Drug War Costs: Here and in the US

The Real News Network has a series of interviews related to the U.S. end of the drug war from the perspective of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) members. This most recent episode in the series focuses, to a great extent, on the costs associated with enforcement.

Other discussions here have pointed out what the war on drugs costs Nicaragua and other Central American nations. Clearly, it is not a positive entry on the balance sheet. Recently, there has been discussion by regional leaders on decriminalization. The discussion shows the US end of the drug cycle from the point of view of those who both have on the ground experience and don't have a vested interest in the status quo.



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Cartel costs of pot legalization

An article in The Huffington Post offers some numbers for what Mexican cartels could lose if ballot measures to legalize Marijuana in Colorado, Oregon and Washington pass. There are some questions concerning the study's conclusion but the numbers show the magnitude of the problem.

[The study] calculates the hypothetical, post-legalization price of marijuana produced in Oregon, Washington and Colorado and sold within those states and smuggled to other states. It then assumes that purchasers around the U.S. will choose domestic marijuana when it is sold cheaper than the current price of Mexican marijuana. That choice will lead to a loss of $1.425 billion to the cartels if Colorado legalizes, $1.372 billion if Washington approves the ballot measure, and $1.839 billion if Oregon votes yes, the study says.

Not the Whole Story...

While this TRNN video gives a nice insight on the domestic problems of the US caused by prohibition of illicit drugs and on how "successful" the WOD has been over the last 40 years in "combating" these domestic problems, it leaves virtually unmentioned the much bigger negative impact on many Latin American countries by fueling violence, domestic conflicts, corruption, domestic illicit drug consumption and inequality of societies in a massive way. All because some US politicians decided years ago that it was easier to fight the supply side than the demand side of illicit drugs...Sort of "Exporting your Problems". What is also never mentioned in any WOD discussion in the USA, is that many LATAM countries are suffering from increasing high drug abuse rates themselves, because of the very cheap, but highly addictive coca paste products that became available for the poor. Colombian, Peruvian and Bolivian coca paste products like dry, washed and waste coca paste a.k.a. Paco, Bazuco and Pitillo are increasingly exported to and consumed in other South and Central American countries. Apparently the US WOD "strategy" is not going to change the next four years. It looks like Romney favors to continue the WOD and Obama will be more or less doing the same, although Obama mentioned at the OAS summit in Cartagena this year, he is willing to discuss options and to spend more monies on decreasing the demand side. What the US politicians seem to forget is the big risk they're taking by not addressing the failure of the WOD and by not starting legalization and regulation. If the US continues the WOD as is, LATAM countries will team up and legalize and regulate illicit drugs themselves within their borders, following the Uruguay initiative. This means a massive increase of supply on the US market, which the US is unable to stop at its borders...

BTW. The LEAP organization has been discussed on Nicaliving before.

Excellent Interview Of Law Enforcement Officers Opposed to War.

Thanks for posting this video, fyl. It is abundantly clear that the U.S. War on Drug has served only to keep profits astronomically high for the drug cartels while filling the coffers of the "anti-drug" industries with equally obscene profits. The consequences have been devastating for our communities and for the lives of those filling our prisons.

The U.S. "War on Drugs" has not only wrecked havoc on American communities, but those in foreign countries throughout the world. Their governments, judicial systems and police forces have been thoroughly corrupted due to the enormous profits the drug cartels have to buy government officials there.

I worked in Cambodia in the mid-1990's. One of the two co-prime ministers, Hun Seng, was known to be one of the biggest drug dealers in the country. He also had control of large amounts of U.S. DEA money, personnel and equipment, which he used to "interdict" any drug sellers who dared to impinge on his market. Thanks to American tax money and our absurd drug policies, the corruption was total.

Crime, both violent and property, would likely be reduced by some 75% in our cities if drugs were legalized and addiction treated as the health problem it is. By ending prohibition and taking the profits out of the drug (and anti-drug) business, billions of dollars could be saved and put into the rehabilitating not only drug addicts, but our failing infra-structure, failing schools and the failed human lives of those who are senselessly sitting in our vast prison system, consuming only tax dollars.

Our U.S. drug policies are insanely destructive, as the prosecutor and prison official interviewed in this video amply demonstrated.

Preserving Profits

Your Cambodia story brings up an interesting point. It's clear that the War on Drugs creates an opportunity for profit in the illegal drug distribution business but what we seldom hear talked about is how it aids our criminals benefit from elemination of competition. The exception seems to be that information on how US anti-drug forces have cut deals with the Sinaloa cartel which has been documented by Narconews.

But, what about:

  • Government-supported vs. FARC-supported drug running in Colombia
  • The Bush/Contra-run cocaine distribution network of the 1980s vs. whoever else was in the business in Nicaragua and El Salvador at the time.

The good news is that if the sane ideas of L.E.A.P. can take control in the US, the international profits will go away and, hopefully, the problems will fade away.

Prison profits

An Activist Post article takes a look at another profit center supported by the War on Drugs. It is the US prison system. Just what the chart showing what has happened to the US prison population since Nixon launched the War on Drugs is frightening.

The other side of the Portuguese system is treatment

The US has consistently underfunded this -- a friend who worked in a alcohol detox VA hospital ward said that there was no money for drug-addicted veterans, so the counselors, being more humane than their superiors, would coach drug users to "admitting" to an alcohol problem. Detox was pretty much similar, so this worked.

Portugal has decriminalized drug use. http://www.businessinsider.com/portugal-drug-policy-decriminalization-wo... talks about how that works.

Thailand seems to have tried legalizing drugs and what I read was that they lost a whole generation of young men to them (probably an exaggeration). Since that, they're enacted the most draconian smuggling laws anywhere.

The US seems to be okay with the poor becoming drug users as long as the drugs stay in the poor neighborhoods. None of my working class students thought that anything about anti-drug policies and policing in their neighborhoods was anything other than a bad joke. Cops were notorious corrupt in the Lower East Side's Sixth Precinct (confirmed by the student who was a retired NYC homicide cop).

My impression is that in the US, nobody really wants to stop drugs except to make occasional political statements.

Rebecca Brown