Canvassing for Opinion - aka "Blairs Brain on Cannabis"

IMHO prohibition sentiment requires inherent addiction to status quo, an incapacity to visualise beyond the here and now and a desperate desire to know others might feel the same... Reform is not revolutionary, rather it is evolutionary. Having survived banging your head against a brick wall the evolutionist relishes having stopped. / Blair

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Nick Smith on Drugs "Are we winning this war?"

The Government Action Plan on Methamphetamine is working by at least one measure – price. A gram of P, according to one Auckland drug dealer, now costs around $800, whereas a year ago the same amount set users back about $300-$400.

The doubling in price tells a supply side-story. Prime Minister John Key launched the plan in early October and, among other measures designed to restrict supply, made the important precursor drug, pseudoephedrine, prescription-only.

Also, in the two months to early December, Customs intercepted a total of 230kg of pseudoephedrine at the border. When commodities become scarce, consumer demand drives the price up.

John Key, leader of the New Zealand National PartyImage via Wikipedia
The government is, says Key, winning "the fight against P".

But if "we" are winning the fight, what will success entail? An exhaustive account of the global cocaine trade (The Candy Machine, How Cocaine Took Over the World, by Tom Feiling) suggests all of the efforts by government and its agencies will make not a jot of difference and may even generate a worse social outcome.

It will not mean an end to drug-related crime – when costs become prohibitive, crime rates usually soar as users resort to desperate measures to acquire cash to feed their dependency, as Feiling shows. Look to the burglary and robbery figures for the March 2010 quarter. Nor will success strangle an important revenue stream for gangs, many of which are major suppliers of methamphetamine. (CONTINUES)

For instance, when the government banned party pills containing the active substance, BZP, demand for Ecstasy and methamphetamine (the drug the government is promising to stamp out) went through the roof.

"I went from selling 5000 pills a month to 5000 pills a week," a 52-year-old drug dealer explained to a newspaper about the impact the ban had on his operation, which had generated up to $12 million in revenue.

Wilkins says the BZP ban has driven increased use, although he suspects leftover party pills are being passed off as Ecstasy.

For Feiling, the failure to combat the supply or demand for drugs is an economic story, one that illustrates the futility of prohibition and the many tragic, unintended consequences stemming from "another war on another abstraction".

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