Drug War Local Economic Study in Connecticut

I was quite pleased to receive the following: Drug War Economic Report – A Compilation of Local Costs of Connecticut’s Current Drug Policies, prepared by the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at Central Connecticut State University. Dr. Robert L. Painter. M.D. Research Assistant, and Susan E. Pease, Dean, School of Arts and Sciences.
Cliff Thornton
Among the participants joining in the consensus were many Yale students and Clifford Thornton (pictured), a longtime legalization spokesperson, who ran as the Green Party gubernatorial candidate on a pro-legalization, anti-drug war platform back in 2006.

This report does a nice job of isolating drug war figures when it’s really difficult to do so effectively, and I think it could serve (as Cliff hopes) as a model for other states.

It’s certainly far more accurate than the kind of figures the other side uses, when they tout their “cost of drug use.”

I also believe, as the report states, that it is a conservative estimate of the cost to local communities in Connecticut of waging this ridiculous war on drugs.

A couple of minor quibbles.

It costs the United States about $60 billion per year in state and federal money to interdict the supply of drugs from outside US borders. The US population is presently 307.7 million, so this represents an expense of $195 per person per year. For its 124,512 Hartford residents, that represents $24,279,233 per year.

I believe the $60 billion (which appears to come from the War on Drugs Clock) represents a slight overlap with some other costs that are being mentioned in this report. But then again, it’s such a loose estimate, that I don’t think that’s particularly significant.

And then, there’s this:

Homicides are a downstream cost that is not easily measured in money terms. In 2008, 35 people were murdered in Hartford. 75-80% of homicides across the country are drug-related. The Hartford Police Department has opined that Hartford’s percentage is much higher. If, however, 75% is the correct figure, 26.25 homicides per year are one of the downstream costs of the drug war in Hartford. According to Corso et al , the average cost per homicide is $1.3 million in lost productivity and $4,906 in medical costs for a total of $1,304,906 per homicide. That is equal to $34,253,783 total cost each year attributable to homicides in Hartford.

Overall, the detailing is fine. I just have a personal issue with using “lost productivity” in these kinds of reports. I know that the other side does it all the time, and so it’s perfectly appropriate for it to be used here. I just don’t like it.

I find lost productivity to be a rather arbitrary and meaningless statistic that is always presented outside of any kind of useful context. Why don’t we come up with a number for the “reduced negative impact on the economy” because the dead person is no longer producing garbage? There are all sorts of variables when determining how a person might have affected the world had they lived.

Sure, lost productivity is a real thing, and it shouldn’t be ignored, but I would prefer to see it as a side-bar, rather than part of the computations. But that’s just me.

Anyway, this is a pretty good report and an excellent model. Check it out.

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18 Responses to Drug War Local Economic Study in Connecticut

  1. Chris says:


    Just wondering what everyone else thinks about mandatory drug testing for welfare/unemployment recipients. Lots of stupid comments on there, but it makes you think. Few ask for alcohol/tobacco testing for employment or welfare/unemployment, but illegal drugs? “Of course they should be tested, illegal drugs are expensive!” Just interesting seeing what people think.

  2. claygooding says:

    The savings in federal expenditure for interdiction would finance unemployment benefits for the millions of people that are running out of extensions,improve education reforms and funding and the correlating savings in the justice and prison costs would go a long ways towards paying for health reform. Looks like a win,win solution too me,just fire em all and let them get on the increased unemployment benefits.

  3. ezrydn says:

    Chris, some illegal drugs cost less that some states charge for cigarettes.

    Pete, when I hear “lost productivity,” I imagine someone thinking about how long they could have milked that guy and what they, themselves, lost. I wonder if they have the same concern directed at our overseas troops? Now, THERE is “lost productivity” that meets their criteria.

  4. Tony Aroma says:

    A very thorough and unbiased report, IMO. It’s a great attempt at quantifying something that is nearly impossible to quantify. My prediction of the impact or effect it will have in the city/town/state/country: Absolutely none, nada, zero, zilch. It simply makes too much sense for a prohibitionist to wrap their head around.

  5. Shap says:

    Shouldn’t even be handouts like welfare but since there are, I’m fine with urinalysis of welfare recipients. Money off the government tit for the poor should really only go to food, water, medicine, and rent. That’s about it. And yes, that urinalysis should obviously also include testing for alcohol and tobacco.

  6. claygooding says:

    The problem with refusing food stamps to a person with children is that it punishes the children for what their guardian did. In order to make sure that children are not endangered by such a law,they will have to also take the children from the guardian and place them in foster care too ensure that they still get to eat,or do you feel that the children are guilty also?
    Now,instead of saving a few food stamp dollars,it will cost us many times more too enforce it. And as with all drug tests,the hard drug users can quit for a few days and pass with ease,while marijuana users are caught.

  7. claygooding says:

    correction: all urine drug tests

  8. Carol says:

    Why should anyone have to be deprived of social services because they have used cannabis? It is an herbal therapeutic whether one has had the opportunity to have it recommended by a physician or not.

    Just another way to try to drive needy folks off any social services that may be available to them. Cannabis users would bear the brunt of any further disenfranchisement that could be generated by such a plan.

    For that matter why do we stand for people to be deprived of jobs because they have used cannabis? Just more fascist corporatism. And yes, I’ve urinated in many a cup for the sake of clinging to one cubicle or another and sadly will probably urinate in many more. I would like to see the practice eliminated, not expanded!

  9. ezrydn says:

    And what happens if you’re a “legal” user? A card carrier? Complying with state laws? Is this just another ruse that says if you’re a legal state user, you an illegal recipient? Are they in the business of making problems or solving them?????

  10. Duncan says:

    Doesn’t putting people in prison cut their productivity? Sheesh even getting probation can lead to near unemployability.

  11. Duncan says:

    Also, why do people believe that they have an entitlement to other people’s productivity? Because if their not entitled to its benefit it surely isn’t a cost if someone decides to live in an old van down by the river

  12. Bill Harris says:

    To say that 75 percent of the homicides are drug-related is misleading. It implies that drug molecules caused killings. Aspirin is a drug. It doesn’t cause homicides, because it’s not prohibited. It’s the prohibition, not the molecule, that causes the crime and violence. Does U.S. demand for Mexican beer enrich gangster cartels? No, because it’s not prohibited. To speak properly, one should say that 75 percent of the homicides are prohibition-related, not drug-related.

  13. BluOx says:

    And what of prohibition related productivity? No prohibition, less prison/law related productivity. Solution… take most of the prison/law productivity away and replace with ‘recreational,medical,farm’ productivity, for the welfare of all. We are a ‘nation of laws’ and some of them are really bad.

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  15. ezrydn says:


    Putting people in prison isn’t “nonproductive.” It produces cash flow for the prison, which is what they desire. While the individual solely produces for them, they won’t even mention that aspect.

    You see, shoot a man on the street and you get no federal subsidy. Arrest him, prosecute him and lock him up and you get 20-50 years of “productivity.”

  16. Cliff says:

    “Putting people in prison isn’t “nonproductive.” It produces cash flow for the prison, which is what they desire. While the individual solely produces for them, they won’t even mention that aspect.”

    Pretty soon there won’t be many citizens left who can pay.

    Kind of like smashing yourself in the head with a sledgehammer and taking asprins for the headache and blaming the sledgehammer for the pain.

  17. To me the most compelling statement is that there are a lot of killings that are drug related that don’t make the
    press any more. This was substantiated by all police depts., not to mention shootings.

    When one looks at the late eighties to early nineties, Connecticut spent 1 billion to build prisons. We are paying for this now with Connecticut being 1 billion in
    the red and projections show that next year it will be 2 billion.

    Every thing that we need is being short changed. Reformers in Connecticut have put forth the most comprehensive reform package and politicians are paying
    a great deal of attention to it.

    There are groups that are breaking down the door to talk
    about reform that in the past would not even talk to us,
    such as teacher’s union, PTO’s, PTA’s and prison unions.

    There are legalization bills being introduced in Connecticut now that reformers did not initiate

    Please continue to bring out the points of view that you guys and gals have thus far. This helps to refine the next one that is in the works. In future postings I will present our “Restorative Justice Plan” that is getting us in the door where we never have been.

  18. we can always avail of food stamps if we can’t afford great food~*.

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