Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Federal Drug Numbers Are Garbage, RAND Corp. Finds

By David Downs
Wed, Oct 13, 2010 at 7:25 AM

The independent RAND corporation said yesterday that federal drug statistics are pretty much total garbage, leading to questions over the empirical validity of the ongoing, $17 billion a year U.S. drug war. “Existing estimates about drug production and consumption are cryptic, inconsistent, and often impossible to verify,” stated the RAND Corporation, in a paper studying the effects of legalization of cannabis in California via Proposition 19.

“It's a topic I've been writing about for 25 years,” said a RAND drug policy researcher on a conference call yesterday. “Government estimates have been exactly as we describe it. These are numbers that come out of nowhere and there's often no explanation of how they derive them or why they're inconsistent over time. They're just utterly inconsistent with data that is available and documented.”

RAND says even basic observations don't jive, like recent news from the State Department saying Mexican marijuana production is up 200 percent over the previous decades, even though U.S prevalence rates were absolutely flat.

“Seizures didn't go up in any consistent way. You can't reconcile the data and yet the State Department continues to report these figures without any effort reconcile them with anything else.”

The government is creating its own reality using unverifiable sources tantamount to 'a little birdy told me', the RAND report shows, calling into question the entirety of the argument for the ongoing drug war, which has contributed to the U.S. having the highest rate of prisoners of any country on the earth, including Russia, North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan.

“Many of the most-quoted estimates are not documented in a manner that allows others to assess their credibility, let alone replicate them,” RAND found. “While a number of estimates are described as being 'intelligence based' or are released by intelligence agencies, this does not mean we should automatically give them high credibility.

“This paper identifies a number of these estimates from national and international sources that are simply implausible. Drug-market estimation is a field plagued by a lack of data and heavily dependent on assumptions; thus, estimates from both intelligence and non-intelligence agencies need to be scrutinized. Policymakers would be well served by preventing the publication of figures without peer review. If the truth is that these figures are estimated imprecisely, that fact should be noted.”

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