Drugs and Money: Laundering Latin America's Cocaine Dollars

By Robert E. Grosse | Go to book overview

Chapter 17

Conclusions and Government Policy Recommendations

There is no question that “better” government policies and/or increased efforts at enforcement will not end the laundering of drug money in the United States or anywhere else. The lessons that could be drawn from the experiences of the past 30 years under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) are that increased policy efforts do lead to reaction by the narcotics money launderers and that such efforts have indeed made it more difficult for them to carry out the laundering. By raising the cost and risk of money laundering, legislative and enforcement efforts have had an impact on the desired direction.

But eliminating drug money laundering implies eliminating drug trafficking— a hopeless task by anyone’s estimation. Without passing too far into the realm of psychology or biology, one can see that throughout history, people have always used drugs, from alcohol to narcotics to psychedelics. Assuming that this human preference will continue, then drug consumption will continue as well. And if any drugs are made illegal, then the sellers of these drugs will necessarily keep their business from being recorded and will put it into the underground market. Hence, drug trafficking will continue, and laundering the funds involved will continue, through one avenue or another.

An obvious solution would be to legalize the drugs and to tax their sales, as is done today with alcohol. This alternative often has been proposed with marijuana, which is perceived to be a less harmful, less addictive narcotic than cocaine. Whatever the arguments and emotions involved, the idea of legalizing additional drugs would surely lead to greater consumption, as long as the price declined from its contraband level. 1 If taxes were used to raise prices back to prelegalization levels, then entrepreneurs (drug traffickers) would revert to the underground market to evade taxes, and the problem would remain. With alcohol, after Prohibition ended, estimated consumption grew dramatically. 2 This

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