After the meatpacking plant closed, farms started going out of business, and people began leaving Oelwein, Iowa, the town was left in a state of economic distress. To fill the gap, workers began using and/or selling methamphetamine in what would be known as “mom and pop” meth labs. Biker gangs like The Sons of Silence, The Grim Reapers, and The Hell’s Angels took the opportunity to bring in their own meth and sell it to the vulnerable and increasingly desperate people of Fayette County. Along with the biker gangs, other drug-trafficking organizations, such as The Mexican Mafia, also took advantage of the worsening situation.
It is because of these people and organizations that Oelwein’s “meth problem” became an epidemic and has affected the lives of people, not just in Iowa or the Midwest, but all over the United States. Out of all the possible suspects, the person most responsible for Oelwein’s meth problem is the large-scale, Iowa-specific meth dealer, Lori Arnold. Without her enterprise, connections to other drug-trafficking organizations and opportunistic senses, the spread of meth into Oelwein would have come much more slowly, if it came at all.
The enterprise that Lori Arnold created made the wide-spread distribution of meth into Oelwein possible. What started as small-scale Methedrine (pharmaceutical meth) dealing for a landlady eventually turned into “the Midwest’s first and last bona fide crank empire” (Reding, 60). In 1984, the first time Lori was high on meth, she tried her hand at dealing and found her calling in life. Somehow she figured that if she gave away half of her meth she would gain new customers due to its highly addictive properties. From that moment on she began the construction of her enterprise.
Her success came quickly, within a month she was able to go around her brother-in-law and The Grim Reapers biker gang to deal with their middleman in Des Moines. In the late 1980’s, Lori rapidly climbed the so-called chain of command from The Grim Reapers’ supplier in Long Beach, to the Amezcua brothers (aka The Mexican Mafia) to get a more direct supply of meth. During this time, Lori bought a bar that she named the Wild Side in order to have a place to sell the meth she was acquiring. Because of the amount of money that was needed in order for her dozens of runners to drive back and orth to California to retrieve her meth, she bought a car dealership. She also bought fourteen houses in order to house her dozens of employees. “In 1989, she bought fifty-two racehorses -and hired the dozen or so grooms, trainers, veterinarians, and jockeys it took to maintain them- along with a 144-acre horse farm from which to run her ever-multiplying synergistic empires… Lori’s true stroke of genius, though, was to build under a series of military tents hidden in the wooded hills of her horse farm what for almost two decades would be the only meth superlab ever known to be in production outside the state of California” (Reding, 66).
With the help of a chemist, borrowed from the Amezcua Brothers, her employees were taught how to make ten-pound batches of meth in only forty-eight hours. Due to the highly pure meth her lab was making, each uncut ten-pound batch could eventually equate to thirty or forty pounds of usable meth being distributed all around the Midwest, leaving Lori Arnold responsible for, literally, tons of meth going directly into Oelwein itself.
Without Lori Arnold as the middleman between The Mexican Mafia and people like Roland Jarvis, along with her reputation in the community, the dealing of meth into Oelwein would have been an impossibility. The influx of illegal migrant workers taking up low-paying meatpacking and fruit-picking jobs easily allowed meth to be transported into the Midwest from Mexico and California, but due to meth being a mainly “white drug,” (Sweeney, para. 45) they needed a way to get their product into the white population.
Lori easily found her place within the world of meth dealing by filling that position. By doing so, she became an important connection for “Jeffery William Hayes and Steve Jelinek of Oelwein [who] were buying massive amounts of dope from Lori and establishing their own meth franchises in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, and Kansas” (Reding, 63). The Amezcua brothers (aka The Mexican Mafia) were Lori’s connection to drug cartels in Mexico and California. Without this connection, Jeffery William Hayes and Steve Jelinek would not have a dependable supplier.
Lori kept her relationship with the Amezcua brothers even after she had established her own successful enterprise and no longer needed to rely on them for their supply of meth. Because of this, there was still a steady supply of what was known as “Mexican Dope” flowing into the Midwest. Along with her connections elsewhere, Lori was known throughout the community because of her husband Floyd Stockdall and her job at the local bar (before she opened her own). Floyd was the retired president of The Grim Reapers motorcycle gang and a cocaine dealer.
Being married to Floyd allowed her to gain the trust of others within the motorcycle gang, eventually going over their heads (as previously stated) to the main suppliers in California, leading her to gain control over meth production throughout Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota and South Dakota. It is because of Lori Arnold that The Mexican Mafia and the likes of Roland Jarvis were able to sell meth in Oelwein. Without the simultaneous occurrence of the economic downfall of the Midwest and Lori Arnold finding her “calling in life,” Oelwein’s meth epidemic would not have come into existence.
As a result, “she was, she says, one of the main employers in Ottumwa… Together, Lori and meth were an antidote to the small-town sense of isolation, the collective sense of depression and low morale that had settled on Ottumwa since most farms went belly-up, the railroad closed, and the boys at the meatpacking plant lost their jobs… In Lori’s reality, she was a businesswoman, not a drug dealer” (Reding, 71). The people of the Midwest leaned on the production of meth to bring money into their communities.
According to Jessica Sandham of Education Week magazine, meth is such a popular drug because it is much cheaper than cocaine, marijuana, and other drugs and can last anywhere from eight to up to fourteen hours (para. 24-27). Lori exploited all of these traits (the physical effects of meth, and the people’s need for money) and used them to her advantage in her life and the lives of others. “She wore, she says, a lot of hats. Multiple-business owner, mother, drug baron: Without the meth, she couldn’t have done it all” (Reding, 70).
She had fourteen houses to attend to, a bar to upkeep, a car dealership to run, a horse ranch to maintain (which included all the staff required to do so), a son to mother, and a methamphetamine superlab to sustain. Using meth helped her to do it all. Keep in mind that Lori was not the only person abusing meth for these reasons, Roland Jarvis and other meatpacking plant workers, along with countless single mothers and businessmen, needed meth in order to work back to back shifts to support their families. Her employees were also wrapped up in the world that is meth production.
Lori’s businesses created job opportunities for the people that were affected by the economic downfall. She had dozens of people driving cars back and forth to California to retrieve the meth purchased from the Amezcua Brothers, and countless people working at her horse farm, Wild Side bar, car dealership and meth superlab. Therefore, “[Lori’s empire] first helped to create, and then sustain, the market not just in Oelwein but also in towns all over Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, and the Dakotas” (Reding, 60), making her the main contributor to the meth epidemic.
Everyone can agree that Oelwein, Iowa had a meth problem and that Lori Arnold was a major contributor to that fact. Although, Daniel Sneider, staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor, and David Jefferson, editor of Newsweek, both wrote that meth is easy to make and that many locals could make their own meth in motel rooms, trailers, and the backs of pickup trucks all over the country. The main ingredients for meth are available over-the-counter and at most drug stores.
Any person with a slight education in chemistry could manufacture and sell meth on their own. Roland Jarvis is a prime example of this, even though he melted his nose and fingers off, he was still able and willing to manufacture, use and sell methamphetamine. There is no doubt that others had accomplished the same. The problem with this is that these small, individual meth labs could not make their supply match the demand.
This is where meth superlabs came into play, much like Lori Arnold’s. Reding describes Lori Arnold’s creation as a “synergistic empire,” meaning, as stated in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, that there was an interaction of discrete agencies (such as industrial firms), agents (such as drugs), or conditions such that the total effect is greater than the sum of the individual effects.
In Lori’s case; the interaction of discrete agencies, or firms, would be classified as the interaction between her various businesses, other drug-trafficking organizations, and her customers; the agent involved is, of course, methamphetamine; and the condition that the total effect is greater than all the individual effects put together would be that she, Lori Arnold, is indeed the main contributor to the meth epidemic in Oelwein, Iowa.
Jefferson, David J. “America’s Most Dangerous Drug. ” Newsweek Vol.
CXLVI, No. 6. Aug. 8 2005: 40-48. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 8 Oct 2012. Reding, Nick. Methland. New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2009. Print. Sandham, Jessica L. “Cranked Up. ” Education Week Vol. 19 No. 37. 24 May 2000: 36-41. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 9 Oct 2012. Sneider, Daniel. “Sinister Drug Infiltrates Rural US. ” Christian Science Monitor. Feb. 3 1997: 1+. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 8 Oct 2012. “Synergistic” Merriam-Webster Dictionary App. Merriam-Webster, 2012. Merriam-Webster. com. Web. 13 Oct 2012.