Goals

Interdiction has two general goals. The primary one is to reduce the consumption of specific drugs within the nation by making it more expensive and risky for smugglers to conduct their business. Drug seizures raise costs by increasing the amount that has to be shipped in order to ensure that a given quantity will reach the market. Additionally, an effective interdiction program will, among other things, raise the probability that a courier is arrested, thereby increasing the price smugglers have to pay to those who undertake the task. These higher fees raise smugglers' costs of doing business and thus the price they must charge their customers, the importers. Finally, the increased costs lead to a higher retail price and serve to lower consumption of the drug.

At one time it was thought that interdiction could impose a physical limit on the quantity of drugs available in this country. With a fixed supply available in the producing nations, each kilogram seized on its way to the United States would be one less kilogram available for consumption here. However, this has not proven to be the case. It is now generally accepted that production is expandable and that increased seizures can be compensated for with increases in production, although farmers may have to receive higher prices to provide greater production.

A second, more modest, general goal is to increase the difficulty of smuggling itself and to provide suitable punishment. Smugglers, or at least the

In one method of smuggling heroin, couriers swallow heroin-filled latex balloons before boarding commercial airlines. (Drug Enforcement Administration)

principals in smuggling organizations, are among the most highly rewarded participants in the drug trades. There is support for programs that conspicuously make their lives less easy and that subject them to the risks of punishment.

Three illegal drugs have traditionally dominated imports: cocaine, HEROIN, and marijuana. Heroin is subject to only modest interdiction efforts because it is usually smuggled in conventional commercial cargo, or it is carried on (or within) the person of the smugglers who travel by commercial traffic; seizures are made only in the course of routine inspection of cargo and traffic. It is estimated that ten tons of heroin are smuggled into the United States each year, and seizures of more than ten kilograms are rare. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported that a total of 667 kilograms of heroin had been seized in 1999, about the same amount seized in 1990. Cocaine and marijuana have been the primary targets of interdiction, although an effective program of interdiction against Colombian maritime smuggling has led to a sharp rise in the share of the U.S. marijuana market served by domestic producers.

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