There’s a particularly odd post over at the Drug Czar’s place: Analysis: Setting the Record Straight on Cocaine Data.
It’s odd, because it doesn’t follow the usual drug czar post of standard propaganda and self-congratulatory pap. This post notes specific claims that have been made refuting the drug czar, and then attempts to counter them.
Those facts, however, were not enough to stop the advocacy group Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) from attacking the Director‰s statement, seeking to dismiss this positive news in drug policy. WOLA argues that the cocaine shortage is a meaningless blip and one more exercise in drug policy futility, which is their traditional policy stance virtually no matter which way the evidence cuts.
Yes, this is startling. They didn’t just ignore the criticism. They didn’t just ridicule it as being nonsense from “legalizers.” They actually engaged the criticism, complete with naming the opposition, linking to it, and demanding a public analysis of the difference in opinion.
This says to me that the ONDCP is scared. They’re increasingly being seen as nothing more than the lying propaganda machine that they are. The press is no longer simply regurgitating their claims. Even Congress may be getting skeptical of their truthiness.
Now, who’s right on the specific cocaine availability trend numbers between ONDCP and WOLA? I don’t know. I haven’t spent a lot of time analyzing this, nor can I. My understanding is that the city specific numbers ONDCP was using were based on internal data and that the methodology and raw data to verify it had not been made available to the public, so it couldn’t be independently verified. WOLA probably used a different set of numbers, and probably none of the numbers can very accurately reflect the price or availability of cocaine. Additionally, as others have eloquently explained, even if true, massive cocaine shortages are not a sign of victory, but merely signal a demand for more supply (which will step in to meet the demand), and a short-term increase in violence and drug substitution.
What I can comment on, however, is the notion that this is a reason to claim that the war on cocaine in Colombia is working, and deserves further funding. And to do so, I need go no further than the U.S. Department of Justice and their new National Drug Threat Assessment 2008 (pdf). On Page 1:
Large cocaine seizures and strong cocaine interdiction operations appear to have disrupted the ability of some foreign DTOs to supply cocaine to the United States and have caused many U.S. cities, primarily cities in the eastern United States, to experience decreased availability of cocaine during the first half of 2007. In certain cities, these shortages have continued through October 2007. However, Mexican DTOs will most likely undertake concerted efforts to reestablish their supply chain, and because cocaine
production in South America appears to be stable or increasing, cocaine availability could
return to normal levels during late 2007 and early 2008. […]
Potential South American cocaine production increased in 2006 as Colombian coca growers adapted their growing practices to counter intensified coca eradication. Despite increasingly aggressive coca eradication efforts, U.S. Government estimates of coca cultivation in South America indicate that cocaine producers potentially produced 970 metric tons (MT) of pure cocaine in 2006 (see Table 1 on page 2), a 7 percent increase from 910 MT in 2005 and the highest level since 2002. Coca growers, primarily in Colombia, have sustained and seemingly increased overall cultivation in South America by
expanding growing operations to areas where large-scale coca cultivation had not been reported previously. The U.S. State Department reports that 2006 was the sixth consecutive year of record aerial spraying in Colombia, surpassing the previous
year‰s record by 24 percent. Intelligence community reporting indicates that many of the
fields in the new growing areas were most likely planted away from traditional cultivation areas where eradication has intensified. Intelligence reporting also indicates that Colombian coca growers have responded to eradication efforts by the radical pruning (drastically cutting back the bush, often down to the ground, to protect the plant from the herbicide) and vigorous replanting of sprayed coca bushes. These practices allow for more rapid regeneration or replacement of sprayed fields.
Yeah, the Drug Czar isn’t looking too good right now.
Update: Alex has an alternate theory on this ONDCP post: Tabitha Temperance