Fail: Drugs Are Getting Cheaper And More Plentiful
Over 50 years ago President Richard Nixon declared a government “war on drugs.” Since then law enforcement power has been expanded dramatically with new branches of local and federal law enforcement started employing armies of new officers. Spending, too, has gone through the roof. Every year our nation spends billions upon billions of dollars on drug enforcement.
What has this accomplished? Not much, it seems. Not only are drugs still readily available in pretty much every community in America, but they’re cheaper too according to this report from the New York Times:
If there is one number that embodies the seemingly intractable challenge imposed by the illegal drug trade on the relationship between the United States and Mexico, it is $177.26. That is the retail price, according to Drug Enforcement Administration data, of one gram of pure cocaine from your typical local pusher. That is 74 percent cheaper than it was 30 years ago.
Prices match supply with demand. If the supply of an illicit drug were to fall, say because the Drug Enforcement Administration stopped it from reaching the nation’s shores, we should expect its price to go up.
That is not what happened with cocaine. Despite billions spent on measures from spraying coca fields high in the Andes to jailing local dealers in Miami or Washington, a gram of cocaine cost about 16 percent less last year than it did in 2001. The drop is similar for heroin and methamphetamine.
It’s hard to compare this trend with the prohibition of alcohol – the drug markets have had more than five decades to develop this trend whereas alcohol prohibition was only in place for a little over a decade – but there is evidence to suggest that despite efforts of the federal/state governments to prohibit alcohol, prices were actually falling.
“[T]he lowest prices reported suggest that, even ignoring inflation, some alcoholic beverage prices fell relative to the pre-Prohibition period,” writes Jeffrey Miron in a Boston University study. “This does not prove that consumers paid less, on average, for alcohol, but they certainly faced an incentive to buy at the lowest prices and then stockpile the quantities purchased at these prices.”
Prohibition doesn’t work. Some people will use and abuse intoxicants, be it marijuana or alcohol, and that will be a problem society will have to deal with. But prohibition, far from addressing this problem, exacerbates it.Tags: prohibition, war on drugs