Illegal Drug Trade


RAND has studied the impact of policy measures on the problem of illicit drugs; offered recommendations on supply-reduction efforts; and considered the possible effects of marijuana legalization or decriminalization on drug trafficking revenues and on drug-related violence.

  • protest against violence in Juarez, Mexico


    Legalization in the U.S. and Crime in Mexico

    May 22, 2013

    Driving Mexican marijuana out of the U.S. would probably reduce the traffickers' export revenue by a few billion dollars a year, writes Beau Kilmer. But would reducing that revenue lead to a corresponding decrease in trafficker violence?

Explore Illegal Drug Trade

  • People participate in the so-called "last demonstration with illegal marijuana" in front of the Congress building in Montevideo, Uruguay, December 10, 2013


    Are We Entering a New Era of Cannabis Regulation?

    Although international drug treaties prohibit the production, distribution, and possession of cannabis for non-medical and non-scientific purposes, several jurisdictions have implemented new laws and policies, including some that remove criminal penalties for possession of small doses of cannabis.

    May 22, 2014

  • U.S. Border Patrol agents patrol along the international border between Mexico and the United States near San Diego, California, photo by Reuters/Mike Blake


    Improving Interagency Information Sharing Using Technology Demonstrations

    New and innovative intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance technologies developed by the U.S. Department of Defense for the military could also be used by the Department of Homeland Security and the Drug Enforcement Administration to help secure the southern U.S. border.

    Mar 18, 2014

  • News Release

    U.S. Cocaine Consumption Declines by Half, While Marijuana Use Jumps

    From 2006 to 2010, the amount of marijuana consumed by Americans increased by more than 30 percent, while cocaine consumption fell by about half. Meanwhile, heroin use was fairly stable throughout the decade.

    Mar 10, 2014

  • drugs and money

    Research Brief

    How Big Is the U.S. Market for Illegal Drugs?

    In order to think sensibly about illicit drug markets, policymakers need to have some idea of how big those markets are. This helps estimate revenues going to criminal organizations, improve treatment and prevention decisions, and evaluate drug policies.

    Mar 10, 2014

  • Syringe, spoon and lighter, concept of drug addiction


    What America's Users Spend on Illegal Drugs

    Each year, drug users in the U.S. spend about $100 billion on cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine. This has been stable over the decade, but there have been important shifts. In 2000, users spent much more on cocaine than marijuana; in 2010, the opposite was true.

    Mar 7, 2014

  • crime, weed, natural, hemp, health, green, marijuana, nature, drugs, cannabis, grass, addiction


    Multinational Overview of Cannabis Production Regimes

    Commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice, this international stocktaking of cannabis production includes a special focus on identifying and describing official policies on production regimes for non-medical and non-scientific purposes.

    Dec 23, 2013

  • Mexico border


    If U.S.-Mexico Get Security Right, Other Good Policy Will Follow

    Obama and Peña Nieto emphasized economic cooperation at their summit not because security issues have gone away, but because the new rules of the game in this nascent relationship between the two leaders are evolving, writes Agnes Gereben Schaefer.

    May 29, 2013

  • The towns of Nogales, Ariz., left, and Nogales, Mexico, stand separated by a high concrete and steel fence


    Legalization and Border Security: Are We There Yet?

    The White House and a bipartisan group of senators recently unveiled proposals for comprehensive immigration reform. The proposal raises a number of questions, says Peter Brownell: How would success in securing the border actually be determined? Would it mean absolutely zero unauthorized immigration across U.S. borders?

    Feb 7, 2013

  • Journal Article

    Managing Potential Conflict in Illegal Markets: An Exploratory Study of Cocaine Smuggling in the Netherlands

    Analyzing 31 police investigations from the Netherlands, we found data on 33 incidents involving failure of cocaine smuggling related transactions and the subsequent outcome. We examined these incidents for the use of violence and threats.

    Jan 1, 2013

  • Journal Article

    'Polymorphous Criminal Networks': Considering Criminal Groups' Engagement Across Markets

    At a time when drug policy and law enforcement regimes for tackling illicit markets are in a state of flux, it is important to understand how changes in the treatment of one type of illicit activity or substance may impact others.

    Jan 1, 2013

  • Journal Article

    Insights About Cannabis Production and Distribution Costs in the EU

    This report demonstrates how cannabis prices increase across the supply chain in the EU as distributors take additional mark ups to compensate themselves not only for shipping costs but also for the risks they assume.

    Jan 1, 2013

  • Journal Article

    Estimating the Size of the EU Cannabis Market

    This report generates estimates of retail cannabis expenditure in the EU using new data about cannabis consumption and expenditures from a web survey conducted in seven Member States.

    Jan 1, 2013

  • Journal Article

    Sizing National Heroin Markets in the EU: Insights from Self-Reported Expenditures in the Czech Republic and England

    This report uses data about PHUs and estimates of weekly heroin expenditures in the Czech Republic and England to calculate the size and the volume of the market for these two countries.

    Jan 1, 2013

  • June 2012 protest in Mexico City's town center against the major presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto.


    Will Mexico's New President Continue the War on the Cartels?

    During his campaign, Enrique Peña Nieto, the victorious PRI candidate, promised frightened and war-weary Mexicans a reduction in the violence, but since his election victory in July, he has sounded more and more bellicose, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Nov 16, 2012

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    How Might the Federal Government React if States Legalize Marijuana?

    This November, Washington state, Oregon, and Colorado voters will consider ballot measures to legalize the production, distribution, and possession of marijuana for nonmedical purposes. Even if voters pass these measures at the state level, marijuana will still be prohibited by the federal government, writes Beau Kilmer.

    Sep 12, 2012

  • Beau Kilmer


    In Brief: Beau Kilmer on Marijuana Legalization

    When people talk about legalization they're talking about removing the prohibitions on production, distribution, and possession, and sometimes they also talk about having regulations and taxation. This is very different from decriminalization, which generally focuses on reducing the penalties associated just with possession.

    Jul 25, 2012

  • Report

    The Challenge of Violent Drug-Trafficking Organizations

    Violent drug-trafficking organizations in Mexico produce, transship, and deliver into the U.S. tens of billions of dollars worth of narcotics annually. A Delphi exercise offers an assessment of the security situation in Mexico through the lens of existing research on urban unrest, historical insurgencies, and defense-sector reform.

    Oct 21, 2011

  • cannabis and euro notes


    Analyzing the Illicit Drug Market in the EU

    To further analyze Europe's illicit drug market and the EU's responses to it, DPRC and RAND Europe are teaming with European partners to expand their original 2009 research on the global drug market.

    Sep 19, 2011

  • News Release

    Latin American Cocaine Trade Persists Despite Gains Made by U.S. Efforts

    Efforts by the United States to combat Latin American cocaine smugglers have disrupted drug supplies and captured key cartel leaders, but they have not significantly reduced the region's overall narcotics trade.

    Jun 15, 2011