Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

October 26, 2007

Exposing A Myth About Drug Legalization

by Doug Mataconis

One of the most common retorts from opponents of drug legalization is that making drugs available legally would lead to increased use.

Well, if Britain’s experience with the decriminalization is any indication, they’ve got it completely wrong:

Gordon Brown’s plans to tighten the law on cannabis by increasing the penalties for possession suffered a fresh blow yesterday as the latest official figures showed the decision to downgrade the drug had been followed by a significant fall in its use.

British Crime Survey statistics showed that the proportion of 16- to 24-year-olds using cannabis slumped from 28% a decade ago to 21% now, with its declining popularity accelerating after the decision to downgrade the drug to class C was announced in January 2004.

(…)

Since cannabis was downgraded the proportion of young people using it has fallen each year from 25.3% in 2003-4 to 20.9% now. Among those aged 16 to 59, the proportion over the same period has fallen from 10.8% to 8.2%.

Why might something like this happen ? Well, once illegal drugs loose their taboo status, their allure for some people, especially young people, suddenly goes away.

So the next time some drug warrior tells you that legalization will result in a nation of drug addicts, you can tell him that it ain’t necessarily so.

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  • AT QB

    Doug,
    Not that I disagree with your point, but the posession and dealing of class C drugs is still punishable as a criminal offense in the UK according to this website.

    http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/drugs/drugs-law/Class-a-b-c/

    Therefore, this statement over-states your point:
    “Well, if Britain’s experience with the decriminalization is any indication, they’ve got it completely wrong:”

  • http://www.mapinc.org/writer/Muse Kirk Muse

    If all types of recreational drugs were re-legalized and sold in regulated, controlled and taxed business establishments for pennies per
    dose, our overall crime rate would decline dramatically and our public safety would increase substantially.

    And, I believe, that our overall drug usage rates would decline substantially. That’s because drug dealers as we know them today would disappear for economic reasons.

    The first time almost all drug users use a particular drug, they don’t buy it — either a friend or drug dealer gives it to them.

    Most retail drug dealers of hard drugs are addicts themselves. They sell drugs to finance their own drug habit and recruit new users by offering free samples to potential customers. With the end of drug prohibition this practice would end.

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