The War on Drugs, despite the allocation of substantial funding and policy measures, has only been moderately successful. The problem has been approached with various tactics, such as eradication, alternative livelihoods (or economic alternatives), and, in the case of cannabis, legalization. These efforts, nevertheless, have largely been deemed unsuccessful. The illicit drug trade persists, and, because it is part of an unregulated, monopolistic economy, drugs are sold at a huge mark-up (up to 2,000%). This has dramatic consequences for the larger economy, where the money is not being spent elsewhere.
Illegal drug cultivation (such as that of opium and the coca bush) is increasing across the board, and the U.N. report indicates that the United States apprehends less than 1% of drugs produced. The United States, coupled with the U.N., is the leader in this war on drugs. Because of the largely failed effort, strategies are changing. Punitive measures for the possession and sale of drugs have been lessened across the world (most famously Portugal in 2001). One of these strategies is that of economic alternatives, or alternate livelihoods. These measures have been undertaken chiefly in Mexico and Colombia, where these crops are grown on a grand scale. Unfortunately, in Colombia, these efforts have failed, because they have resulted in political instability due to insufficient alternative crops and programs in place to support their harvesting. Next, other commodity prices (such as those of timber and gold) fell (because of the economic phenomenon discussed above that results one when commodity is exorbitantly marked up).
Thailand is perhaps the single best model of success in the international War on Drugs. Thailand’s economic alternative model suspended eradication efforts and allowed opium to grow while alternative livelihood programs were put in place. This meant that income of locals was not threatened. Next, when eradication was effected, local governments had a say in when and how to do it. Finally, the alternative livelihoods were not limited to replacement crops (such as apricots, onions, and garlic), but eventually included things like improvement in infrastructure, healthcare, and education.