Even in small-scale environments government prohibition of any substance will prove to increase crime and substance abuse.
According to a recent study, counties that ban the sale of alcohol have a higher rate of meth crime than counties where booze is legal. Researchers at the University of Louisville determined that if all dry counties in the state permitted the sale of alcohol, the total number of meth lab seizures in Kentucky would decline by about 25%.
In a paper titled “Breaking Bad: Are Meth Labs Justified in Dry Counties?” researchers at the University of Louisville found that over a fourth of the 120 counties in Kentucky are dry, which means that the sale of alcohol is banned in all forms. The researchers also discovered that the alcohol control laws describe potentially severe penalties for violating local alcohol prohibition. Although the first criminal offense is a class B misdemeanor, the third offense is a felony with up to $10,000 in fines and 10 years in prison.
Civil asset forfeiture can also become quite expensive, even for first-time offenders. According to the law, any premises or vehicles involved in “unlawfully selling, transporting or possessing alcoholic beverages in dry territory” must be seized by law enforcement and forfeited to the state, regardless of whether anyone is convicted of a criminal offense.
Due to these harsh punishments over a bottle of booze, many people are switching to methamphetamine abuse. Since many black market dealers in dry counties sell alcohol at a higher cost and offer drugs as a cheap substitute, meth lab seizures and meth-related crimes have been occurring more frequently in dry counties.
According to a 2005 paper in the Journal of Law and Economics, Texas counties that changed from banning alcohol to permitting it, decreased the rate of drug-related mortality by 14%. Kentucky State Police records revealed that dry counties have higher rates of DUI-related crashes. And a 2010 report found that binge-drinking rates were higher in Alabama’s dry counties.
Studying DEA meth lab seizure data in Kentucky between 2004 and 2010, the researchers found that meth lab seizures and meth-related incidences occur nearly twice as much in dry counties than wet ones. By continuing to prohibit alcohol, Kentucky has increased the prevalence of meth labs in dry jurisdictions. After reviewing the data, the researchers concluded that if all the dry counties in Kentucky legalized booze, the number of meth lab seizures in the state would decrease by 24.4%.