Illegal Drug Use "Causes" Crime -- Right?
by Brian C. Bennett

Everyone knows that illegal drug use causes crime. After all, the folks at the Office of National Drug Control Policy have been saying so for years. There is a minor problem with their pronouncements, however - they really aren't true.

The facts of the matter are available directly from ONDCP in a 104-page study called "The Economic Costs of Drug Abuse in the United States," which is designed to convince us to continue making a mockery of our Constitution in the name of fighting the "scourge" of illegal drugs. To understand what is really happening requires that one not just take the word of the "drug czar" at face value, however. Getting to the truth requires the further step of actually looking at the tables and statistics in the study and applying a bit of critical thinking and simple arithmetic.

The study states that the number of drug-related arrests represent some 13 percent of all arrests in 1992 and has risen to account for over 15 percent of all arrests by 1999. For those who are arithmetic challenged, this means that some 85 percent of all "crimes" have absolutely nothing to do with drug abuse.

But wait, there's more! Of all the "drug-related" arrests - and here's the part they don't call your attention to - most are arrests for violating drug laws, rather than for beating old ladies senseless and stealing their change purses. In 1992, over 58 percent of all "drug-related" arrests were for violations of drug laws alone. By 1999, the total number of arrests for drug sales and possession accounted for almost 72 percent of all "drug-related" arrests. Indeed, by 1999, fully 80 percent of all drug law arrests were for simple possession of a substance - not the commission of an undesired act against an unwilling other.

The total number of "crimes" being committed in the name of getting money to buy drugs has actually steadily declined since 1992. In that year, drug "crimes" that actually involved an unwilling victim, accounted for 5.4 percent of total arrests. By 1999, only 4.3 percent of all crimes perpetrated against another were said to be "drug-related."

In the interest of fair and balanced reporting, I am compelled to address the "drug-related" crimes that ONDCP doesn't talk about: those involving alcohol. The ONDCP study lists three distinct classes of alcohol-related crime: driving under the influence (DUI), liquor law violations, and public drunkenness. Combined, these accounted for 21.3 percent of all arrests in 1992, fell to 17.5 percent of the total in 1996, and then rose again to 20.1 percent of the total arrests in 1999.

The real crime being committed here is spending money to hunt down and jail people who are not violating the rights of any other. If you take the time to do the math on all the supposed "costs" of illegal drug use tabulated in the study, you will find that fully 75 percent of the total is the cost of trying to stop people from doing things to themselves of their own freewill. That truly is a crime.

Written July 16, 2002

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