State drug control spending and illicit drug participation

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The purpose of this article is to estimate the effect of state criminal justice expenditures and state public health expenditures on deterring illicit drug use. The empirics are based on a demand-and-supply model of drug markets. The effect of a given expenditure on criminal justice or public health programs is dependent on the magnitude of the resulting shifts in the two functions and the demand price elasticity. A reduced form of the demand-and-supply model is also estimated. The data employed come from the 1990 and 1991 National Household Surveys on Drug Abuse (NHSDA). Data on state and local spending for drug-related criminal justice and drug-related public health programs were merged with the NHSDA. The main findings from the regression results are that drug control spending reduces drug use. However, the results suggest that for marijuana users, the marginal cost of drug control exceeds the social benefits of drug control. This may not be the case for users of other illicit drugs. Spending for drug enforcement by police and drug treatment is found most effective in deterring drug use. However, spending for correctional facilities is never significant, which suggests that a more efficient method of reducing drug use might be to reduce correctional facilities spending and increase spending on treatment. © Western Economic Association International.

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Contemporary Economic Policy

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