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Drug Policy Effects on Rates of Crime

  • By: Jennifer Murphy
  • In: Encyclopedia of Drug Policy
  • Edited by: Mark A. R. Kleiman & James E. Hawdon
  • Subject:Public Policy, Drug Crimes

Beginning with the passage of the Harrison Act in 1914, the United States has enacted various laws in an attempt to regulate the manufacturing and distribution of illegal drugs.

These laws and policies have had a direct impact on crime rates, especially for drug-related crimes. For this entry, “crime rates” refer to the official published reports of crime, mostly from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Before 1914, although many states had anti-drug laws in place, very few people were arrested and incarcerated for using or selling drugs. By enacting stricter drug laws over the next 90 years, drug-related arrests escalated to the point that, by 2004, there were more than 1.7 million arrests for drug offenses in the United States, comprising more than 12 percent of ...

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