January 27, 2010

Cannabis Laws Proving Ineffective

According to an international group of drug policy experts, laws against cannabis have failed to stop the use of the substance around the globe and have led to policies that are intrusive, socially disruptive and expensive.

The experts wrote in a report that although the drug harmed some users, it had only a modest effect on society, where cocaine and alcohol were potentially more dangerous.

"It is time for governments around the world to readdress cannabis policy," Peter Reuter, a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland in the United States and one of the report's five co-authors, told Reuters in an interview.

Research has proved that using cannabis may double the risk of developing psychosis. 

Last month, a study published in the British Medical Journal reported that people who smoked the potent form of cannabis known as "skunk" were almost seven times more likely to develop psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia than those who smoked cannabis resin, or "hash".

According to Reuter, authorities need to acknowledge the "growing evidence that criminalization of use is a minor deterrent" and recognize the importance of developing "responsible ways of managing supply, rather than creating large illegal markets."

He said the increasing potency of cannabis being sold on the streets in several Western countries was a big concern. 

"What we really need is a safer way in which people can buy the drug, rather than leaving it to an illegal market which is producing a drug that is strong and stronger," he added.

"It's an additional but increasingly important argument for why we have to face up to working out how to provide a regulated market for cannabis."

Amanda Feilding of the Beckley Foundation, which is a charity that favors regulating rather than criminalizing drugs, said "Prohibitionist policies not only fail to meet their objectives but have inflicted significant social harms in the process."

According to U.N. estimates, about 190 million people around the world use cannabis, which equates to about 4 percent of the global adult population.

The authors of the book "Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate," which was published by Britain's Oxford University and Beckley Foundation, said vast numbers of arrests for possession of cannabis in several countries had little deterrent effect, but caused social division and pointless government expense.


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