Friday, January 11, 2013

Time to end the war on drugs?

Gary Becker and Kevin Murphy, in the WSJ, consider the case for decriminalizing drug use, and drug sales.
Have We Lost the War on Drugs?

They seem to suggest that the major effect of drug laws on demand work by keeping street prices high. But their argument makes sense even if you think that social opprobrium and risk of prison are important parts of the high price.

Here are what struck me as the key paragraphs:

"Some evidence is available on the effects of Portugal's decriminalization of drugs, which began in 2001. A study published in 2010 in the British Journal of Criminology found that in Portugal since decriminalization, imprisonment on drug-related charges has gone down; drug use among young persons appears to have increased only modestly, if at all; visits to clinics that help with drug addictions and diseases from drug use have increased; and opiate-related deaths have fallen.

"Decriminalization of all drugs by the U.S. would be a major positive step away from the war on drugs. In recent years, states have begun to decriminalize marijuana, one of the least addictive and less damaging drugs. Marijuana is now decriminalized in some form in about 20 states, and it is de facto decriminalized in some others as well. If decriminalization of marijuana proves successful, the next step would be to decriminalize other drugs, perhaps starting with amphetamines. Gradually, this might lead to the full decriminalization of all drugs.

"Though the decriminalization of drug use would have many benefits, it would not, by itself, reduce many of the costs of the war on drugs, since those involve actions against traffickers. These costs would not be greatly reduced unless selling drugs was also decriminalized. Full decriminalization on both sides of the drug market would lower drug prices, reduce the role of criminals in producing and selling drugs, improve many inner-city neighborhoods, encourage more minority students in the U.S. to finish high school, substantially lessen the drug problems of Mexico and other countries involved in supplying drugs, greatly reduce the number of state and federal prisoners and the harmful effects on drug offenders of spending years in prison, and save the financial resources of government.

"The lower drug prices that would result from full decriminalization may well encourage greater consumption of drugs, but it would also lead to lower addiction rates and perhaps even to fewer drug addicts, since heavy drug users would find it easier to quit. Excise taxes on the sale of drugs, similar to those on cigarettes and alcohol, could be used to moderate some, if not most, of any increased drug use caused by the lower prices."


Alejandro Montufar Helu J said...

Hi, i'm from México and i think that the idea of "substantially lessen the drug problems of Mexico" is incorrect... If prices goes down, mexican drug dealers will switch to or engage more in illegal activities as kidnapping and thefts in order to compensate the loss in their earnings... That will bring more violence to the society...


This whole drug war thing is a complete total waste of manpower human resources. The prison industry loves it. Those in government love it they will say were out their getting the bad guys off the street selling drugs to children sounds like their such great public servants does it not. The reason the bad guys are out their to begin with is because drugs are illegal and very lucrative. If drugs were legal by prescription the bad guys would disappear overnight.

Anonymous said...

One hundred million American adults cannot pass the simple reading tests given to twelve year old kids born in Utah. The state also has the lowest rate of opiate use in the nation which results in less brain damage and smarter children. The shocking amount of illiterates in America might be caused by the heavy use of opiates, instead of hiring expensive teachers, it would be cheaper and more effective to train opiate sniffing dogs that will labor 24/7 for a can of chow.