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August 9, 2009

"Myths About High Times in America"

The title of this post is the headline of this interesting piece in the Washington Post by Ryan Grim, who is also the author of "This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America."  Here are two parts of the piece I found especially interesting:

Myth 3. Legalization will increase teen drug use.  But the children!  Californians fretted loudly in 1996 that the state's new medical marijuana law would lead to an increase in teen pot-smoking, so the state studied it closely.  The attorney general's first look a year later found no effect. The office looked again a decade later.  Teen use had collapsed. Among seventh- and 11th-graders, the number of kids saying they'd smoked in the last month fell by a quarter; among ninth-graders, it fell by 47 percent.  Bigger declines were found in weekly and annual use. In almost every other state that passed a medical marijuana law, pot-smoking among children declined faster than in states that didn't.

Myth 4. In foreign countries, legalization has been disastrous.  First, no country has ever completely legalized drugs, not since global treaties were signed a century ago ushering in prohibition. In Holland, drug laws are still on the books, but a social pact between the government and the people keeps shops from getting busted.

Portugal became the first European country to abolish drug laws when it repealed criminal penalties for pot, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine in 2001.  The world freaked: The United Nations suggested that the new law could be a treaty violation and would lead to crime, a spike in addiction and a rise in "drug tourism."  But the country didn't fully legalize.  People caught with drugs still had to go to a magistrate and face a small penalty.  But they wouldn't go to jail.

Now the United Nations is lauding Portugal.  In its most recent World Drug Report, it says, "These conditions keep drugs out of the hands of those who would avoid them under a system of full prohibition, while encouraging treatment, rather than incarceration, for users."  The report also noted that the policy had not led to an increase in drug tourism and that "a number of drug-related problems have decreased."

August 9, 2009 at 08:30 PM | Permalink


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Dadgummit, Doug (and Ryan Grim), there you go again trying to introduce facts and dispassionate analysis into the serious business of protecting our children and our public morals.

Posted by: Observer | Aug 10, 2009 11:11:12 AM

It is not a myth that cigarettes kill 400,000 and alcohol 100,000 people a year. Those are legal. So harm cannot be the true justification for abolition. The illegality of other substances has to be pretextual.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 10, 2009 3:11:46 PM

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