WE SHOULD RECONSIDER WHAT’S DRIVING OUR DRUG POLICY
Bravo to Mary O’Grady for focusing on the economics of U.S. drug
policy ( “The Economics of Drug Violence,” Americas, Oct. 11 ).
In 1975 I was the lead Office of Management and Budget person on an
interagency drug interdiction task force involving the White House
Office of Drug Policy, the OMB, Justice Department ( Immigration
Service-Border Patrol and Drug Enforcement Administration ) and
Treasury ( Customs Service ). We presented conclusions to White
House staff and to Treasury and Justice leadership based on estimates
that we were interdicting about 5% of marijuana and about the same
single-digit percent of “hard” drugs coming across U.S. borders.
Resources devoted to the drug interdiction strategy were already
enormous at that time. Officers of the U.S. government ( Border
Patrol, Customs and DEA ) were actually involved in incidents of
shooting at each other, in connection with claiming the enforcement
“turf” between the ports of entry. Moreover, we estimated that a
doubling of resources devoted to this interdiction task would yield a
negligible increase in seizures and interdiction effectiveness, with
a then unknown increase in profit margins to traffickers.
U.S. drug enforcement policy has been tragically wrong-headed for
more than a generation for several reasons. Foremost is the failure
to look at drug policy with an economic, rather than an ideological,
lens. Our policies of increasing investment in interdiction have
raised profit margins for narco-terrorists, state-terror groups and
criminal syndicates. Our policies of increasing “investment” have
been driven by federal agency union leadership interested in
increasing membership and the scope of their mission. Our inability
as a nation to look at the deteriorating world of drug-financed
terrorism and lawlessness may be the result of our policy of
incremental increases. We are like the frog in the pot slowly being
boiled to death. It is certainly a result of our failure to think
seriously about supply and demand effects of U.S. drug policy.
Like another conservative economist and observer of our failed
policy, George Shultz, I favor legalization of marijuana. I will
vote in favor of Proposition 19 on Nov. 2, as one step in the right
John A. Fisher
Menlo Park, Calif.
Pubdate: Thu, 14 Oct 2010
Source: Wall Street Journal (US)