Analysis: Why Drug Porn Isn't Exciting Anymore

10 Unforgettable Drug Porn Pics

You've seen the photos. Flaming mountains of marijuana. Heroin hidden in car parts. Tables laid out with a devil's spread of drugs, cash and guns.

And most recently, a 20-year-old Panamanian woman was caught trying to smuggle cocaine into Spain by surgically implanting it in her breasts.

Slideshow: 10 Unforgettable Drug Porn Pics drug porn

Since the beginning of the so-called war on drugs, and possibly longer, law enforcement agencies have taken photos of drug bounties or invited news agencies to shoot their own pics. You could call it a sort of pornography: like war porn, torture porn or the standard naked-people porn, drug porn offers up a taste of the illicit.

"Let's face it, before terrorism, there wasn't anything that excited the media more than drugs, whether it was a show like Miami Vice or a movie like Scarface," said Richard Mangan, a professor at Florida Atlantic University who spent 25 years as an agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). "It's going to lead the evening news and it has for 30 or 40 years, and agencies are very cognizant of that."

From a practical standpoint, photos of drug spreads can serve as evidence in court. But the media events serve a different purpose. They help agencies like the DEA or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) promote their work and "show that they're spending the taxpayer's money in a prudent manner," Mangan said. "So both sides are getting something out of it."

For its part, CBP agrees. "We are charged by the American people to enforce U.S. law and we want to share the results of those efforts," said Michael Friel, a spokesperson for the agency.

So does the DEA, according to spokesperson Barbara Carreno. "You have a budget to operate and you want to show that you're doing your job," she said. "This is about letting communities know what you're finding." Photos aren't limited to drugs, she added. They also show guns and money that have been seized.

However, in recent years the public has grown desensitized to the typical drug bust photo-op, according to Mangan. As a result, the images that you see now tend to be more outlandish (cocaine-filled breasts, for example) than in the past.

More importantly, public enthusiasm for the drug war has declined significantly in the last decade. A November poll by Rasmussen Reports found that only 7 percent of Americans thought the U.S. was winning the war on drugs.

In particular, the perception of marijuana has changed dramatically since the drug war began. A November Gallup poll found 48 percent of Americans in support of legalization. That's up from 12 percent in 1969; 25 percent in 1979, and 31 percent in 2000. Voters in Colorado and Washington have spoken at the ballot box: both states legalized recreational marijuana last month. Other states across the country are talking about similar paths to legalization.

The shifting public opinion on marijuana could have a drastic impact on how federal agencies do business since, pound for pound, marijuana accounts for the vast majority of seizures. In 2011, for example, CBP seized 4.5 million pounds of marijuana. The cumulative amount of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines seized added up to roughly 240,000 pounds -- 5 percent of the total haul for that year among the four major drug types.

The percentages from the DEA were roughly the same, with marijuana making up 94 percent of seizures by weight among those drugs in 2011.

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