issue 224 - October 1991
The Intelligence Report
Propaganda is a weapon in war. The NI sifts through the evidence,
rejecting all but the most sober claims, and the most conservative statistics,
to assess the state of battle in the struggle against illicit drugs.
Victory for anti-drug warriors would be a drug-free society -
yet that looks like a more distant prospect than ever.
Operation Peasant Storm
More illicit drugs are being produced now than ever before. Production often increases when the war hots up - to make up for supplies lost to enforcement agencies.
Source: US Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics Matters, International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, March 1989. 'Minimum estimate' used.
Operation Clean Streets
When asked the question: 'How difficult do you think it would be for you to get each of the following types of drugs, if you wanted some?' this is how American 16-18 year olds responded - the higher the score (out of 100), the easier they were to find. Cocaine and heroin were easier to obtain in 1988 than they had been in 1975; marijuana slightly more difficult.
Source: US Department of Health and Human Services, National Survey Results, 1989.
Operation Big Buck
The value of trade in illicit drugs exceeds that of world trade in oil and is surpassed only by arms dealings. For cocaine alone this amounts to $76 billion, which equals the total national incomes of Colombia, Peru and Bolivia put together.
Sources: Latin American Newsletters, Informe Confidencial 1: Tráfico de Drogas, London 1991 (min. estimates of profits); World Bank, World Development Report 1990; UNDP, Human Development Report 1990.
Operation Hot Pursuit
Estimates of the cost of the drug offensive in the US alone vary from $15 to $20 billion per year:
. Cost of enforcement by US local police: $5 billion in 1986.
. US police make approximately 750,000 arrests every year for drug-law violations. More than 75% are for possession, typically of marijuana.
Source: Prof Ethan A Nadelmann, 'The Case for Legalization', in James A Inciardi, The Drug Legalization Debate, Sage, Newbury Park, California, 1991.
Seizures have increased sharply. However, they are usually said to represent 10% of the total trade. So the trade itself may have grown by a similar proportion.
Source: UN Division of Narcotic Drugs, Vienna
Drug Trade Routes
This map shows the main international routes taken by the
traffic in cocaine, heroin and marijuana. They are very similar to the
routes taken by traditional commodity exports from the Third world
to the rich world - and to the net flow of resources between rich and poor.
Most of the profits of the drug trade remain in the rich world, too.
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