Here’s what it looks like when you chart out Table 8.3 in the just-released 2022 UNODC World Drug Report. This is the average price of a gram of cocaine sold on U.S. streets over the 31 years between 1990 and 2020, in 2020 inflation-adjusted dollars, adjusted for purity.
Two things stand out:
- If the purpose of “supply side” drug policy is to make cocaine scarcer, it has largely failed to do so. The only moment when cocaine prices were a bit higher than usual—indicating some relative scarcity—was the late 2000s and early-to-mid 2010s. That was a time when aerial fumigation was declining in Colombia, and manual eradication and territorial governance efforts were increasing.
- The White House’s last update on Andean cocaine showed the region’s total potential production of the drug increasing from 1,521 tons in 2016 to 2,132 tons in 2020. That’s a 40% potential supply increase. But this chart shows almost no decrease in price over those four years, just $6, or 3 percent. That probably tells us that the Andes’ big increase in coca and cocaine production is going to other countries’ drug markets, not to the United States, where there’s some balance between supply and demand.