The War on Drugs

Like most of our elected wars, the war on drugs is producing more costs than benefits. In the United States, those drugs that were around for the last one to two hundred years have been legal at times and illegal at other times. There was no significant difference in the recorded use of these drugs when they were legal and when they were not (the data has to be rather sketchy, however). So there has been no measurable benefit.

The costs of outlawing drugs, however, have been enormous. The large expenditures on police, armies, courts, jails are nothing compared with the costs to society (on both sides of our Southern border) of creating the large criminal industry that grows, refines, transports, and markets these drugs and the lawlessness that accompanies it. Over the last thirty years 50,000 deaths have been attributed to drug related violence in Mexico alone. The Presidents of Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico are all now calling for a reconsideration of this war as an effective approach to dealing with the harm of some of these drugs.

As George Will puts it:

Another good article in the Washington Post:

Marijuana should be regulated like tobacco and cocaine and opium should be regulated like alcohol. We seem to be moving in the right direction on this issue but too slowly.

About wcoats

Dr. Warren L. Coats specializes in advising central banks on monetary policy, and in the development of their capacity to formulate and implement monetary policy. He is retired from the International Monetary Fund, where, as Assistant Director of the Monetary and Financial Systems Department, he led missions to over twenty countries. Before then, he served as Visiting Economist to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and to the World Bank, and was Assistant Prof of Economics at the Univ. of Virginia from 1970-75. Most recently he was Senior Monetary Policy Advisor to the Central Bank of Iraq; an IMF consultant to the central banks of Afghanistan, Kenya and Zimbabwe; and a Deloitte/USAID advisor to the Government of South Sudan. He is currently a member of the Editorial Board of the Cayman Financial Review and until the end of 2013 was a member of the IMF program team for Afghanistan. His most recent book is entitled "One Currency for Bosnia: Creating the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina."
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2 Responses to The War on Drugs

  1. Sergio A. Pombo says:

    Dear Warren, I cannot agree more with this argument of legalizationan and personal responsibility. The stats that you mention (50K deads in Mexico over the padt 30 years) seems to be off. I reckon it is substantially higher. Good topic.

  2. JSR says:

    You are absolutely right. I used to think that governments were stupid, not having learned anything from prohibition of alcoholic beverages, or for pandering to the same extremist bigots. Today, however, I suspect that the black money of the traffic has bought too many electoral campaigns and corrupt too many people to make possible an effective discussion on decriminalization.

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