Winding Down the War on Drugs: Reevaluating Global Drug Policy

Any discussion about transnational organized crime almost inevitably includes the trade in illicit drugs. A 2011 analysis by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found that illicit drugs constitute the largest income source for transnational crime, accounting for about half of transnational crime proceeds, and one-fifth of all crime proceeds. The UNODC has estimated the value of the 2003 global illicit drugs market to be US$322 billion— higher than the GDP that year of 88 percent of the world’s countries.

Organized criminal groups from Mexico and Colombia to Guinea-Bissau, Russia, and Afghanistan obtain vast wealth from various facets of the illicit drug trade. They often use those resources to secure protection for their activities through corruption of state officials. Many of these groups have engaged in extreme violence to enforce their control and intimidate rivals.

Since the early 1960s, the primary international policy response to this trade...

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