Economist says treating drug addicts costs half as much as keeping them in prison

Decriminalising drugs makes economic sense, with the cost of imprisoning a drug user at $100,000 a year, roughly twice as much as putting them in residential drug care, according to an economist.

Shamubeel Eaqub from Sense Partners worked on the Drug Foundation report, which detailed three proposed models of drug policy reform.

Executive director Ross Bell launched a report on moving New Zealand's drug approach to a health one, rather than criminal. Source: 1 NEWS

The Drug Foundation study says decriminalising all drugs, and allowing the legal sale of cannabis, will benefit Kiwis and the economy. Source: 1 NEWS

The first was prioritising harm reduction and the health of users, the second being the decriminalisation of all drugs and the third is the legalisation of cannabis as they have done in Canada and certain US states.

Under the second proposal, Mr Eaqub said it cost roughly $100,000 a year to keep a person in prison.

“If you think about how much it costs to provide residential care for someone who has got drug issues, it’s less than that,” he said.

“So roughly if you go through the courts and into prison it costs twice as much as sending someone into proper health services with counselling and all those other bits and pieces.”

Mr Eaqub said the legalisation of cannabis would be add conservatively $190 million to the economy.

“We looked at it all the way from the agricultural sector, producing it in the way we normally do, to processing, the distribution, the retail and the taxes we would collect from it.”

Fears that drug use rates would increase with decriminalisation were misguided, with evidence from Portugal showing that did not occur, Mr Eaqub said

“We’ve got really good evidence from Portugal who has decriminalised drugs from the early 2000s, very good evidence that both use and problematic use have not increased.”

The decriminalisation of drugs makes economic sense with the cost of imprisoning a drug user costing $100,000 a year, roughly twice as much as putting them in residential drug care. Source: Breakfast