A Wiser Course: Ending Drug Prohibition

Part II Continued

The Costs of Prohibition

Prohibition-Induced Violence

In New York and elsewhere in the United States, wild shootouts in urban areas are frequently publicized. These reports reveal that innocent bystanders in these areas are often caught in the cross-fire. It is, however, far from clear that the use of or need for prohibited drugs causes this sort of violent crime. Rather, the available evidence tends to support the conclusion that it is the prohibitionist laws against drugs that cause the violent crimes that people generally deplore.

So-called "drug-related crime" is often related only indirectly to the drugs themselves, resulting instead from the illegal black market in drugs that is, in turn, spawned by laws prohibiting the legal sale of drugs. For example, the Los Angeles police have long known that the lucrative black market in cocaine has provided the incentive (as well as the financing) for the bloody gang turf wars in that city. Similarly, it is estimated that 40% of the homicides in a study of 414 homicides in New York City precincts were indirectly attributable to black market trafficking in drugs. Further supporting the fact that it is drug prohibition rather than drug use which is causing the alarming "drug-related" violence saturating our culture is the historical precedent of alcohol Prohibition which was accompanied by the same type of violence.

There is no reason to believe that black markets would not disappear with the ending of drug prohibition. Common sense indicates that without the immense profits guaranteed by the necessarily restricted nature of the outlets, there would be little advantage to maintaining such black markets. The current patterns of drug-sale related turf violence would be substantially, if not wholly, undermined.


A Wiser Course: Ending Drug Prohibition
A Report of The Special Committee on Drugs and the Law
of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York
June 14, 1994

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