Pubdate: Sat, 08 Jul 2000
Source: Kansas City Star (MO)
Copyright: 2000 The Kansas City Star
Contact:  1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108
Author: Doug McVay


Eric A. Voth makes quite clear (6/25, Letters) that he favors forfeiture
laws as a tool against drugs. Yet he also shows that he's willing to misuse
statistics to make a point.

He repeats that old chestnut about illicit drug use costing society more
than $100 billion a year. Actually, the study to which he's referring --
"The Economic Costs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse in the United States, 1992" --
only creates a number that large by factoring in the cost to the
criminal-justice system as well as losses from drug-related crimes, many of
which would not be committed if we tried regulation rather than prohibition.

In fact, according to the study, 60 percent of the cost from drugs is
actually the cost of arrest, interdiction and incarceration. Many of the
health costs, like AIDS, could be cut in half if we allowed programs like
needle exchange.

To keep things in perspective: That federal study also says that there was a
50 percent greater cost to society from alcohol use than from all illicit
drugs combined. Alcohol inflicts a higher cost than all illicit drugs
combined in all but one category: the cost from crimes committed by addicts
desperate for a fix. But that's not surprising; we ended alcohol prohibition
long ago.

Doug McVay, Projects coordinator,
Common Sense for Drug Policy
Washington, D.C.
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