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ONDCP's "Cocaine Shortage" Announcement is Pure Fiction

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This week, the drug czar's office has tricked several newspapers into reporting on a so-called "cocaine shortage":
EL PASO — White House drug czar John Walters said wholesale prices of cocaine have risen in more than a dozen major U.S. cities as supplies of the powerful drug have shrunk, including in high-volume markets like Los Angeles and New York. [AP]
The irony, of course, is that there's no such thing as a cocaine shortage. Really, cocaine is probably the last thing we'll ever run out of in America, and if you think otherwise, maybe it's because people aren't telling you how much cocaine they've got.

Fortunately, Associated Press at least had the commonsense to ask an actual expert about the supposed shortage:
Peter Reuter, a public policy professor at the University of Maryland who studies illicit drugs and organized crime, said prices of cocaine have long been declining and that brief price surges are not uncommon. He said gauging the future of the cocaine trade after just a few months is difficult.

"We see short term (price) increases that go on for three, or six months even," Reuter said. "They don't tend to be too long, and then the downward trend continues."
One could praise AP for including Reuter's comments, but I won't. If AP's Alicia Caldwell actually listened to what he said, she'd understand that the story isn’t accurate enough to be worth writing. Moreover, Reuter's revealing analysis -- which renders the entire report meaningless –- is relegated to the bowels of the article. The fact that cocaine prices have continually gone down for decades is treated as an afterthought, a mere side note, in a story that otherwise regurgitates ONDCP's claims about the effectiveness of its own work.

Distinguished members of the press, I beg you once again: whenever the Office of National Drug Control Policy approaches you and offers to describe how well the drug war is going, just look around. Has anything changed? It shouldn’t even be necessary to ask Peter Reuter if their claims make sense. The idea that we're experiencing a cocaine shortage is so plainly ridiculous, I don't see how anyone could report such a thing with a straight face.

I'm reminded of real journalist Ken Silverstein's recent comment about his colleagues in the press:
As a class, they honor politeness over honesty and believe that being "balanced" means giving the same weight to a lie as you give to the truth.
How true -- and depressing – that is.
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Global Perspectives

Perhaps the news media would be less likely to let John Walters and the ONDCP pat themselves on their own back for a job not done if they looked at some numbers and kept a global perspective. Here are a few estimates obtained from the Drug Policy Alliance site that the media and the ONDCP, all of whom seem conveniently ignorant of the global drug trade, should always consider:

(1) “Thirteen truckloads of cocaine are enough to satisfy U.S. demand for one year.”(16)

(2) “All the heroin the U.S. consumes each year can fit into one cargo plane. This amount, equal to about 6 tons, is only 3-percent of the total illegal world market for opiates.” (17)

(3) “Interdiction efforts are estimated to only intercept 10-15% of heroin(12) and 30% of cocaine.”(13)

(4) “The U.N. estimates that at least 75% of international drug shipments would have to be intercepted to substantially reduce the profitability of drug trafficking.”(14)

Given the inevitability of global smuggling, to eliminate, for example, America’s 3-percent market share for opiates, would require eliminating the remaining 97-percent of the world’s opium growing capacity [Alfred W. McCoy, "The Politics of Heroin"]. The same is true for cocaine, marijuana and any other world commodity.

Minor price fluctuations of the sort the ONDCP is bragging about are just a fly on the back of an elephant

False assumptions

If the price 'is' going up for cocaine it is a false assumption to think that it is the result of tighter supplies. Dealers face the same inflation spressuresthat any business faces. they are paying more for gasoline, housing and food. Why wouldn't they pass the price increase on to their customers?

The problem is that the addicted among their customers have few if any alternatives but to pony up the higher prices. this means addicts who use street crime to support themselves and their habit will pass the price increase on to their innocent crime victims. As the addicted get more desperate they will commit more violence on their victims to get the money they need.

Lots of fun for us potential crime victims.

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