Here is an excerpt from David Koop's Associated Press article:
"Mexican cartels are increasingly going 'old school' to keep supplying America with methamphetamine despite an ingredient squeeze. Some gangs have responded to a Mexican crackdown on their meth chemical of choice - pseudoephedrine - by reviving a production method so old, it was used by U.S. motorcycle gangs and bathtub chemists in the 1970s and '80s, recent seizures show. The re-emergence of the 'P2P method' demonstrates how frustrating it is to crack down on a synthetic drug that - unlike cocaine, heroin and marijuana - comes from recipes of chemical ingredients, known as 'precursors,' instead of a plant... Still, authorities contend going after precursors has produced results... And authorities say the [phenyl-2-propanone] P2P method is less desirable for the gangs because it reputedly produces a less-potent drug... While P2P itself is highly restricted and closely monitored by authorities, there are many ways to make it. Gangs found they could get their hands on phenylacetic acid, which can be made into P2P, which in turn can be made into meth." Link to Full Article
Analysis: This is another good example of how DTOs are adapting to and overcoming government efforts to restrict their activities, this time at the manufacturing level. I've seen plenty of stories about the crackdown on certain precursor chemicals, but then I started reading just as many stories about drug busts in Brazil, Paraguay, and elsewhere in South America of pseudoephedrine loads bound for Mexico.
I don't know a darn thing about phenylacetic acid, but it does appear that it's not that hard to come by, and it's relatively cheap. If you buy it legally (meaning you're a chemist or some sort of scientists who needs it), you can buy 100 grams of it for $16.95 online.
This quote from the story makes the outlook for this situation look pretty bleak: "Experts say a crackdown on phenylacetic acid would likely just push traffickers to other chemicals." Well, of course. That's what DTOs have been doing for decades. Even more disturbing is the fact that there are plenty of other "recipes" for meth, so DTOs and addicts alike have quite the cookbook to go through before authorities can hope to catch up.