Drug War Crimes by Jeffrey Miron

(Consider this my 4/20 contribution to the blogosphere)

Any regular readers of this blog know my opposition to the drug war is based on this question: what is more immoral, the use of substances the government has (arbitrarily) declared illegal, or the tactics used by government to prevent the use of substances the government has (arbitrarily) declared illegal?

There is also a statistical argument to be made against the drug war. This economic approach is made by Jeffrey Miron in his book Drug War Crimes: The Consequences of Prohibition.

Many assume that if drugs were legal, crime, death, drug use, drug addiction, overdoses, and other ill societal effects would skyrocket. Miron argues these problems are triggered by the legal status of drugs.

Regarding crime rates, Miron points out that “participants in an illegal market cannot use the legal or judicial system to resolve disputes.” This triggers alternative methods, such as violence. While prohibitionists claim “drugs cause crime”, if the crimes in question are drug-related, that’s more of a self-fulfilling prophecy than actual causation.

Even with addiction and overdoses, much of that is attributable to prohibition. Because of a drug’s status, legal recourse is not available to consumers of “faulty merchandise.” Without recourse, quality control is inhibited.

Miron points to alcohol prohibition as a good example of just how a substance’s legal status can have unintended consequences, pointing out the positive correlation between prohibition enforcement and the US homicide rate.

Because of these factors, Miron estimates the homicide rate would fall anywhere from 25% to 75% by ending prohibition. To support this, he references a study of New York homicides, which determined over half were attributable to “systemic” drug-related factors (such as territorial disputes). Per Miron, drug usage would only go up slightly, as evidence shows marijuana decriminalization has not coincided with a rise in its use.

Will this book alone change the minds of drug warriors? Probably not. For proponents of drug reform, the book provides solid companion arguments to all the other reasons that exist for ending this destructive and pointless policy.


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