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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Drug Law Madness

I agree with this. Our drug policy, marijuana law in particular, is drug law madness:

The Czars’ Reefer Madness, by John Tierney, Commentary, NY Times:  ...White House drug ... czars have ... called Dutch drug policy “an unmitigated disaster,” bemoaning Amsterdam’s “stoned zombies” and its streets cluttered with “junkies.” Anti-pot passion has only increased in the Bush administration, which has made it a priority to combat marijuana. ... The Bush administration can’t even abide it being used for medical purposes by the terminally ill. Why risk having any of it fall into the hands of young people who could turn into potheads, crack addicts and junkies?

But if America’s drug warriors came here, ... [a]nd if they talked to Peter Cohen, a Dutch researcher..., they would discover something... Even though marijuana has been widely available since the 1970’s, enough to corrupt a couple of generations, the Netherlands has not succumbed to reefer madness.

The Dutch generally use drugs less than Americans do, ... (and ... surveys might understate Americans’ drug usage, since respondents are less likely to admit illegal behavior). More Americans than Dutch reported having tried marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Among teenagers who’d tried marijuana, Americans were more likely to be regular users.

In a comparison of Amsterdam with another liberal port city, San Francisco, ... people in San Francisco were nearly twice as likely to have tried marijuana. Cohen isn’t sure exactly what cultural and economic factors account for the different usage patterns..., but he’s confident he can rule out one explanation.

“Drug policy is irrelevant,” says Cohen, the former director of the Center for Drug Research at the University of Amsterdam. ... The good news about drugs, Cohen says, is that the differences between countries aren’t all that important — levels of addiction are generally low in America as well as in Europe. The bad news is that the occasional drug fad get hyped into a crisis that leads to bad laws.

“Prohibition does not reduce drug use, but it does have other impacts,” he says. “It takes up an enormous amount of police time and generates large possibilities for criminal income.”

In the Netherlands, that income goes instead to coffee-shop owners and to the government, which exacts heavy taxes. It also imposes strict regulations ..., including who can be served (no minors) and how much can be sold (five grams to a customer). ...

Raskam [the creator of the award-winning marijuana blend named “Arjan’s Haze,”] sneers at the street products in the United States, which he considers overpriced and badly blended. But he acknowledges there’s one feature in the American market he can’t compete with.

“Drugs are just less interesting here,” he said. “One of my best friends here never smoked cannabis, never wanted to even try my products. Then when she was 32 she went to America on holiday and smoked for the first time. I asked her why, and she said, ‘It was more fun over there. It was illegal.’ ”

    Posted by on Saturday, August 26, 2006 at 12:15 AM in Economics, Policy, Regulation | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (10)

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