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Unintended effects of the war on drugs, DC edition

November 19, 2007

The Washington Post reports that a gram of cocaine has risen in price from $96 in January 2007 to $137 in September-a 43% increase. Additionally, methamphetamines have increased to $245 from $141-a 77% increase in the same time period. The DEA and Drug Czar are touting this as a major victory in the war on drugs. As they correctly note, an increase in price means the supply is probably going down. And less drugs being bought, sold, and used in our community is a good thing, presumably.

As this report coincides with the release of a report by the DC Police that the 169th person was murdered in the District over the weekend, the same number of people who were killed in the whole of 2006, I have to wonder. Are the decrease in availability and the drastic increases of illegal drug prices at least partly to blame for the increase in murders?

At least one person thinks so. Ronald Moten, the head of a youth based community group, agrees:

When you take away supply, more people are willing to take away from others. It brings conflict. It changes the whole dynamic of the scene.

Intuitively, it makes sense. As the scarcity of the product increases, the value of the product increases as well, and people are willing to pay more-and to do things they may have otherwise not been willing to do-in order to secure their chunk of the remaining supply.

Clearly, this is not the only reason crime and murder are up in the District. But I have to think it is at least part of the problem. How you solve this problem is the question. Maybe the legalization (and strict government regulation) of the illegal drug industry is part of the solution.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. andy permalink*
    November 19, 2007 1:38 pm

    I think any reasonable person would agree that most of the people being murdered probably aren’t even remotely innocent. There’s obviously a few cases of stray bullets and whatnot, but this isn’t people barging into homes and shooting people, most of this stuff is happening on the streets, in vacant parking lots late at night, etc.

    D.C. is also one of the few metro areas (correct me if I’m wrong) that bans handguns. So I’m not allowed to arm myself with a weapon on equal footing with all the criminals? Makes sense. Cool, so if a criminal breaks into my house and I hear him coming up the stairs, I’ll just tell him to hold on while I slowly load my shotgun or look for a 9 iron. I’m sure he’ll oblige.

  2. November 20, 2007 9:47 am

    It would be interesting to see if legalization of these drugs would have a very noticeable effect on the violent crime rates. I think it would all depend on the prices charged by the government.

    I don’t see any reason the government would allow the market for drugs to work like a free market, even if they legalize them. The government will likely control the quantity of drugs allowed to be sold, as well as impose heavy taxes on them.

    What this would do to the price is anyone’s guess, but I don’t see it dropping significantly. Plus demand may actually go up when drug users don’t have to worry about arrest, so that would drive the price up further.

    If it’s true that the increase in drug prices is bringing more violence, and if it’s true what I say, that government regulation won’t significantly lower prices, then I don’t see the violence decreasing much even with drugs being legal. It will just change who the victims are.

  3. November 27, 2007 6:43 am

    Very interesting… as always! Cheers from -Switzerland-.

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