Drugs - It's All In The Price

Drugs - It's All In The Price
Posted by CN Staff on June 11, 2002 at 10:16:32 PT
From The Economist Print Edition - June 6th 2002
Source: Economist UK 
The street price of illegal drugs in Britain has never been lower. The message should be clear--prohibition has failed. If the government is looking for evidence about how it is faring in the battle to stop illegal drugs flooding Britain's streets, it need look no further than what is happening to prices. When Home Office officials and police chiefs meet next month for crisis talks about the exploding use of crack cocaine, they will have to confront the fact that the drugs they most fear have never been cheaper or more plentiful. 
The threat of crack, the most dangerous and unpredictable of illegal drugs, has been fuelled by the easy availability of cocaine. During the past ten years, the street prices of both hard and soft drugs have fallen sharply. Cocaine and heroin have declined by nearly a third, while ecstasy has dropped by more than half. See Chart -- real terms, the figures, compiled by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), represent an even sharper fall. While whisky and beer prices have doubled and cigarettes almost tripled in price over the decade, illegal drugs are now often cheaper than a night out in a pub. The cost of LSD, a hallucinogenic drug, is less than a packet of cigarettes. These figures confirm that the increasing resources employed to disrupt the illegal drugs trade are having little impact. Over the past five years, heroin seizures have more than doubled and cocaine seizures have increased five-fold. But Customs and Excise officials accept that they are intercepting only a fraction, probably less than 10%, of the drugs coming into the country. Terry Byrne, director of law enforcement at Customs and Excise, acknowledges that the street prices of drugs have never been lower. He also admits there is no evidence that the efforts of his and other agencies are "reducing availability or increasing the price of illegal drugs". Neither Customs and Excise nor NCIS are willing to discuss the forces driving the market. But Home Office officials say that events in Afghanistan have had a key role in boosting heroin supply. The increasing use of cocaine appears linked to the West Indies. Large amounts are being brought in by West Indian "drug mules", often women who agree to swallow packets of cocaine and smuggle them in at high risk for a couple of thousand dollars. Given that the streets are awash and that buying of both hard and soft drugs has never been easier, the government's national anti-drugs strategy set out four years ago looks increasingly like a work of fantasy. One of the government's main targets, to reduce the availability of Class A drugs by 25% by 2005 and by 50% by 2008, is so far adrift that an increase in availability is more likely to be recorded than a fall. The Association of Chief Police Officers says bleakly that if existing drugs policy is to be judged "by measurable reductions of people who use drugs and the amount of crime committed to get money to buy drugs", then it is failing. The Home Affairs select committee said in a report, published last month, that the government should concentrate its efforts in treating the estimated 250,000 hard-core addicts rather than pursuing criminal penalties. It called for "safe injecting houses" for addicts to be set up together with a large-scale trial of heroin prescribing. It also wants ecstasy to be downgraded to a Class B drug. Predictably, this is all too radical for the government. But the home secretary, David Blunkett, has moved a long way from the policy of his predecessor who, two years ago, dismissed a demand by a distinguished committee of medical, legal, police and drug specialists for reform of Britain's archaic drug laws. A revised national drugs strategy is to be published next month which is likely to back many of the committee's recommendations. Mr Blunkett has already announced that he plans to downgrade cannabis to a Class C drug, which means the penalties for possession becoming nominal. He is also sympathetic to strictly monitored trials of heroin prescribing. The new strategy is likely to focus on treatment rather than enforcement. A new approach is badly needed but whether this shift towards treatment will work is uncertain. One problem is cost. Prescribing heroin to hard-core addicts could cost more than ?250m ( $363m ) a year. But Transform, a pressure group in favour of legalisation, claims that the current regime costs at least ?10 billion a year, if the burden of dealing with drug-related crime and prisons are included in the calculation. Almost two-thirds of those who are arrested test positive for drugs. Doing nothing may be politically safe but it is not a cheap option. The Background: Illegal Drugs   With retail sales of around $150 billion, the trade in illegal drugs is in the same league as consumer spending on legal drugs like tobacco and alcohol. Cannabis is produced in both rich and poor countries. Opium cultivation continues to spread in Asia, while coca is a major export of Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. A growing sideline is in drugs such as methamphetamine and ecstasy, which are made from simple chemicals. Governments haven't always cracked down on these substances. Indeed, some countries tolerate them today. But most governments invest in costly anti-drugs policies, none more so than America. Supporters of such policies highlight the harm drugs cause to individuals and society. Yet the resulting drugs war is being waged ( and lost in Britain ) at perhaps an even greater cost. Not only are lives lost, but corruption and misguided drugs policies are encroaching on civil liberties. Legalising the possession of and trade in drugs would probably increase the number of users. But it might also reduce crime and poverty, and solve many other problems.  Newshawk: cltrldmg Source: Economist, The (UK)Published: June 6th 2002Copyright: 2002 The Economist Newspaper LimitedContact: letters economist.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Drugs Uncovered: Observer Special Council Will 'Not Pursue' Hard Drug Users Street Crime Falls 50% Falls in Cannabis Trial Area Police and Hard Drugs: The Cleveland Report 
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Comment #6 posted by stickyresins on June 12, 2002 at 12:26:29 PT
Has there been anything at all in the major US news about UK downgrading pot? I think that it would be very interesting for the american people to know. No longer can they say that marijauna legalization is a silly dutch idea.When will america have to admit that prohibition isn't working? Do you think that one day america will have to admit this? I think that they will if UK decides to completely legalize cannabis.
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on June 11, 2002 at 17:22:28 PT
The first link is the article. The second link is where it says "Get Article Background". I right click on that link and open in a new window. Please keep me posted about articles. I find the news is getting broader then ever before and it is easy to miss good articles and I sure don't want too. Thank You!
Get Article Background
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Comment #4 posted by cltrldmg on June 11, 2002 at 17:08:08 PT
How did you get the full article in the end? I saw that there were some links that weren't in my post, and I didn't see your question until now.I've got access to a few online journals and magazines at the moment, if you want I'll keep an eye out for any related articles in future and post them here.
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Comment #3 posted by darwin on June 11, 2002 at 12:46:40 PT
pot plant found in Tory Headquarter's garden!
This is too funny!
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Comment #2 posted by scott on June 11, 2002 at 11:13:59 PT
Think about it.
Bob's comment is spot on. It seems to me that the predicted increase in usage can easily be attributed to the success of many users at avoiding detection. The rates for drug usage cannot include those that aren't caught or refuse to report truthfully. When prohibition ends these "hidden" users come out and cause a blip in the numbers. I cannot believe that people who steadfastly refuse to use drugs today would suddenly feel compelled to start using because of legalization.
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Comment #1 posted by JR Bob Dobbs on June 11, 2002 at 10:53:02 PT
Do the research! It's not hard!
>>Legalising the possession of and trade in drugs would probably increase the number of users.  Oh well, only one misguided assumption in the middle of an otherwise sane and rational article. All they need to do is compare the rate of cannabis usage between the UK, the US, and the Netherlands, to see whether legalization would increase the number of users. The Netherlands, per capita, has half the rate of cannabis usage - and even if you look at drugs which are still illegal, because of their rational approach, their heroin addict population is aging, with few new young ones taking their place. Compare this to the USA, where we have more high school seniors addicted to heroin than at any time since the studies began...
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