After years of bad news about the easy availability of cocaine on U.S. streets, the Bush administration says its multibillion-dollar drug war in Colombia is showing signs of success, with the U.S. retail price of the drug sharply higher and the level of purity lower, the New York Times reports. From February to September, the price of a gram of cocaine rose 19 percent, to $170, while the purity level fell 15 percent, said the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Officials said those trends validated the U.S. $4 billion, multiyear plan to wipe out cocaine drug crops in Colombia by aerial spraying.
Critics said the White House was drawing unrealistically rosy conclusions from too short a period. They cited a Rand Corporation study for the White House in 2003 showed that as the war on drugs expanded since 1981, the price of cocaine had tumbled to historic lows while purity levels had risen. “Cocaine is not like computer chips, where new technology makes it cheaper and cheaper,” said Ethan Nadelmann of the Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation in New York City, which argues that the war on drugs has been counterproductive. “A small blip upward after so many years of decline in price and increase in purity is essentially meaningless.” Since 2000, the U.S. has insisted that an aggressive push to spray land used for Colombia’s huge drug crops with glyphosate would pay off. Hundreds of thousands of acres have been sprayed.