tested currency for benzodiazepines (valium and the like) or SSRIs (Prozac and the like) or beta blockers or digitalis or any commonly prescribed drug, you'd find near 100% contamination as well. BFD. People use cocaine and other drugs both medically and recreationally. News at 11.

    I'd be much, much more interested to know how much of the currency showed evidence of, say, uranium or plutonium. Those are supposed to be scarce, really, really scarce.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Just Some Guy (3352)

      I imagine if you tested currency for benzodiazepines (valium and the like) or SSRIs (Prozac and the like) or beta blockers or digitalis or any commonly prescribed drug, you'd find near 100% contamination as well.

      Why? Is Prozac routinely crushed up and snorted?

  • Snopes says... (Score:5, Informative)

    by sidb (530400) on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:02PM (#29093091) Homepage
    Snopes says [snopes.com]... true. Wow, that almost never happens--I had always assumed this was a myth. The Snopes article, BTW, is much more informative and detailed than the one linked in the Slashdot post.
  • I'm not sure sure we should look at those nations as a way to improve law enforcement.

    I say this because the reason it is low in Japan is the high quality of life and import restriction. (Its an island and everything goes through customs)

    And China... Well China is China.

    Not only is the fact drugs are taboo over there (remember the Opium wars) it is just that there system of law enforcement is quite different from ours.

    And that perhaps no one has ever though to use a Yuan to snort coke through? Maybe they al

  • by Ukab the Great (87152) on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:06PM (#29093143)

    The extra street value of cocaine being added to the dollar should make it stronger against other currencies.

  • Drugs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Archangel Michael (180766) on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:07PM (#29093183) Journal

    Drugs are a CASH business. It is one of the last CASH ONLY businesses out there. Most other people are taking Checks, Visa, and Debit Cards as primary sources of transactions, leaving Cash a fourth level barely used.

    I would not suprise me to see this trend go upwards, and eventually some idiot politician will suggest that we get rid of cash. Which will be followed up by some Christian suggesting that is the Mark of the Beast ....

    • Re:Drugs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bmajik (96670) <matt@mattevans.org> on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:56PM (#29094097) Homepage Journal

      My household has largely reverted back to cash-only for our commerce. It is easier to stick to a reasonable budget, the terms of a cash transaction are perfectly clear -- there are no double-jeopardy fee problems ["they stopped the check, then you were overdrawn. You lose"], and with the recent tightening on credit card companies, some of those companies are going to go after customers like me -- who _never_ carried a balance -- with annual fees or shorter repayment periods or day-0 interest assessment or other silly tricks. Not interested.

      But the #1 reason to revert to cash is that it is relatively anonymous -- or rather, it is moreso than any other face to face currency exchange we can easily perform. I think it will become increasingly important that Americans can conduct basic commerce in a way that is difficult to tie back to individuals. The cost to gather, store, and analyze data will approach zero, as will the public's ability to prevent the government from doing so and doing so for questionable reasons. Thus, not contributing data is the most workable mitigation.

  • Politicians (Score:3, Funny)

    by Kjella (173770) on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:08PM (#29093185) Homepage

    it's no surprise that the city with the highest level was Washington DC, where up to 95% of bills gathered there tested positive.

    I always suspected the politicians were on crack, I guess now we have proof...

  • Thanks to the money of millons of addicts, LatinAmerica is a BIG WAR ZONE, where thousands of innocent people die, get wounded, forced to migrate, hunger, etc . When a addict buys their drugs are they aware of the atrocities that their money is creating in LatinAmerica?
  • by eagee (1308589) on Monday August 17, 2009 @12:25PM (#29093525)
    I'd just like to say that the "War on Drugs" has been a great use of our taxpayer dollars. Very effective. Good thing we're spending so much money keeping people in prison instead of paying for medical care. Yay us.
  • by kheldan (1460303) on Monday August 17, 2009 @04:56PM (#29097525) Journal
    Haven't we already known this for decades now? Is it a slow news Monday or something?

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