In a report released today the Serious Organised Crime Agency, (SOCA) claims that it has increased the wholesale price of cocaine and that street purity has fallen.
As the evidence has shown over the long term, illegal drugs have become increasingly cheap and available. However, short term reversals in these trends are often proclaimed by prohibitionist governments and the enforcement agencies charged with fighting the war on drugs, and this is a prime case in point. Taken at face value, these reversals in fortune will be used to signal imminent victory in the wider war.
For those of us who have seen entire enforcement agencies come and go, this is more of the same in the propaganda war. Cherry picking statistics is bread and butter for those who have to show success in an ocean of failure. President Obama is on the record in 2005 describing the war on drugs as an "utter failure".
The global war on drugs has gifted a trade to organised criminals, valued at £4-6 billion a year in the UK alone and £160 billion globally. One has to ask who benefits from hiking the price and lowering the purity of cocaine - even if this can be achieved or is the result of enforcement efforts? The answer is twofold:
- Governments and agencies who want to dupe the public into maintaining support for the futile and counterproductive war on drugs and,
- Organised criminals who can take advantage of rising demand and absorb the price hike by making up weights by adding adulterants at retail level, sure in the knowledge that the illegal market will be theirs to exploit for years to come.
If SOCA are so sure that this recent evidence is supportive of their work, I'm sure that they will back Transform's call for an independent impact assessment of the current regime of prohibition and a genuine exploration of alternatives, including the legal regulation of currently prohibited drugs. David Cameron supported a call as a backbencher, for the UK to initiate just such a debate at the UN in 2002.
So, what should we believe? Decades of history, or the agency that has to show that its work isn't futile and counterproductive? You decide...
- Radio 4's Today programme: Danny Kushlick from Transform discusses the report
- BBC: Mark Easton's blog: Soca and Coca. (Danny quoted)
- Telegraph: Drug Busts force wholesale cocaine prices to record levels and Guardian (Danny quoted from Today programme - from press association news wire)
- Danny has also been interviewed on; BBC Radio 5 live drivetime with Nicky Campbell (2 hours 18 mins into the show), BBC Radio Scotland, and quotes used in a range of other BBC radio news pieces
- Steve Rolles has been interviewed by the Press Association for international syndication, and the BBC news channel.
- Scotsman: Cocaine prices hit record level due to drug seizures, says Britain's FBI (Danny quoted)
- The independent: We're winning the war against the cocaine industry police declare (Danny quoted)
See also previous Transform blog:
Playing SOCA with drugs policy (Jan 2007)