Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Imposing Their Ancient Values

Drug War Facts has an extensively sourced roundup of information on drug use in the Netherlands, which has probably the most permissive policy toward cannabis in the OECD. A couple statistics of note:

"The figures for cannabis use among the general population reveal the same pictures. The Netherlands does not differ greatly from other European countries. In contrast, a comparison with the US shows a striking difference in this area: 32.9% of Americans aged 12 and above have experience with cannabis and 5.1% have used in the past month. These figures are twice as high as those in the Netherlands."

That pretty much demolishes the argument that decriminalizing marijuana will increase the use of it. How about the argument that decriminalizing marijuana will lead to more use of harder drugs?

"The prevalence figures for cocaine use in the Netherlands do not differ greatly from those for other European countries. However, the discrepancy with the United States is very large. The percentage of the general population who have used cocaine at some point is 10.5% in the US, five times higher than in the Netherlands. The percentage who have used cocaine in the past month is 0.7% in the US, compared with 0.2% in the Netherlands.*"

The War on Drugs has been a complete and utter failure. To tell yourself otherwise is to delude yourself. I wonder if they care?

When Sarah Palin is closer to fact-based policy than you are, there's something wrong. But nobody in government seems all that interested in decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana. I guess it's up to us to change the laws.


  1. We spend tens of billions of the taxpayer’s dollars each year fighting the war on drugs. Our citizens spend billions of dollars each year buying illegal drugs and we spend billions of the taxpayer’s dollars each year keeping people in prison for drug related crimes. After 50 years and hundreds of billions of dollars “fighting” the war on drugs, we have accomplished absolutely nothing, how can we justify not trying something different?

  2. Are you arguing in favor of decriminalizing marijuana only, or all controlled substances, including heroin, crystal meth, PCP, and cocaine?

    I'm not suggesting that decriminalization is an all or nothing approach, and there are certainly valid ways of distinguishing pot from the others. Reducing the war on drugs down to the latter set would probably shrink our prison rolls considerably, but obviously there would still be drug arrests and prosecutions; in that sense, we'd still be spending money fighting (much less) illegal drug use.

  3. For the moment, cannabis. I haven't given legalization of harder drugs enough thought or research. I do, however, think we should be funding needle exchange programs and treating drug addiction more like a disease than a crime, as they do in Europe. Needle exchange programs don't promote the use of drugs, they prevent the spread of diseases like AIDS. That sounds like a worthy policy goal. Whether or not harder drugs should be outright decriminalized or legalized, I just don't know yet.

    Though I do know that the commenter above you favors legalization of all of the above. And you're a libertarian, what do YOU think?

  4. I think I've mentioned this before. I would have the government license "drug centers" where you could go buy all kinds of drugs, including hard stuff; but you would have to consume the dangerous stuff (PCP, heroin, meth, coke) inside the drug center. You would be locked into a padded room with whoever you wanted to be with (fellow friend users) and you would not be allowed to leave until you were sober.

    The prices charged for the narcotics would reflect cost of production, manufacture, and health-treatment costs as a result of drug use.

    Pot, I'd probably allow home use of, since it doesn't seem to make you dangerous to others.

    However, black market sales of drugs would still be investigated and prosecuted (sellers only). Anyone selling drugs to kids under . . . 16? . . . would get serious prison time.

  5. The important thing is that our legislators should be having this discussion; of the pros and cons of different kinds of legalization instead of calling each other names. Unfortunately that is probably never going to happen.