International Journal of Drug Policy vol:20 issue:1 pages:48-61
Background: This study aims at understanding the mechanisms underlying the dramatic decline of the retail prices of major drugs like cocaine and heroin during the past two decades. It also aims at analysing the implications of this decline for drug policies.
Methods: We use a theoretical model to identify the possible causes of this price decline. This allows us to formulate the hypothesis that the major driving force behind the price decline is a reduction of the intermediation margin (the difference between the retail and producer prices). We also develop the hypothesis that globalization has been an important factor behind the decline of the intermediation margin. We then analyse the statistical information to test these hypotheses.
Results: We find that the decline in the retail prices of drugs is related to the strong decline in the intermediation margin in the drug business, and that globalization is the main driving force behind this phenomenon. Globalization has done so by increasing the efficiency of the distribution of drugs, by reducing the risk premium involved in dealing with drugs, and by increasing the degree of competition in the drug markets.
Conclusion: We conclude that the cocaine and heroin price declines were due to a sharp fall in the intermediation margin, which was probably influenced by globalization. This phenomenon might have a strong impact on the effectiveness of drug policies, increasing the relative effectiveness of policies aiming at reducing the demand of drugs.