When I point out the failure of the war on drugs to stop drug usages a fairly common rebuttal is that the prohibition keeps the costs of drugs high and therefore prevents many people who would be using them from using them. My observations have indicated that claim is bullshit because I know dirt poor people who use cannabis. But now there’s research refuting that claim:
Cocaine, heroin and marijuana have become cheaper and stronger over the past two decades, despite increases in drug seizures by authorities fighting the global illegal drug market, a new study found.
The researchers looked at seven international drug surveillance databases to examine how the purity and price of illegal drugs changed between 1990 and 2009.
In the United States, the average purity of heroin, cocaine and marijuana increased by 60, 11, and 160 percent respectively, between 1990 and 2007, while the prices of these drugs, adjusted for inflation and purity, fell about 80 percent.
How can this be? Those drugs are illegal! Here we see another conflict between political dreams and reality. Political dreamers like to believe legally prohibiting something will make it go away. Reality dictates that people have wants and will seek to fulfill those wants. Creating prohibitions just makes people adjust their behavior in order to fulfill their wants.
For example, the severity of many drugs laws are based on the volume or weight of drugs a person possesses. A small amount of cannabis can net you a fine whereas a large amount can land your ass in prison on charges of intent to distribute. Drug consumers don’t want to end up in prison and drug producers don’t want their customers lock up in prison. To that end drug producers have been busy making a more potent products so their customers can enjoy the same effects in a small package. Instead of risking charges of intent to distribute cannabis users can now face a fine and still have the same potency as before.
Reducing costs makes sense. If you’re a drug producer you want as wide of a customer base as possible. Poorer people are often unable to enjoy more expensive forms of entertainment so they opt for cheaper forms. By making drugs cheaper the producers are able to access the poorer markets and therefore enjoy a larger customer base.
Once again we see markets overcoming state hurdles. The continuous pattern of markets triumphing over statism is why I firmly believe agorism, which utilizes markets, is the most tactic most likely to bring us real freedom.