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Drug prohibition, cigarette taxes and terrorism

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

When U.S. Drug Czar John Walters spoke in Portland last Friday he touched on the theme of his administration’s ad campaign: that if you use illegal drugs you’re helping to finance terrorism. He could have more accurately said that if you prohibit the sale of drugs, or raise cigarette taxes to abnormally high levels, you’re helping to finance terrorism.

We can ban products, but laws cannot eliminate demand. Thus the outlawing of drugs such as heroin and cocaine forces their distribution into the black market where prices are much higher than they would be in a legal market. Some states set very high cigarette taxes compared to neighboring states, making cigarette smuggling a profitable endeavor as well.

We need only look back some seven decades to alcohol prohibition to see how outlawing a popular product didn’t stop its use, but did create a huge moneymaker for organized crime. To say that drug users are responsible for terrorism is akin to saying that those who drank alcohol in the 1920s are responsible for the violence of Al Capone.

We all agree that drugs, cigarettes and alcohol cause harm in our society, but we simply compound that harm by outlawing products that have such high demand and by fostering black markets.

To deny funds to terrorists we need to reduce the profits in the drug trade. The leading American politician advocating such a policy change is New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. He’ll share his ideas at a May 23rd Cascade Policy Institute luncheon in Portland. Please join us for his informative and provocative talk.

For more information on the link between drug prohibition and terrorism see: www.narcoterror.org.

Steve Buckstein is senior policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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