Re:virus: DRUGS

From: Hermit (
Date: Wed Jul 17 2002 - 18:48:43 MDT

Quick comments...

Is there a crazy thinking hazard on this thread?

The cost to society of dealing with drug habits that become unmanageable (and providing funerals for those who really take it to excess - or who are killed by drugs tainted by an outlawed industry in pursuit of ever increasing unregulated, untaxed profits) is undoubtedly less than the cost of the largest growth industry in the US. Jails and their unfortunate sequel.

Prisons - in the US - are a growth industry - worth in excess of $100 billion a year. How much of a growth industry is evident in the fact that the number of people in the correctional system in the US tripled between 1980 (1.1% of adult population) and 1994 (2.7% of adult population). As one indication of how much of this is attributable to the "war on drugs", 25.2% of 1980 federal prisons inmates were held for drug-offenses. By 1994 that percentage was 59.2%. Mandatory sentencing laws effectively stripped judges of their ability to exercise judicial discretion, meaning that a person charged with simple possession was 450% more likely to end up in jail in 1994 than in 1980. And the laws grow ever more brutal as the prison population increases, giving the industry itself an ever more effective voice in expanding itself at the expense of the society upon which it feeds.

Even if jail were the only punishment, it should be a massive deterrent to drug use. Over the past decade, inflation-adjusted prices in the United States fell about 50% for cocaine and 70% for heroin. Still, between 1989 and 1998, American users spent $39 billion to $77 billion yearly on cocaine and $10 billion to $22 billion yearly on heroin -while in 1999 the United States spent $147 billion for police protection, corrections, and judicial and legal activities. Has the war worked? So you judge. Is the "war on drugs" really "won"? Is it cost effective? My guess is that as a rational person, you will answer "no". As we have seen, despite vast margins due to their illegality, drugs are more available, at lower prices, with a larger user population than ever before. Even allowing for inflation.

Meanwhile, all these prisoners have a direct cost to society. Just think, the US has more prisoners per population unit than even the former Soviet Union. We have around 690 prisoners per 100,000 citizens - and that is the average. By comparison, that is almost 6 times Canada’s incarceration rate (115), over 12 times Greece’s rate (55), 19 times Japan’s rate (37) and 29 times India’s rate of 24 prisoners per 100,000 citizens. These figures are bad, racial disparity makes it worse. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that 13% of illicit drug users in the United States are black. But according to DOJ figures, 35% of all arrests for drug possession, 55% of all drug possession convictions and 74% of people sentenced to jail for drug possession are black. A comparison from is telling. In South Africa under apartheid (1993) 851 black adult men were incarcerated per 100,000. In the U.S. that figure is 7,226 per 100,000. Which is the most openly racist soc
iety left on Earth outside of Israel? If the US is a candidate, ask yourself if this perhaps has a cost involved with it?

Using 1994 DOJ figures, each inmate costs society between $20,000 and $60,000 per year. My memory is that we have previously seen European estimates (based on Dutch and English experience) suggesting that drug abuse treatment costs under $2,500 per abuser per year. Are the (much more accessible) European medical system's costs hugely lower than those of the US (another indictment if so) or is the "drug cost" argument already leaking from every angle?

Raising taxes is unpopular, yet the money for the prison industry has to come from somewhere. Which budgets do you think have been sliced to do so? Education and health perhaps? Does this have a cost to society? How large? Over and above the direct proportional decline of budget, would you think?

Now so far, we have only been talking about jail. And prison is certainly not the only consequence of conviction. Somebody caught using drugs can never obtain a government job (including the military), a government student loan or even government assisted housing or social welfare. Obtaining a minimum wage job (probably not holding any qualifications for more 67% of those incarcerated don't even hold a high-school diploma) is difficult for a convicted offender. Even those who earn (or perhaps engage in crime) a comfortable living are vulnerable to draconian confiscation policies, which can turn middle-class people into homeless paupers with a stroke of a bureaucratic pen and even in the absence of a conviction. Many such people are released from jail daily (where they haven't been permanently been disposed of by ridiculous 3 strikes laws). They find their families broken up (, their assets stripped and their prospects non-existent. How are they to
 make a living? Especially when their cost of living is quite probably higher than the person with a HUD apartment. Most especially when they really have nothing to lose and presumably no love for the society which destroyed them and leaves them no hope for a different future. This wonderful society we have created even takes away their vote, leaving them without a voice to raise a protest within the system. Much like children, ex-inmates are stripped of their civil rights - and nobody says a word.

Wass your answer that, other options not being available, that perhaps they turn to crime - or join-up to form gangs of similar outcasts preying upon society. If so, does that have a cost - and who pays it? The politicians who invented this system? The corporates who employ this forced labor (at rates of pay averaging an effective dollar-per-hour after the state has taken its 80% cut)? Don't be funny. If there is a price, then society - which means you and I - is footing it.

And now let us ask ourselves, would providing treatment programs be cheaper? Maybe even free drugs for registered addicts? I'd be inclined to think so. It certainly would do what successive administrations have claimed to be doing - and statistics clearly show have not succeeded. Making the world a safer place for everyone*.

Raising a plethora of unrelated things, which the speaker imagines are bad (pollution, waste, etc), only serves to confuse an issue which has been more than sufficiently confused already. The war on drugs has blatantly cost the American population more than any other misguided initiative they have engaged in (and in my judgement, as a nation, she has engaged in more than her fair share of such).


*Perhaps we could ask the drug dealers to enter the world of legitimate drug supplies and perhaps we might hope that they could reduce costs and increase availability (while achieving exorbitant profits) to a similar extent that they have managed while "underground."


All data in this essay is based on reports available from Federal agencies most notably the DOJ, together with statistics and information from and both excellent sites for drug related facts and information - for example, the economic stat sheet ( makes fasinating reading indeed.

This message was posted by Hermit to the Virus 2002 board on Church of Virus BBS.

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