A series of high profile drug seizures this month have finally helped realise the goal of the UN drug agency's 1997 10-year drug strategy, with its motto 'A Drug Free World: We Can Do It!' . An official stated that:
'we didn't think we were going to achieve a drug free world by 2008 as drug use seemed to be going up all over the place, but thankfully these latest drug busts have helped us make the world drug free just in time. The drug problem is a thing of the past'.
Unfortunately for the world's drug-warriors the above is what passes for a hilarious Transform-Blog April fools gag. To anyone taken in by it, and I appreciate it was pretty convincing, I'm sorry to report that there are still drugs in the world. In fact there's loads more than there was in 1997.
That's not to say that multi-billion dollar enforcement efforts do not continue apace. Big seizures are a fairly regular occurrence, as you will no doubt be aware since when they happen the police/customs/army line up to take the credit in photo calls, usually with ministers who proclaim how the massive piles of seized drugs have been 'prevented from reaching the streets'. Drug inferno footage also makes it onto the news from time to time to demonstrate how the war on drugs is being won. Here's some recent shots of drug infernos in Peru (5 tons of cocaine):
And here's 4 million Euros of drugs (150 kilos of cannabis resin, 250 kilos of herbal cannabis, 80 kilos of heroin, 30,000 ecstasy pills and 16 kilos of cocaine) being incinerated in Macedonia recently, in a steel smelter that looks hot enough to melt a terminator robot.
Unfortunately, as decades of experience and many hundreds of impressively large drug infernos can testify to, such high profile tactics have done nothing to stem the flow of drugs to Western markets where drugs remain cheaper and more available than at any time in recent history. The illegal drugs business is so vast and profitable, and seizures such a small percentage of the total market, that the significance of interdiction efforts and drug bonfires is almost entirely political.
As was brilliantly exposed by the No 10 Strategy Unit drugs report produced for Tony Blair in 2003 :
“Over the past 10-15 years, despite interventions at every point in the supply chain, cocaine and heroin consumption has been rising, prices falling and drugs have continued to reach users. Government interventions against the drug business are a cost of business, rather than a substantive threat to the industry's viability.”As this slide from the PowerPoint report demonstrates using the example of Colombian cocaine production;
Because, no matter how you try and spin it, supply side drug enforcement doesn't work, it is actively counterproductive.
Annual celebration of limited supply-side success
Playing SOCA with drug policy?
Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and 'Prohibition Works!'
Transform's fact research guide to drug seizures