NEW STUDY REVEALS FAILURE OF US NARCOTICS POLICY
THE BECKLEY FOUNDATION ISSUES NEW BOOK
An international team of the world's leading drug policy analysts convened by Amanda Feilding, Director of the Beckley Foundation, have written a book analyzing cannabis prohibition policies. Their conclusion is that criminalization has failed to reduce consumption. The book also shows no link between prevalence and cannabis policy – be it liberal or draconian. Cannabis has become widely used and prohibition policies as implemented have only proven to be expensive, intrusive on individual privacy, and socially divisive. The book outlines a full spectrum of alternative policies from depenalization to a fully regulated legal market.
Half a century of prohibition has failed to prevent a rise in global cannabis use, which has transformed consumption from a relatively rare behavior confined to a scattering of cultures and countries to almost a rite of passage amongst the Western world’s youth. Prohibition has led to the development of large scale criminal markets that increase the harms of cannabis use and undermine social order. Moreover, a criminal justice approach to cannabis control causes considerable social harms and facilitates discriminatory enforcement against the young and ethnic minorities.
“This book clearly shows that prohibitionist policies have not only failed to meet their objectives but have inflicted significant social harms,” says Amanda Feilding Director of the Beckley Foundation. “Efforts to change the current system have been met with stiff resistance from such leading countries as the United States, which is in the company of countries like Russia, China and Sudan.”
Criminalisation has not acted as a deterrent, whereas, with a regulated market, the product could be labeled for strength and chemical composition, thereby making it safer. Government could also control and tax its sale, which would provide extra funding for education and treatment.
The book is calling for a significant change by adopting a less punitive approach. Countries like the Netherlands and Portugal that have pursued liberal drug policies have not seen consequent increase in cannabis consumption, as staunch prohibitionists argued it would. Instead these countries have experienced reductions in the financial costs associated with criminalization policies, and have reduced the adverse social consequences arising from criminalization strategies.
While a number of U.S. states have downgraded the criminal status of marijuana possession offences, and in some cases passed medicinal marijuana exceptions, US Federal law severely limits the options most states have to change their drug policies. As states such as California and Colorado seek to develop regulations and tax models for marijuana, policymakers should closely analyze, evaluate and draw inspiration from similar systems and models developed in other countries as described in the book.
“The real value of the research we have conducted lies in the breadth of the review of experiences around the globe. It shows the range of different options - local, regional, and national - government can take to reduce the adverse effects of prohibition,” explained Peter Reuter, Director, Program on the Economics of Crime and Justice Policy at the University of Maryland and one of book’s five co-authors. “It is finally time for governments around the world to readdress cannabis policy and to avoid approaches that have been proven to fail.”
This month Robin Room, one of the authors, Peter Reuter and Amanda Feilding will be making their case to political leaders in Washington DC, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.
The Beckley Foundation is a charitable trust founded in 1998 by Amanda Feilding, Lady Neidpath. It aims at investigating consciousness and its changing states from a multidisciplinary perspective. Through its Science Programme the Foundation initiates, develops and conducts world-class research that will improve our scientific understanding of consciousness and provide practical information to help optimize health and well being. The Foundation also conducts a Drug Policy Program and is dedicated to providing a rigorous, independent review of global drug policy, aiming at reducing the harms associated with both the misuse of drugs and the policies that aim to control them. The intention of the Foundation is to help develop policies that are evidence-based and rational, rather than those that are ineffectual, due to being rooted in unsubstantiated ideology.
Robin Room is a sociologist and Professor at the School of Population Health, University of Melbourne and is the director of the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research. He is also a professor at and was the founding director of the Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs at Stockholm University.
Benedikt Fischer is Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences and the School of Criminology, as well as Interim Director of the Centre for Applied Research in Addictions and Mental Health (CARMHA), at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada, where he also currently holds a CIHR/PHAC Research Chair in Applied Public Health and is a MSFHR Senior Scholar Career Investigator.
Wayne Hall is a Professor of Public Health Policy at the School of Population Health, University of Queensland. He has advised the World Health Organization on the health effects of cannabis use and other illicit drug related health issues.
Peter Reuter is an economist, Senior Economist at RAND and is a Professor at the School of Public Policy and in the Department of Criminology at the University of Maryland. He has served as a consultant to numerous US, European, and UN agencies and founded and directed RAND's multidisciplinary Drug Policy Research Center from 1989-1993.
Simon Lenton is a Professor and Deputy Director at the National Drug Research Institute, Perth, Western Australia, and he works as a Clinical Psychologist in private practice.
Amanda Feilding is the founder and director of the Beckley Foundation. The Foundation has produced over 35 much-cited academic reports, proceedings documents and briefing papers on key drug policy questions.
February 24, 2010
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