Marijuana Decriminalization Does Not Lead To Increased Use

In the first rigorous study comparing marijuana use in the Netherlands and the United States, no evidence was found by researchers that marijuana decriminalization leads to increased drug use.

It was suggested by the results that drug policies may have less impact on marijuana use than is currently thought.
The findings appeared in an issue of the American Journal of Public Health. The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Dutch Ministry of Health.

Craig Reinarman, professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, coauthored the article, “The Limited Relevance of Drug Policy: Cannabis in Amsterdam and in San Francisco,” with Peter D. A. Cohen, director of the Centre for Drug Research (CEDRO) at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and Hendrien L. Kaal, now an instructor at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.
The cannabis (marijuana and hashish) habits of users in Amsterdam and San Francisco were compared in the study for testing the premise that punishment for cannabis use deters use and thereby benefits public health.

“We compared representative samples of experienced marijuana users to see whether the lawful availability of marijuana did, in fact, lead to the problems critics of the Dutch system have claimed,” said Reinarman. “We found no evidence that it does. In fact, we found consistently strong similarities in patterns of marijuana use, despite vastly different national drug policies.”

 “In the United States, marijuana policy is based on the assertion that strict penalties are the best way to inhibit use,” said Reinarman. “The results of this study shift the burden of proof now to those who would arrest hundreds of thousands of Americans each year on the grounds that it deters use,” said Reinarman.
The study found no evidence that lawfully regulated cannabis provides a “gateway” to use of other illicit drugs.

University of California, Santa Cruz

Government Commissioned Reports – III

fda-medical-marijuana-hemp“An objective consideration of marijuana shows that it is responsible for less damage to the individual and society than are alcohol and cigarettes. … A further consideration in forming a reaction to the wide use of marijuana is that it is a source of conflict between generations and of disrespect for the law. … The Panel therefore suggests that the law be changed to permit cultivation [of marijuana] for personal use.” – California Research Advisory Panel. 1989. Twentieth Annual Report of the Research Advisory Panel. State Capitol: Sacramento.

“Australia experiences more harm, we conclude, from maintaining the cannabis prohibition policy than it experiences from use of the drug. … We conclude that cannabis law reform is required in this country.” – Australian Department of Health and Aged Care. 1994. Legislative Options for Cannabis in Australia: Report commissioned for the Commonwealth/State Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy. Australian Government Publishing Service: Canberra, Australia.

“The existing evidence on policies of partial prohibition (marijuana decriminalization) indicates that partial prohibition has been as effective in controlling [marijuana] consumption as complete prohibition and has entailed considerably smaller social, legal, and economic costs. On balance, therefore, we believe that a policy of partial prohibition is clearly preferable to a policy of complete prohibition of supply and use.” – National Research Council of the National Academy of Science. 1982. An Analysis of Marijuana Policy. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, DC.

“Our primary concern is to minimize the health and safety risks associated with the use of cannabis. The pursuit of this objective has required careful consideration of the gravity of the harms attributed to cannabis and the countervailing costs of any control measures. Given our empirical understanding of both the effects of cannabis and the adverse consequences that flow from applying a counterproductive possessor sanction, it appears, on balance, that essentially the same measure of public health protection can be attained through a less comprehensive and injurious use of the criminal law. … A legislative reform which best achieves this balancing of interests would probably bear a close resemblance to … semi-prohibition.” – Canadian Department of National Health and Welfare. 1979. Cannabis Control Policy: A discussion paper commissioned for the Minister of Health and Cabinet members. Ottawa.

“The costs to a significant number of individuals, the majority of whom are young people, and to society generally, of a policy of prohibition of simple possession are not justified by the potential for harm of cannabis and the additional influence which such a policy is likely to have upon perception of harm, demand, and availability. We, therefore recommend the repeal of the prohibition against the simple possession of cannabis.” – Canadian Government Commission of Inquiry (The Le Dain Commission). 1973. Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs. Queens Printer: Ottawa.

“The Commission recommends only the following changes in federal law: Possession of marijuana for personal use would no longer be an offense. … Casual distribution of small amounts of marijuana for no remuneration, or insignificant remuneration not involving profit would no longer be an offense.” – United States National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. 1972. Marijuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding (The Shafer Report). U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, DC.

“In considering the scale of penalties our main aim, having regard to our view of the known effects of cannabis, is to remove for practical purposes, the prospect of imprisonment for possession of a small amount and to demonstrate that taking the drug in moderation is a relatively minor offense.” – British Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence. 1968. Cannabis: Report by the Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence (The Wooten Report). Her Majesty’s Stationary Office, London.