Drugs policy - what should we do about cannabis?
Public policy has failed to prevent large-scale consumption of cannabis in most
developed countries. So what, if anything, should we do to change the policy
environment? Cannabis consumption is unambiguously harmful in several ways,
but this does not automatically justify the prohibitionist policy dictated by the
international drugs conventions. This paper sets out the arguments for policy
intervention in the cannabis market and reviews the directions of policy change
that have been called for. We argue that existing theoretical insights and empirical
evidence give little compelling reason to prefer prohibition to the alternative
of legalization of cannabis with harms controlled by regulation and taxation.
Given this conclusion and the much wider prevalence of cannabis than of harder
drugs, a reasonable way forward is to remove cannabis production and consumption
(but not trade) from the current prohibitionist UN drug control
treaties, to allow countries to adopt their own policies, thus generating new evidence
on the potential impacts of a wider range of policy.
Volume and page numbers
25 (61): 165-211 , 165 -212
Economic Policy: Forty-Ninth Panel Meeting, 24-25 April 2009, Brussels; Albert Sloman Library Periodicals *restricted to Univ. Essex registered users*