Jan 1, 1988
Politicians now agree that enforcement of drug prohibitions is of limited value in reducing drug use, and are now calling for measures to reduce demand. Nonetheless, the United States continues to commit its resources to enforcement. Interdiction affects the consumption of cocaine in the United States by affecting its price. But the four primary costs of smuggling--the drugs, personnel, transportation, and corruption--are modest compared with the retail price of cocaine, and it is hard to see how they could be made significantly higher. Moreover, increased interdiction since 1981 has been accompanied by declining drug prices, possibly because the smugglers are more experienced. Worse, experienced smugglers can benefit from intensified interdiction, since it catches their competition. In addition, as more drugs are seized, total demand goes up, raising the earnings of source-country producers. Policymakers must consider whether we would achieve a greater reduction in the social costs of drug abuse if some of the $1 billion now spent on interdiction were put into prevention, treatment, and research.