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Efforts to control the global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing, a new study concludes. The price of marijuana, heroin and cocaine is dropping, while the drugs’ purity has increased, a team of U.S. and Canadian researchers found.

In the journal BMJ Open, the researchers note the supply of major illegal drugs has increased during the past two decades. They studied seven sets of government drug surveillance data to evaluate the drug supply in the United States, Europe and Australia, and drug production in regions including Southeast Asia, Latin America and Afghanistan.

The average prices of heroin, marijuana and cocaine dropped by at least 80 percent in the United States between 1990 and 2007. During the same period, the average purity of heroin increased 60 percent, while the purity of cocaine increased by 11 percent and the purity of marijuana rose 161 percent, CNN reports.

Marijuana seizures by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration increased by 465 percent between 1990 and 2010, while heroin seizures rose 29 percent, and cocaine seizures fell by 49 percent.

“These findings add to the growing body of evidence that the war on drugs has failed,” said Dr. Evan Wood, Scientific Chair of the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy at the University of British Columbia in Canada, who was involved in the study. “We should look to implement policies that place community health and safety at the forefront of our efforts, and consider drug use a public health rather than a criminal justice issue.”


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