NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

U.S. Has Lost The War On Drugs

April 28, 2000

Two decades of federal efforts to keep illegal drugs out of the country and off U.S. streets have resulted in abject failure, experts point out. Moreover, expensive interdiction efforts have only made things worse -- generating new sources of drugs, new drug-trafficking routes and new drugs.

  • The U.S. has spent $250 billion to fight drugs since 1980 -- yet the street price of both cocaine and heroin has dropped to one-fourth what it was in 1981 and their potency has increased dramatically.
  • Obtaining drugs has never been easier -- witness a government survey revealing that 35 percent of high school seniors say heroin is readily available.
  • Illustrating the law of unintended consequences, Colombian traffickers switched to exporting cocaine -- which is more profitable and compact than marijuana -- when the federal government launched a crackdown on south Florida entry points in the early 1980s.
  • When the U.S. government all but shut down the Mexican border in 1969 to keep marijuana out of the country, drug users here turned to prescription drugs, Mexican traffickers switched to boats and planes and Asian drug lords saw an opportunity to expand their heroin markets.

The National Drug Intelligence Center now reports that marijuana is cultivated in every state in the union.

Critics point out that despite all these failures, Congress is about to authorize $1.7 billion in aid to Colombia in the latest round of drug-fighting efforts. The unintended consequences of this latest campaign, experts warn, will probably be increased coca production in other Latin American countries.

Source: Kevin B. Zeese (Common Sense for Drug Policy), "Just Say No to More Money for the Colombia Drug War," Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2000.


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