Friday, April 27, 2007

White House letter: U.S. cocaine prices drop despite billions spent on drug war

From the AP via the Huffington Post courtesy of AlterNet:

The street price of cocaine fell in the United States last year as purity rose, the White House drug czar said in a private letter to a key senator, indicating increasing supply and seemingly contradicting U.S. claims that US$4 billion (euro2.9 billion) in aid to Colombia is stemming the flow.

The drug czar, John Walters, wrote that retail cocaine prices fell by 11 percent from February 2005 to October 2006, to about US$135 (euro99) per gram of pure cocaine. That's way below the US$600 a gram pure cocaine fetched in 1981, when the U.S. government began collecting data, and near the level it has been at since the early 1990s.

During the same period, analysis of data collected by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration showed that after a drop in 2005, levels of purity "have trended somewhat toward former levels," Walters said.

Price and purity estimates are a key barometer of cocaine availability. Dropping prices are an indication of robust supply or weakening demand, as is rising purity.

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Well, it's obvious to anybody who honestly looks at the issue, but well worth repeating: the "War on Drugs" has always been a failure for the same reasons that prohibition of alcohol was a failure--lots of people want illegal drugs and are willing to pay for them, which strongly encourages organized crime to meet the economic demand. You just can't stop the flow of illegal drugs in a free society. The only real way to deal with drug addiction, short of becoming a police state, is to treat it as a public health problem, the same way we did with AIDS, using public awareness campaigns combined with medical treatment--drug use and sales should be legal, but regulated and taxed, like alcohol.

Like I said, it's obvious to people who are honest with themselves.

One wonders, then, why the "War on Drugs," still failing after nearly three decades, continues to foster organized crime, turn otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals, and waste billions of dollars year after year. For one thing, politicians like it. It allows them to appear to be "tough on crime" and attract traditionalist voters. For another, cops and school teachers like it, probably because their ranks are mostly composed of those aforementioned traditionalist voters. But the biggest motivation for the drug war, at this late stage in the game, is that those billions of wasted dollars are a veritable gravy train for numerous industries and government entities associated with anti-drug efforts: prison contractors, drug testing firms, weapons manufacturers, police departments, lawyers, prosecutors, bail bondsmen, rehab facilities and services, and the list just goes on and on.

In short, the "War on Drugs" really has nothing to do with eradicating illegal drug use and sales. It serves its own purposes now, and millions of innocent Americans are caught in the crossfire.