Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The heroin and cocaine trade: clear on the problem - unclear on the solution

Foreign Policy magazine have produced an excellent graphic/schematic , by Beau Kilmer and Peter Reuter, showing the inflationary price effects of the illicit market as heroin and cocaine transit through the criminal chain from producers to users in the West (the first page is below - the full article with references is here).

What is lacking, however, is any comment or analysis of the fact that it is very specifically prohibitionist policies (combined with high, and growing, demand) that fuel this extraordinary price inflation. There is also no mention of the fact that there are parallel legal markets in both coca/cocaine and opium/heroin (for medical and other legal uses) that do not demonstrate this same dynamic, and do not feature any criminal activity whatsoever, at any point in the production and supply chain. These existing legal markets are described in some detail in Transform's latest publication 'After the War on Drugs; Blueprint for Regulation'

Unlike the analysis in the Foreign Policy piece that argues, rather lamely, that 'Answers are hard to come by in the quest to fight drugs' , the existing and functioning legal markets for heroin and cocaine, combined with the regulatory models for opiates and coca products discussed in Blueprint, do offer a basis for serioous discussions on ways to effectively combat the illicit trade and its associated problems - and also provide a sound foundation for addressing the longer term public health challenges of problematic use.

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