The Cost of the War on Drugs: the Example of France

France is among the most strict European countries in the repression against drugs. As a result, the question about the real cost of this repression of illegal substances arises is a particularly pertinent one. For all those who do not want to make the effort of listening to me on why the War on Drugs is an expensive failure which discriminatory and dangerous, here is the short answer:

about €2 billion

The only reliable figure I found in my research comes from an information report by the Public Policy Evaluation and Control Committee titled “Assessment of Combating the Use of Illicit Substances” from the 20th of November 2014. This report (which I strongly recommend you scroll through) describes the total failure of repressive legislation and, in addition, a cost analysis.

The report indicates that:

“It is impossible to make a precise consolidated statement of public expenditure devoted to the policy of combating the use of illegal substances …”

The committee nevertheless concludes that by combining 26 different programs dedicated to the War on Drugs, we get to the figure of about 2 billion euros (2,000,000,000; just so you visualise that well) per year, which in 2014 was 0.1% of GDP.

Prevention (15%)

Prevention costs amount to €300 million, of which €4 million in primary education (1.3%), €274 million in secondary education (91.3%), €9 million in public sports policy (3%) and 11 million in the public health sector (3.6%).

Care (41.5%)

The costs of care, not including medical care related to consumption, but addiction treatment (including treatments imposed on those who committed drug-related offences) subsidised by the state as part of the anti-drug policy, stacks up to 830 million euros. The committee has quantified this number with reports that have been published since 2011 by the medical and social institutions, the hospital sector for hospital consultations or addictology liaison teams, treatment reimbursements, etc.

Enforcement (42.5%)

The costs of complying with the repressive laws amounts to 850 million euros, which is the largest part of the expenditure in the fight against illegal substances. They consist of: police 255 million (30%), customs 252 million (29.6%), gendarmerie 167 million (19.6%), legal services (justice department) 101 million (11.9% 6%) and national marine 21 million (2.5%).

Is it not time to give the money wasted in prohibition back to the taxpayer and to overturn the policies that benefit only cartels? Is not time for individual freedom and individual responsibility to thrive?

After all, if we cannot trust people with freedom, how can we trust people with power?


This article was first published on Speak Freely. It has been translated into English from this French article.

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About Bill Wirtz

My name is Bill, I'm from Luxembourg and I write about the virtues of a free society. I favour individual and economic freedom and I believe in the capabilities people can develop when they have to take their own responsibilities.

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