Pubdate: Thu, 26 Mar 2009
Source: Economist, The (UK)
Copyright: 2009 The Economist Newspaper Limited
Author: Jeremy Berkoff


Sir -- You are right to reiterate the case against drug prohibition,
but regulation and taxation just will not work. Opium and cocaine are
cheap to grow, high value and low weight, so the hundredfold mark-up
to which you refer is almost wholly due to their illegality. Any
conceivable tax would fall far short of equating to a hundredfold
mark-up, and would in any case be emasculated by smuggling.

Analogies with alcohol and tobacco are misleading. Relative to drugs,
these are bulky and low value, and neither face anything remotely
corresponding to a hundredfold mark-up. Regulation and taxation are
thus fairly straightforward. The only feasible alternative to
prohibition is to take the international drug-trade into public ownership.

It is demand in developed countries that is driving this trade.
Licensed growers should be directly linked to registered users. Such
an approach could be phased, each country moving at its own pace. Over
time, the market share of illicit drugs would be steadily squeezed and
trafficker income and profits would drain away.

Jeremy Berkoff

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