Tony Newman at (646)335-5384 or Bill Piper at (202)669-6430
“President Bush’s proposed ‘surge’ in the war on drugs will cost taxpayer’s too much, won’t work, and may increase violence in both Mexico and the United States. Just look at the history. Over the last 30 years the United States has squandered literally tens of billions of dollars on supply-side drug control schemes. Nevertheless, illegal drugs are readily available in every community at lower and lower prices.
“Supply-side strategies have failed for cocaine, heroin, marijuana and virtually every drug to which they have been applied (including alcohol during Prohibition). Fundamental economic principles demonstrate why: as long as a strong demand for drugs exists, there will be a supply to meet it. Even if successful, Bush’s Mexico plan would merely succeed in making cocaine more valuable, boosting profits for major drug cartels and encouraging more criminal elements to enter the lucrative cocaine market.
“In the last two years, more than 4,000 Mexicans have died in that country’s war on drugs — that’s more than the number of Americans who have died in Iraq since that war’s inception. These deaths are a product of drug prohibition. As the Washington Post points out, Mexico’s drug cartels have been engaged in a fierce war for at least two years as they compete for lucrative trade routes and to try to fill power vacuums left after the extradition of several major cartel leaders to face trial in the United States. Until policymakers start rethinking failed drug-war policies, the violence and corruption inherent in prohibition will continue. Aid to Mexico could do some good, especially if it is used to bring major crime bosses to justice. But those bosses will inevitably be replaced, and battles about who will succeed them could increase violence in Mexico, not decrease it.
“A much more sensible approach would be to spend that $1.4 billion on drug treatment here at home. An estimated 20 percent of cocaine users account for 80 percent of the quantities consumed. Providing treatment to everyone who needs (without threat of imprisonment or fear of criminal sanctions) could significantly reduce demand and make drug selling less profitable.
“In one of the largest economic studies of the global cocaine market ever conducted, the RAND Corporation, working for the U.S. Army and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, found that drug treatment is ten times more effective at reducing cocaine abuse than drug interdiction, 15 times more effective than domestic law enforcement, and 23 times more effective than trying to eradicate cocaine at its source. Researchers concluded that for every dollar invested in drug treatment, taxpayers save an estimated $7.46 in social costs. In contrast, taxpayers lose 85 cents for every dollar spent on source-country control, 68 cents for every dollar spent on interdiction, and 48 cents for every dollar spent on domestic law enforcement.
“The Democratic Congress has a choice to make: waste $1.4 billion on Bush’s misguided supply-side schemes that will actually make drug trafficking more profitable, or hit the drug cartels where it really hurts by spending that money here in the U.S. on drug treatment and reducing their customer base.”