Dr. Frederik Polak, a Dutch psychiatrist asked a simple question from Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime: why the level of cannabis use is lower in the Netherlands, where cannabis is legally available for adults, than in many other countries with more restrictive drug policies?
According to Mr. Costa, "availability causes use", and the Dutch drug policy has failed. The whole international drug control system is based on the concept that criminalization is the only way to reduce drug use, crime and disease.
But is this true or false? Let's get the facts!
MYTH1: the level of cannabis use is significantly influenced by the criminal law, so countries with more restrictive drug policies have lower use levels than those countries that have lenient legislation on pot.
FACT1: according to the official statistics of the European Union’s drug monitoring agency (EMCDDA), there is no causal link between national drug legislation and the level of cannabis use in member states: countries with restrictive policy can have much higher use levels than countries with liberal policy. It is more probable that the level of cannabis use is influenced by various demographic, social and cultural factors.
Recent (last year) use of cannabis among young adults (15–34 years old) in Europe and the USA - Source: EMCDDA
MYTH2: if you allow legal availability of cannabis in a country, you can be sure that the level of use will go up – just like in the Netherlands, where cannabis use skyrocketed.
FACT2: in the Netherlands, where there is a legal availability of cannabis for adults, the level of cannabis use is close to the European average and much lower than in the United States, with its war on drugs approach. What is more, if you compare other key data from the Netherlands and from the US, you will see the real differences too.
Lifetime prevalence of marijuana use (ages 12+)
Past month prevalence of marijuana use (ages 12+)
Lifetime prevalence of heroin use (ages 12+)
Incarceration Rate per 100,000 population
Per capita spending on criminal justice system (in Euros)
Homicide rate per 100,000 population
Source: Drug War Facts
MYTH3: if we allow the legal sale of cannabis than we loose control over crime and violence.
FACT3: actually much of the crime and violence associated with drug use are caused by drug prohibition. The prohibition of alcohol in the United States provides and excellent example: do you think Al Capone and his friends could gain so much power and destroy so many lives without prohibition?