Released today: new Count the Costs briefing on the crime costs of the war on drugs

Far from eliminating drug use and the illicit trade, prohibition has inadvertently fuelled the development of the world’s largest illegal commodities market – a market worth hundreds of billions of dollars, controlled solely by criminal profiteers. Produced in collaboration with project supporters Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Transform Drug Policy Foundation, Release, the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy and Harm Reduction International, the latest Count the Costs briefing outlines how this illicit, unregulated market generates:

  • Organised crime
  • Street crime
  • Mass incarceration
  • Violent crime
  • Crimes perpetrated by governments/states
  • Vast economic costs in terms of drug war-related enforcement

The briefing will form a key part of our outreach to mainstream NGOs working in the criminal justice sector, building on the endorsements Count the Costs has already received from organisations such as the Howard League for Penal Reform and Make Justice Work.

Evidence from across the world reveals that although law enforcement can show seemingly impressive results in terms of arrests and seizures, impacts on the drug market are inevitably marginal, localised and temporary. Indeed, as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime acknowledges, one of the unintended consequences of the war on drugs is the so-called “balloon effect”, whereby rather than eliminating criminal activity, enforcement just moves it somewhere else. When enforcement does take out criminals, it also creates a vacuum, and even more violence, as rival gangs fight for control.

The Count the Costs initiative has the widely shared goal of a safer, healthier and more just world. It is time for all sectors affected by current approaches to drugs, particularly those agencies, organisations and individuals concerned with crime reduction, to call on governments and the UN to Count the Costs of the war on drugs and explore the alternatives.