A war on drugs is not the answer

Government has announced that it will introduce a US-Style Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team to Bermuda in order to tackle violent crime and the rising use of weapons.  Unfortunately, it is the belief of this writer that such an introduction will actually increase the prevalence of violent crime and weapons rather than reduce it.

If you read through the wikipedia entry for SWAT teams you’ll note how unfitting the typical swat team duties are for Bermuda.  Subsequently, they also overlap many of the things the Regiment is supposed to be responsible for.  Ask yourself when was the last time Bermuda dealt with a hostage situation, snipers, barricaded suspects, terrorist operations, and serial killers?

The core duty that seems apparent for fueling the desire for a SWAT team appears to be in dealing with drugs.  As the Premier recently suggested

“On our watch, the drug dealers ought to pay attention. We are going to take steps that are going to be significant in Bermuda. Some of you may even believe those steps are too draconian.  You might start talking about human rights for drug dealers.”

As we’ve covered before, creating a war on drugs is not the solution.  The issue is when people think drug dealers are the source of our problems.  Unfortunately they are not.  The source are those people out there who are turning to drugs to self medicate and escape life problems and all further problems stem from there. 

People turning to drugs creates demand for drugs.  Once there is sufficient demand for something with an inefficiency of supply, an industry will spring up to supply it, legal or not.  Now, for anyone who understands basic economics, the ratio of supply and demand control the price that can be charged.  The higher the demand and the lower the supply, the greater the price.  The greater the price, the greater the profit and profit is what drives people to get into the drug dealing game.

The more you crack down on supply when demand isn’t changing, the higher prices go and subsequently the more profits drug dealers can make.  When there are greater profits to be had, people are willing to undertake greater risks to achieve them.  Every drug dealer you bust, crushes supply and pushes prices up.  If you bust them using guns, the remaining drug dealers will begin equipping themselves to fight back.  Subsequently you create a situation where well equipped drug dealers begin using weapons to defend their turf against both other groups or gangs that want to reap the profits of that area as well as police who want to shut you down.

Cracking down on supply without solving the problem of demand creates a vicious cycle that will only make crime in Bermuda more violent than it already is.  Even worse, cracking down on the supply of trivial drugs like marijuana simply because it is easier and makes headlines simply pushes people to consider self-medicating with harder and much worse drugs. 

For those who don’t understand the problem of drugs and the various solutions that have been tried around the world, I highly recommend you check out the comprehensive 146 page report produced in 2005 by the Seattle-based King County Bar Association.  It offers a deep look into the history of drug use including the knowledge that original prohibition was largely fueled by racism.  It also explores the various different models of drug policy that have been implemented around the world and documents their success and failures. 

We need a truly progressive approach to drug policy, not one that repeats the same failures which have been made elsewhere.

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