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October 2021

Reducing the harms of drug policy: An economic perspective

Author(s): Benson, B. L.

Journal/Book: Subst Use Misuse. 1999; 34: 270 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016, USA. Marcel Dekker Inc. 49-67.

Abstract: Economics is the study of choice among alternatives under conditions of scarcity. Drug policy is manifestly an ''economic'' problem in the sense that these policies are developed under conditions of scarcity: there are not enough police, treatment facilities, and social services to solve the drug problem, however it is defined. This paper argues that a harms reduction approach to drug policy can be characterized as pragmatic cost-effective drug control which attempts to achieve efficient drug policy. Economic aspects of drug enforcement are discussed which reveal that these policies do not necessarily reduce drug problems and can generate unintended consequences. Enforcement remains the dominant drug policy in the United States despite evidence that it is overused, in part because both federal and state asset forfeiture laws and budget processes offer police agencies incentives to focus on enforcement rather than other policy alternatives. An efficiency-based harms reduction approach may be one way to effectively advocate a rational approach to drug issues in the often strident and ideological drug policy debates. [Translations are provided in the International Abstracts Section of this issue.].

Note: Article Rasmussen DW, Florida State Univ, Policy Sci Ctr, Tallahassee,FL 32306 USA

Keyword(s): harm reduction; economics; cost-effectiveness; enforcement; ENFORCEMENT POLICY; PROPERTY CRIME

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