Meeting the Challenge of Illegal Drugs
Planes, trains and automobiles. What about submarines, buses and cargo ships? Drugs enter the United States through all these forms of transportation. Revenues from illegal drugs worldwide are estimated at $300 billion dollars. In the United States alone, estimated revenues totally $60 billion dollars. This is 13 billion dollars more than the budget of Michigan and 23 billion dollars more than the combined budgets of Kansas and Missouri. The wealth attributed to individual dealers is staggering; one Britain convicted of multiple drug related crimes, is reported to be worth $300 million dollars. He started life as a bouncer!
When my generation thinks of drugs, too many remember the comparatively easy summers of the 60’s and 70’s. If PCP, methamphetamine and cocaine were around, I never heard about it. Marijuana, the drug of choice on many college campuses, could be found in a farmer’s field or purchased from a college classmate. The hippie generation joked about twinkies, grew up, found jobs, raised families and seemed to leave drugs behind.
Fast forward 40 years. The issue of illegal drugs is serious business and we need to be serious about how we respond. The economics of dealing drugs at the local level are discussed by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, in their book, Freakonomics, chapter 3, Why Do Drug Dealers Still Live with their Moms?The authorsstudiedstreet dealers, ie. “foot soldiers” and concluded that most live at home because their average earnings are below minimum wage for jobs in which the chances of being killed are 1 in 4 . Contrast that to vast sums of money are controlled by international cartels that receive the real profits from drugs. Where does that money go and how is it spent?
A very rough estimate is that annually $10 billion to $30 billion dollars is smuggled South of the border. That money is used to pay those who harvest and/or manufacture drugs; to pay those who transport and sell drugs; to bribes government officials, lavish lifestyles for the drug lords, and terrorism. Terrorism in narrower sense involves funding drug traffickers/terrorists in Afghanistan and throughout that region; terrorism in the broader sense includes the destruction of whole communities in the border towns of Mexico, as well as the violence in the drug communities of our cities.
Drug sales and use sap the life out of our communities, primarily in some neighborhoods within our inner cities. The slogan “an unarmed drug dealer is a dead drug dealer” is more than a slogan. Those engaged in the drug trade too often protect themselves, their drugs and their money with violence, placing themselves, their neighbors and their families at risk of injury or death. The fear of violence and the risk that children will become involved in the drug trade further traumatizes some communities. Inner city street dealers are, in this and all regards, both victims and perpetrators.
So, the question is, what do we do about it? I haven’t a clue. But in the next months I hope to focus my research on various related issues in the hope that I will at least gain a better understanding. I will let you know what I learn.
so interesting. The New Yorker recently ran a really interesting article about this, focusing on Portugal, which decriminalized all drugs in the seventies. I found it a really interesting read.