Thursday, June 30, 2005

Illegal drugs 14% of world ag exports

I was an economics major in college (never graduated) so ever since I began thinking about criminal justice issues, I've been fascinated by how blind the system can be to the economics of the behaviors our government chooses to criminalize. Via CrimProf blog, we discover news of a new United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimate that illicit drugs consititute 0.9% of world Gross Domestic Product, greater than the total GDP of 163 countries, or 88% of the countries in the world!

Obviously, those countries aren't the ones driving the drug market. Illicit drugs enjoyed a robust $322 billion in retail sales in 2003, the U.N. reported, with 44% of that market, or about $142 billion, in North America, mostly the United States. That's an awful lot of lost tax revenue.
This is the first time the U.N. has estimated the economic scope of the international drug trade.

Most astonishing: Illegal drugs constitute 14% of total world agricultural exports. That means, practically speaking, if the pipe dream of stopping the drug trade ever actually succeeded, much of the world economy from Bolivia to Afghanistan to Northern California would collapse into global depression. Reported Xinhuanet news:

The largest market is cannabis herb, valued at 113 billion dollars, followed by cocaine, the opiates and cannabis resin, valued at 71 billion dollar, 65 billion and 29 billion dollars respectively on retail level.

The amphetamine-type stimulant markets together amounted to 44 billion dollars, according to the report.

Given the US share of the world retail market, claims of successes stopping the flow of drugs into America seem like fools' hubris.

Related Update: The Moroccan government last month said 96,000 families, 2/3 of the rural population (clarification: in the "Rif" region of that country) are "dependent on cannabis cultivation" for a living.

No comments: