The war against drugs in America has been going on for many years now. Cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and prescription pills, among others, are a severe problem in the society due to their adverse effects. The US-funded efforts in Latin America have been especially publicised as the Federal government moved to stem the inflow of cocaine. However, it is evident that the impact made has been minimal since the coast guard still seizes massive quantities of narcotics coming to America every year. Narcotic trafficking is a multibillion-dollar business whose value chain originates from the countries of origin. It is apparent that many people depend on this illicit trade for their livelihoods hence it has become a key player in various economies. Despite the negative impacts of drug trafficking, there are some benefits to both the importing and exporting countries.
Illicit drug trafficking provides employment opportunities to the people living in the rural areas of the exporting countries. Itinerant laborers and small farmers are contracted in the lucrative trade to plant the drugs that are later processed for sale in the final market. These low-skilled individuals welcome the opportunity to earn decent amounts since they are otherwise jobless and impoverished. The unemployment levels in the developing countries, where drugs often originate, mean that there is no shortage of willing participants. Afghanistan accounts for about 90% of the global production of heroin, and the benefits are visible. The output of about 7,000 tons of opium per year converts to 1,000 tons of heroin. At prices of $2,500-$4,000 per kilogram, the farmers realize a total revenue of $900 million. $1.6 billion goes to the traffickers and $1.5 billion to the smugglers (Caulkins et al.). It is clear that the trade in narcotics has lucrative returns for those involved.
While it creates short-term employment opportunities to the rural peasant community, it leads to the neglect of other vital crops. Farmers will scramble for the lucrative trade and abandon other plants that are vital to the economy of the country (Becker 14). Places like Colombia have seen farmers abandoning the cultivation of coffee in favor of working in the coca plantations. The individual benefit to the impoverished peasant farmers is however very little compared to what the drugs fetch in the foreign markets.
Money laundering is another serious negative issue associated with narcotics trafficking. The traffickers need to ensure that the enormous sums of money received from the illicit trade are not traced by the authorities. They must make it appear like they earned money from licit means, and this forces them to devise schemes to legitimize their earnings. Sometimes these activities may interfere with business in other sectors. Drug smugglers in Colombia buy goods abroad using the dirty money then bring them back to sell at below-market prices to recover their money quickly. This procedure affects the local businesspeople as they are severely undercut. Industries like textiles, clothing, liquor, cigarettes, footwear, and household appliances (Becker 15). The trafficked items are from non-specialized and labor-intensive sectors, which affects their productivity and hence employment opportunities.
Drug-producing and exporting countries like Afghanistan, Mexico, and Colombia have a tainted image in the public perception. The legitimacy of a state is substantially undermined by the existence of narcotic trade activities. The wrong image is also caused by the violent actions that come with drug traffickers. The drug trade is highly lucrative, and hence any form of interference significantly dents the income of those involved. Violence is prevalent, and mostly there are many casualties. The Medellin cartel initiated a wave of terror and political intimidation when the government tried to have narcotic traffickers extradited for trial. Pablo Escobar's cartel tried to assassinate Cesar Gaviria by bombing a commercial plane he was in as a presidential candidate (Becker 20).
The countries that consume the drugs, mostly the developed nations, reap most of the profits associated with the drug trade. The most detailed analysis of the impact of drug trade conducted in Colombia shows that 97.4% of the profits go to the criminal syndicates that launder the money in the first-world economies. Only a paltry 2.6% of the street value of cocaine remains in Colombia (Vulliamy). While the societies in Colombia are being ravaged by drug-violence and corruption, the criminal networks in countries like America are reaping supernormal profits.
The narcotics trade and its use in the importing countries have caused extensive damage to the social fabric. The consequences of this illicit trade include emotional and physical damage to the users. Drugs will affect the health of the individuals and even lead to fatalities due to overdosing (National Drug Intelligence Centre). Colombian traffickers have been cutting kilograms of cocaine with levamisole since 2008 to increase its potency according to the DEA. Individuals who become addicted to these narcotics end up seeking medical attention due to various complications. There was about 1.8 million drug dependence or abuse cases admitted to state-licensed hospitals in 2007 alone. It shows that the consuming countries bear the toll of the health side effects, which is quite expensive. Some of these users are also parents who neglect their children or die early, confining them to foster care which is another social cost.
The illicit drug trade also puts pressure on the criminal justice system and demands a significant amount of resources in each stage. Arresting, adjudicating, incarcerating, and supervising drug dealers post-release need the commitment of resources from the importing state. The drug trade has increased the crime rate in the importing countries as street dealers compete for turf. 12% of the 14 million arrests made in 2008 were related to drug violations, the most common of the arrest categories, according to the FBI. 4% of the homicides in the same year were drug-related while 53% of the federal prisoners and 20% from the state were incarcerated due to drug offenses (National Drug Intelligence Centre). It applies significant pressure and resources to the criminal justice system.
Drug consumption statistics show that the young and productive population is the most severely affected. Premature mortality, imprisonment, and incapacitation mean that this population is not actively engaged in efficient, productive activities. The national productivity of a country will be affected because a significant portion of individuals is not contributing (National Drug Intelligence Centre). The massive financial resources delegated to the criminal justice and healthcare systems due to drug issues could otherwise be used to push for other development initiatives.
The illicit narcotics trade has both negative and positive effects on the economic, social, and political sectors of both importing and exporting countries. The impoverished farmers from the producing nations benefit from the employment opportunity, but most of the financial advantage goes to the importing nation's network of dealers and suppliers. The bulk of the effects of narcotics trade are, however, negative and governments are still seeking a lasting solution(s) to the issue.
Becker, Sarah. The Effects of The Drug Cartels on Medellin And the Colombian State. citeseerx, 2013, citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download? doi=10.1.1.881.9341&rep=rep1&type=pdf. Accessed 14 Apr 2018.
Caulkins, Jonathan et al. Think Again: The Afghan Drug Trade. Foreign Policy, 1 April. 2011, foreignpolicy.com/2011/04/01/think-again-the-afghan-drug-trade-2/. Accessed 14 Apr 2018.
National Drug Intelligence Centre. Impact of Drugs on Society - National Drug Threat Assessment 2010. Justice.Gov, 2010, www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs38/38661/drugImpact.htm. Accessed 14 Apr 2018.
Vulliamy, Ed. Western Banks 'Reaping Billions from Colombian Cocaine Trade. The Guardian, 2 June. 2012, www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/02/western-banks-colombian-cocaine-trade. Accessed 14 Apr 2018.
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