Political science professor LaMond Tullis of Brigham Young University, director of the Joint United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) — United Nations University (UNU) multicountry project on the impact of the illicit drug trade, presents essentially a synopsis and analysis of five volumes on the subject produced by UNRISD-UNU: Bolivia and Coca: A Study in Dependency, by James Painter (1994); Political Economy and Illegal Drugs in Colombia, by Francisco E. Thoumi (1995); Mexico’s “War” on Drugs: Causes and Consequences, by María Cela Toro (1995); Marijuana in the “Third World”: Appalachia, U.S.A., by Richard R. Clayton (1995); and The Burmese Connection: Illegal Drugs and the Making of the Golden Triangle, by Ronald D. Renard (1996).

In organization, Tullis’s work tends to follow the geographical sequence of the above-mentioned books in examining the socioeconomic and political impact on these lands of laws and policies “designed to thwart or otherwise deal with those illegal activities” (p. vii); namely, measures aimed at the eradication, interdiction, and suppression of narcotics, imposed by First World consumer countries on Third World producing and trafficking nations. Thus, Unintended Consequences deals with most of the major exporters —Columbia, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar/Burma, and Pakistan—and not the net importers —the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Given the vast profits involved in illegal drug dealing—somewhere between U.S. $150 billion and U.S.$300 billion annually—the trade’s attraction to and effect on nonindustrialized agricultural countries is significant. Although the author states that most of the illegitimate earnings are not remitted to the parent countries, enough money is made to promote conspicuous consumption and unproductive investment, as in Colombia. Nevertheless, the trade has raised the income of small cultivators in Bolivia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Thailand, and Kentucky; but it has also provoked increased instability, especially in Colombia and Peru, by financing Marxist and Maoist insurgents. Thus, the drug trade has augmented violence, imploded the judiciary, fomented corruption, augmented the military, and degraded the environment. What’s more, producers become consumers.

Consumption is increasing in almost all supplier countries (e.g., Peru, Bolivia, and Columbia, where smoking a mixture of cocoa paste and tobacco— bazuco — has become mere popular). Myanmar/Burma, Thailand, Laos, Iran, and Pakistan all note considerable problems with new waves of heroin addiction, and opiate addiction has once again emerged as a public concern in China. Consumption is no longer an exclusive demand problem of the industrialized countries. It has become a global phenomenon, (p. 36)

What is to be done? Tullis claims that “supply suppression will not solve consumption problems” (p. 205). Therefore, current prohibition efforts at eradication, interdiction, and prosecution should be replaced by harm-reduction initiatives in producer countries; by “decriminalization/legalization in order to undercut drug-related crime and remove monstrous life-sustaining profits from the drug lords” (p. 205). Consumption would increase, Tullis admits, particularly in “net consumer nations such as the United States” (p, 204), a contention supported by the results of such programs in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Zurich. In a curious way, this statement conflicts with his earlier contention that “although drug consumption was discovered to produce highly undesirable social outcomes, [U.K. and Siam] prohibition appears to have little impact on demand reduction” (p. 114).

Tullis recognizes that the problem is consumption, and notes that “the drive to consume drugs may have sociopsychological explanations, psychological-genetic explanations, or structural explanations dealing with supply and socioeconomic circumstances” (p. 3). The problem, then, is metaphysical, a dimension that this work, and rightly so, does not address.

This is a provocative book, marred only by a few contradictions and errors, such as stating that Pablo Escobar was assassinated (p. 192); slighting the human cost of addiction in both producing and consuming countries; failing to explain how consumption would lessen with lower legal prices; and ignoring age-old coca chewing in Andean areas, ancient opium eating in Asia, and centuries of hashish and hemp smoking in the Near East. Thus, while the recent negative effects on producers have markedly increased because of the industrialized nations’ demand, the problem is not new. And it may have been exacerbated by what Tullis calls the prohibition strategy, which was weakened by the Cold War, international rivalries, and uneven and irresolute application, such has occurred in the United States since 1993. Nevertheless, with voters in Arizona and California legalizing Schedule One narcotics in November 1996, Tullis’s recommended move toward decriminalization and legalization may be in the making.