Global Illicit Market Value

Drug Policy Question of the Week – 6-2-12

As answered by Mary Jane Borden, Editor of Drug War Facts for the Drug Truth Network on 6-2-12.

Question of the Week: How much is the global illicit market worth?

The last Drug Truth Network segment covered Transnational Organized Crime, a relatively new term that was the focus of a 2011 report by Global Financial Integrity. It concluded,

“Whether it is drugs, human kidneys, human beings, illegally harvested timber, weapons, or rhinoceros horns, as long as someone is willing to buy it, someone will be willing to sell it.”

Understanding profit as a driving force, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime computed a “macro” estimate of global illicit trade in 2009, finding

“The overall best estimates of [its] criminal proceeds are close to US$2.1 trillion in 2009 … About half of these proceeds were linked to trafficking in drugs.”

The “micro” components of these criminal proceeds can be found in a new Drug War Facts table based on Global Financial Integrity’s estimates. This table also includes dollar values from the UNODC for cannabis, cocaine, opiates and amphetamine stimulants.

This table shows that the $321 billion illicit drug trade clearly dominated the illicit international trade, representing almost half of its total estimated $646 billion value in 2005. The only other market to come close was “Counterfeiting” at $250 billion. In contrast, the “Small arms and Light Weapons” market had a “mere” value of only $650 million or 0.1% of the total.

At $141 billion, cannabis and cannabis resin combined were estimated to have a global retail value equal to twice the sum of these ten “smaller” illicit markets combined.

Hence, removing just cannabis and cannabis resin from the illicit market place could reduce the proceeds available to transnational organized crime by almost one quarter.