The simple math of the War on Drugs

Ryan Grim, at Reason Magazine, looks at the price fluctuation during American’s War on Drugs and concludes that even based on the street price for drugs, we are still losing the war, despite what every Drug Czar will tell you. 

The stated goal of U.S. drug policy is to lower demand by increasing price. Reagan’s drug war did precisely the opposite. The only exception was pot, the least harmful drug covered by the federal Controlled Substances Act.

When it comes to cleverness, the drug czar has nothing on the drug market, as the latest cocaine price data show. People like to get high, and they’ll find a way to do it. Chop down all the pot plants, and the dealer will still have blow. Push them both down, and some guy will cook up something crazy with gasoline and Sudafed.

If there’s one certainty about American drug use, it’s this: We’re always looking for a better way to feed our voracious appetite for getting stoned—for something cheaper, faster, or more powerful. Drug trends feed themselves as word spreads about the amazing new high that’s safe and nonaddictive, cheap and available. Then we discover otherwise—and go searching for the next great high. We often circle back to the original drug, forgetting why we quit it in the first place. Drug czars past and present can gin up whatever numbers they like, but they can never change that reality.

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