Did Drug Prohibition Create Crack Cocaine?

Milton Friedman (excerpts from a 1991 interview ):

"The effect of criminalization, of making drugs criminal, is to drive people from mild drugs to
strong drugs. ... There's been an incentive to grow more potent marijuana and people have been driven from marijuana to heroin, or cocaine, or crack."

"Crack would never have existed, in my opinion, if you had not had drug prohibition. Why was crack created? The preferred method of taking cocaine, which I understand was by sniffing it, snorting it, became very expensive and they were desperate to find a way of packaging cocaine."

"The people who are running the drug traffic are no different from the rest of us, except that they have more entrepreneurial ability and less concern about not hurting other people. They're more irresponsible in that way. But they're in business and they're trying to make as much as they can. And they discovered a good way to make money was to dilute this crack with baking soda or whatever else--I mean, cocaine, whatever else they do--I don't know the procedure--so that they could bring it out in five dollar and ten dollar doses."


Eric Sterling, President of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, on the rise of crack in the mid-1980s:
"Cocaine consumption by the rich was beginning to diminish. The market need for new outlets
was matched by the market opportunities now opened to sell inexpensive units of drugs.
Cocaine imports, notwithstanding the control measures, were coming into the country in ever
increasing quantities, and cocaine's availability was growing in more and more communities.
For many years, cocaine aficionados knew that cocaine could be "smoked" in the form of
freebase.... Crack filled a market niche that was in many respects created by the war on drugs.
The war on drugs also created new opportunities for the youth to enter the crack business. The
enactment of mandatory minimum sentences in the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, triggered by
the distribution of at least five grams of crack cocaine, or at least fifty grams, set the stage to
substitute underage workers for adults in the drug market. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988
applied the mandatory minimum sentences to attempts to distribute and to all members of
conspiracies that distributed at least five grams or fifty grams. The potential incarceration costs
for adults to take low level jobs in the crack distribution organizations were too high for many
to continue, but these costs were not applied to youths not subject to adult-level sentencing,
even though there were now special new penalties for employing minors in the trafficking in
Eric E. Sterling, Drug Policy: A Smorgasbord of Conundrums Spiced by Emotions
Around Children and Violence, 31 Valparaiso Law Review 597 (1997) (emphasis added).

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