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CLAIM VIII: DRUG CONTROL SPENDING IS A MINOR PORTION OF THE U.S. BUDGET, AND COMPARED TO THE COSTS OF DRUG ABUSE, SPENDING IS MINUSCULE.

DEA Statement

Legalization advocates claim that this nation has spent billions of dollars to control drug production, trafficking and use with few, if any, positive results. They contend that the money spent on drug control should be shifted to other, more productive endeavors.

The Facts

This whole claim is another curious argument. It seems that the DEA is saying, "We don't take very much money in the bigger scheme of things, so leave us alone." From my own perspective, I still regard several billion dollars as a lot of money.

There is no doubt that a lot of money is spent on drug enforcement and there is no doubt that even the DEA has never claimed that it ever had any significant effect on reducing the supply of drugs. If a program to spend several billion dollars is as useless as this one, it behooves us to look for a better approach.

DEA Statement

The truth is, we have made great progress in reducing drug use during the past 15 years. If the relatively modest outlays of Federal dollars had not been made, drug abuse and attendant social costs would have been far greater. The good news is that drug use has declined significantly between 1979 and 1993.

The Facts

Whether drug use has been significantly reduced is open to question, particularly in view of the survey methods used to arrive at such conclusions.

Even if we assumed that this statement is true, it would still leave open the question of whether any other approach might have produced better results. That is a question the DEA does not even want to consider.

DEA Statement

The experts participating in the Anti-Legalization forum disputed the claim that money allegedly saved from giving up on the drug problem could be better spent on education and social problems. When compared to the amount of funding that is spent on other national priorities, drug control spending is minimal. There has been progress in reducing drug use, and the money spent has been effective and worthwhile.

The Facts

This argument is illogical. The participants state that the money could not be better spent on education and social problems because "drug control spending is minimal." Whether the spending is minimal (by their terms) has no bearing on whether the spending is wise.

DEA Statement

On the surface, legalization proponents present an appealing, simple argument that by legalizing drugs we can move vast sums of money from drug law enforcement into solving society's ills. They leave unanswered questions about the cost of collecting revenues associated with drug sales, or the cost of regulating drugs.

They ignore questions concerning the purity, potency and quality of legal drugs, the costs of insuring a safe product, and costs associated with increased liability litigation.

The Facts

No revenue is collected from drug sales now, except by outlaw drug dealers. Any collection of tax revenues would be an improvement.

There are no standards for purity, potency, or quality now except those established by outlaw drug dealers, and there is no one to sue for an unsafe product. Any legal standards would be an improvement in this area.

DEA Statement

Ask proponents of legalization for specifics. Would the raw material for these drugs be purchased from traditional sources, or would the United States produce its own marijuana, coca and opium? Would the government pay farmers subsidies to produce or not produce these crops? Although all of these questions could be resolved, none comes without a price tag.

The Facts

The United States could easily produce all of its own marijuana, as the DEA should know from the fact that it was America's largest commercial crop before it was outlawed.

The Federal Government should not be in the position of paying farmers subsidies to produce any dangerous, addictive drug, including tobacco. The rules for subsidies should be consistent across the board.

However difficult these questions may be to agree on, it still does not present any evidence that throwing people in prison for drugs is a good idea.

DEA Statement

Proponents also conveniently fail to mention that unless drugs are made available to little children, law enforcement will still be needed to deal with the sale of drugs to minors.

The Facts

This is one of the phoniest arguments to come down the pike. No one except the DEA has suggested that drugs should be "made available to little children".

We have laws now to prevent the sale of alcohol to minors and the rules for other drugs should be no different. Law enforcement is needed to deal with the sale of alcohol to minors but it is by no means an overwhelming problem.

If the DEA was really concerned about little children, they would recommend stronger action against convenience store clerks who sell tobacco to children. An American is about 100 times as likely to die from tobacco as from any illegal drug, and childhood is when most of them become addicted.

DEA Statement

But more importantly, in their simplistic arguments, they omit mention of the atrocious social costs that would be incurred with a larger class of drug users.

The Facts

No, we freely admit that drugs are going to impose a tremendous social cost whatever we do. That is still not a good reason to undertake actions which are counterproductive, such as prison.

DEA Statement

Legalization would also result in lost workforce productivity and a resultant increase in the cost of goods. A new class of unemployables would be created who were unfit to hire because of their drug dependence.

The Facts

There is no evidence for this at all. The DEA proposes that prison is the best way to keep drug users productive.

DEA Statement

Health and societal costs of drug legalization would also increase, the panel predicted. Drug treatment costs, hospitalization for longterm drugrelated disease, and treatment of family violence consequences would further burden our already strapped healthcare system.

The Facts

The panel came together for the purpose of fighting "legalization" so it is no surprise that they would predict it would be a disaster. It is important to note that they did no research to back up their prediction and every major study of drug policy in the last fifty years disagreed with them.

DEA Statement

There was also no guarantee, according to the group, that criminal justice costs would decline if drugs were legalized. It is possible that law enforcement would be additionally burdened with addressing violations of traffic and family violence laws if more people had access to drugs. Law enforcement is already challenged by significant alcoholrelated crimes. More users mean more crimes committed, and incarceration costs would increase.

Some facts which help to confirm the observations of the forum participants may be used in debates:

In 1995, over $13 billion is being spent by the federal government on drug control, including treatment, education, law enforcement and international activities.

Drug abuse costs the United States between $60 and $100 billion in lost productivity each year.

The Facts

Most of this cost is caused by alcohol, which the DEA does not address at all. Even if all this cost was the result of illegal drugs, there is still no evidence that throwing people in prison is the best way to reduce those costs. Does the DEA honestly propose that the best way to make sure that people are productive is to throw them in prison?

DEA Statement

The Federal Government spends billions of dollars each year on other national priorities. In Fiscal Year 1995, the Federal Government is spending

$ 243.4 billion on Defense

$ 350 billion on Social Security

$ 61.6 billion on Agriculture

$ 22 billion on Welfare

$ 13.5 billion on Foreign Assistance

The Facts

And? Not one word here is any kind of an argument in favor of throwing people in prison for drugs.


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