Substance abuse and addiction are linked to nearly one-third of all hospital costs, according to the non-profit Center on Addiction. Few single individuals contributed more to this plague than Joaquin Guzman. Of course, his destructive influence would not have been possible without millions of willing Americans putting his poison in their noses, veins, and bloodstreams.
Chasing El Chapo cost U.S. a fortune. Was it money well spent?
By Megan Cerullo, July 17, 2019
CBS News Moneywatch – Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was sentenced to life plus thirty years in prison Wednesday for running an operation that trafficked an estimated $12.6 billion worth of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and synthetic fentanyl into the United States over nearly three decades.
The government has also ordered him to repay that sum he’s believed to have earned through his illegal business.
While it’s difficult to parse individual responsibility and determine exactly how much Guzman has cost the United States in law enforcement, incarceration, healthcare, and other expenses, the effort to bring him to justice, and the ripple effects of his illegal activity, have been costly.
U.S. government: $50 billion annually fighting drugs
The U.S. government spends roughly $50 billion per year on drug prohibition enforcement efforts, about $20 billion to $30 billion of which is used to enforce cocaine and heroin prohibition, according to Jeffery Miron, director of the department of economics at Harvard University and the author of the report entitled “The Budgetary Implications of Drug Prohibition.”
“You obviously can’t attribute that all to El Chapo or even the Mexican drug cartels, because some of it comes from China,” Miron said.
The drug kingpin has also denied being responsible for all illicit activity ascribed to the cartel, which experts say has a hub-and-spoke business model rather than a hierarchical structure.
And so calculating the United States’ expenditure on El Chapo is not an exact science, and even experts’ estimates are at best speculative.
“We can count up how much we spend, but it’s messy, and attributing it to any one drug or any cartel is really speculative and doesn’t answer the most policy-relevant question which is about who created the policies, and what would happen if they changed,” Miron told CBS MoneyWatch.
The largest drug cartel in the world
At his peak in 2013, Guzman, as leader of the Sinaloa cartel … Read more.