In Illicit Drugs and Crime, Bruce L. Benson and David W. Rasmussen (Professors of Economics, Florida State University, and Research Fellows, the Independent Institute), reply with a resounding no. Not only has the drug war failed to reduce violent and property crime but, by shifting criminal justice resources (the police, courts, prisons, probation officers, etc.) away from directly fighting such crime, the drug war has put citizens’ lives and property at greater risk, Benson and Rasmussen contend.
“Getting tough on drugs inevitably translates into getting soft on nondrug crime,” they write. “When a decision is made to wage a ‘war on drugs,’ other things that criminal justice resources might do have to be sacrificed.”
To support this conclusion, Benson and Rasmussen compare data on drug law enforcement and crime trends between states, and debunk numerous misconceptions about drug use and criminality.
One of the most prevalent misconceptions, Benson and Rasmussen, contend is the notion that a large percentage of drug users commit nondrug crimes, what might be called the “drugs-cause-crime” assumption implicit in the government’s drug-war strategy. If true, then an effective crackdown on ...
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...easy” to obtain rose by about 20 percent.
This failure is due in large part, Benson and Rasmussen explain, to drug entrepreneurs’ adoption of new production techniques, new products, and new marketing strategies in response to greater law enforcement. Their “innovations” include lengthening the drug distribution chain and using younger drug pushers and runners (to reduce the risk of arrest and punishment), increasing domestic drug production (to avoid the risk of seizure at the border), smuggling into the country less marijuana and more cocaine (which is harder to detect), development of “crack” cocaine (a low-cost substitute for higher priced powdered cocaine and for marijuana, which the drug war made harder to obtain), and development of drugs with greater potency (because they are less bulky and because punishment is based on a drug’s weight, not its potency).
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