Flawed estimates and super coca

By G. Patrick Callahan, Prisoner of the Drug War

In a shocking turn of events, the U.S. government suddenly admitted that calculations of cocaine entering the U.S. have been too low. Estimates of cocaine trafficking will likely triple when they are released early this year.

A high-yield variety of coca has been discovered and described as "insidious". That revelation, along with flawed methods of estimating narcotics production, contributes to this recent warning of new estimates soon to be released, or so we are told by U.S. narcotic officials.

The Los Angeles Times was quick to point out, "Some critics of U.S. policy are already demanding an end to the nation's war on drugs. News of higher cocaine and heroin production, as well as an explosion in border confiscations of the designer drug Ecstasy, could bolster their arguments that current anti-drug strategies are failing."

Is there a new high-yield coca plant, and have estimates been too low in the past? Let us assume for a moment that what the government is saying is true (yes, sometimes you have to close your eyes and take that leap of faith). The government has admitted that our drug interdiction rate has been a mere 5-10%. If we have three times more cocaine coming into our country than we previously estimated, the interdiction rate has only been a paltry 1.8-3%.

If there has been three times more trafficking, the adverse impact of cocaine is only a third as great as we have been led to believe. Taking Uncle Sam at his word may illustrate that far more people use cocaine with fewer problems than the government will want to admit. If addiction and mortality rates are re-calculated with new estimates in mind, our addiction and mortality rates due to the use of illegal narcotics should be cut by a third. These new calculations ought to be revealed when new estimates of drug trafficking are released.

If these new estimates are true, has it been worth it, Uncle Sam? Has the money spent, lives lost, Constitutional and human rights abandoned, prisons filled faster than they can be built and families destroyed in the name of the drug war been worth the cost? Has it been worth it, when our country is only able to intercept less than three percent of the processed coca that flows across our borders and the negative societal effects of these illegal drugs is only a third of what we have been told?

Are these new estimates simply a smoke screen for the battle to secure cash for Colombia? U.S. officials reporting to the LA Times did not wish their names to be public. The fantastically revised estimates will be revealed with a plan and, as reported by unnamed officials and the current administration, Colombia produces 70% of the world's cocaine.

According to the LA Times, some officials in Washington believe more cocaine is going to Europe. Others think that growers in drug producing countries are stockpiling cocaine and heroin. There are some officials who suggest citizens of the United States are using more cocaine than previously thought.

A Federal Bureau of Prisons employee recently informed me that at the current rate of federal incarceration, the BOP will have over 300,000 inmates in custody within a decade. This means the BOP will have to build, staff and supply 150 more prisons, primarily because of the drug war. At the current rate of arrest and incarceration the United States will have 3 million people behind bars by 2007. Orrin Hatch, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, thinks this is just fine. What do you think?