Drugs Are Better and Cheaper Than Ever
By Rebecca McCray, Jason Koebler, Christopher Rice
We've known for far too long that the War on Drugs has been a failure, but the statistics reported in the British Medical Journal by Evan Wood, of the University of British Columbia's Urban Health Research Initiative, are astounding. Wood and his team aggregated government drug surveillance data from seven different countries. Between 1990 and 2010, the street price, adjusting for inflation, of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana fell roughly 80 percent. At the same time, the street drugs became much more potent: The average purity of heroin increased by 60 percent, the purity of cocaine increased by 11 percent, and the potency of cannabis increased 161 percent. The story is much the same in Europe and Australia, with street prices dropping and supply remaining stable, despite a huge increase in drug seizures.
Though we've known that weed is stronger than ever, it seems like the trend has extended to other, harder drugs.
New data shows drug policy isn’t doing what it’s meant to. The war on drugs drastically altered the face of the federal prison system, but it hasn’t made anyone safer or meaningfully decreased the availability of drugs. That’s just one of the findings of a new report from the Pew Research Center, which examines the drastic rise in the number of people being sent to prison for drug offenses in the 1980s and 1990s.
While in 1980 there were fewer than 5,000 people serving time in federal prison for drug-related offenses, today there are more than 95,000—and the data shows it’s not because we’ve gotten better at keeping drugs off the streets.
Violent crime rose 41 percent between 1983 and 1991, Pew found, and peaked at 758 violent offenses per 100,000 U.S. residents. Anecdotal evidence tied that heightened violence to the illegal drug trade, particularly crack cocaine, which encouraged legislators to make it clear to their constituents that they were tough on crime by ramping up sentences for drug offenders. The average prison sentence for a federal drug offender rose 36 percent between 1980 and 2011, tacking almost 20 additional months onto the average sentence.
But putting more drug offenders behind bars for longer periods of time hasn’t paid off, according to Pew. The street prices of illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine have actually gone down since 1980—even as their purity has increased. That indicates ample supply, and indeed, the Office of National Drug Control Policy says illicit drug use has increased. (The availability of drugs may be tied to the fact that high-level drug traffickers make up a small portion of all drug offenders in federal custody—just 11 percent, according to Pew.)
While violent and property crimes have decreased dramatically over the past three decades, research shows that high incarceration rates can’t be credited for that drop. Approximately 5 percent of the crime decline in the 1990s can be attributed to incarceration, while less than 1 percent of the decline between 2000 and 2013 can be linked to incarceration, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. As Pew notes, recidivism rates among federal drug offenders barely changed as more were locked up—another indication that the war on drugs didn’t deliver on its public safety promises.
Meanwhile, the long sentences have landed especially hard on street-level dealers, as well as drug mules and couriers, who made up nearly half of the people sentenced for federal drug crimes in 2009. These pawns in the drug trade typically come from low-income communities from which manufacturing jobs have fled for China and Mexico in the last couple of decades, and where recreational opportunities are few.
We've thrown hundreds of billions of dollars at this problem. The 'drug war' is an opportunity to increase and justify the over bloated budgets of agencies like the DEA, Customs, FBI, federal and local prosecutors, attorneys, bail bondsmen, judges, the Bureau of Prisons, drug testing companies, and drug counselors. The "Politics of Contraband" created job security for the above in America today. It is a shame and a sham and the taxpayers have carried the financial burden of this war. It is time to explore a different way to treat these problems without the extreme cost and the intrusive nature of our inalienable rights.
In Canada, we've experimented with heroin prescriptions for people who have failed methadone treatment. The outcomes have been incredibly positive.
READ MORE- Pew Research
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