Handbook on the Economics of Crime
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Handbook on the Economics of Crime

Edited by Bruce L. Benson and Paul R. Zimmerman

While few economists analyzed criminal behaviour and the criminal justice process before Gary Becker’s seminal 1968 paper, an enormous body of economic research on crime has since been produced. This insightful and comprehensive Handbook reviews and extends much of this important resulting research.
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Chapter 10: Economics of Crime and Drugs: Prohibition and Public Policies for Illicit Drug Control

Edward M. Shepard and Paul R. Blackely


10 Economics of crime and drugs: prohibitions and public policies for illicit drug control Edward M. Shepard and Paul R. Blackley INTRODUCTION Economic theory, empirical research and examples from history all provide important insights into public policies that address connections between drugs and crime. Varieties of substances produce mild to powerful psychological effects and are in use, to some degree, in all modern societies. These include legal products such as tobacco, alcohol and caffeine as well as pharmaceutical drugs that are licensed, regulated and distributed to patients under medical supervision. Drug prohibition laws can be defined as public policies that criminalize the production, sale, or possession of specific substances that produce ‘mind-altering’ or ‘perception-altering’ effects on individuals who ingest them. Prominent examples are laws that prohibit the production, distribution, or possession of marijuana, heroin, cocaine and other substances. These substances, commonly referred to as illicit drugs, are associated with health risks to users and may lead to dependency and addiction. Statistical associations between drug use and criminal activity – violent crime as well as property crime – are often cited as an important rationale for drug prohibition policies that criminalize the production, distribution and exchange of a set of substances producing narcotic or psychotropic effects on users. Two general paradigms have been used to model the social problems of drug activity and the public policies designed to address them. Social scientists and public health researchers often adopt a social welfare approach, in which the main problems and their underlying causes are first...

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