Article by Richard Cowan
There is a growing international recognition that marijuana prohibition is a disastrous failure, but it is worse than that. It is a counterproductive fraud that is aggravating all of the problems that it is supposed to solve, and it creates incentives to underestimate the extent of the problems.
As the authors of the new analysis from Bristol and Public Health England, say, the “illegality of illicit drug use means gauging true usage is difficult and leads to underestimates.
Bristol Drugs Project works with people with substance abuse problems and recently did a survey that indicated that almost two-thirds of young adults (under the age of 25) in Britain have taken an illegal drug at least once in their lifetimes. Cannabis being the largest component, and has been taken by 60.5 percent of people, up significantly from the lower estimate of 37.3 per cent, the study finds.
The British tabloid, The Daily Mail reports that number for all illicit drug use is actually 22.2 percent higher than official data from the Crime Survey England and Wales which informs Government policy.”
Unsurprisingly, “amphetamine is the most under-reported drug, with the new study finding almost one in three (32.9 per cent) of 24-year-olds” have taken it, which was four times the rate reported that in the Crime Survey.
Surprise! Surprise! The key point is that it is very difficult to measure illegal or stigmatized activities. Even cannabis use.
However, this survey also revealed something not explicitly asked. Cannabis is sold in the same illicit market with the other illegal drugs, like amphetamines, and both are greatly underreported.
International comparisons are difficult to measure because different countries ask different questions at different times. Moreover, there is far less incentive to lie about cannabis use in the Netherlands than in England.
Of course, whatever the problems with cannabis, they pale in comparison with alcoholism. The Telegraph reports, “Alcohol-related hospital admissions rise by 45 per cent in a decade, as charities warn of further cuts to treatment services.”
“Alcohol-related hospital admissions have risen by 45 per cent in a decade, new figures show: In 2018-19 there were 1,261,907 hospital admissions where the primary or any secondary reason for admission was linked to alcohol in England, compared to 863,300 in 2008.”
Two years ago, the BBC reported “420: Seven charts on how cannabis use has changed” showing that punishments for its possession have plummeted in recent years in England and Wales…. Today cannabis is classified as a Class B – or middle-risk – substance. Despite this, prosecutions are lower than when it was considered a low-risk, Class C drug in 2008.”
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Some things will sound very familiar to Americans: “Stop and searches disproportionately affect black people, who are nine times more likely to be searched for drugs than white individuals.”
So what is cannabis prohibition accomplishing in Britain? They have underestimated use by almost 50%. It has a use rate higher than in many other countries. It is sold in the same markets with hard drugs, such as meth. And it is a major source of racist law enforcement.
Richard Cowan is a former NORML National Director and author of What Are The Benefits Of Using Organic CBD Oil?