It’s essentially fundamental doctrine amongst prohibitionists to counter any attempt to liberalize current drug laws with an irrational reaction over widespread use and addiction. The problem with this line of reasoning, however, is the presupposition of drug prohibition reducing the demand for drugs. Under the punitive drug laws in the United States, drugs are used in greater numbers than that of any other country on the planet.
When Portugal officially decriminalized the personal possession and use of all drugs over ten years ago, these same arguments were made. Portuguese politicians even went as far as to claim that by instituting the decriminalization regime, their country would descend into an unseemly haven for drug tourism. But nothing like that came to fruition. In comparison to other European Union nations, the available data from Portugal shows drug usage levels either remaining similar or slightly decreasing since decriminalization.
Further complicating the picture for drug warriors is new research regarding the relationship of medical marijuana laws on reported marijuana use. Using data gathered from NSDUH survey’s estimating state-level marijuana use between 2002 and 2009, researchers at Montreal’s McGill University, “used difference-in-differences regression models to estimate the causal effect of MMLs [medical marijuana laws] on marijuana use….” Recently published online in the journal of Annals of Epidemiology, the study found:
“If anything, our estimates suggest that reported adolescent marijuana use may actually decrease following the passing of medical marijuana laws. […] Once we control for any unmeasured state characteristics that do not change over time, we find very little evidence that passing medical marijuana laws increases reported use, among adolescents or any other age group.
In summary, while we replicated the findings of Wall and colleagues that marijuana use was higher in states that have passed medical marijuana laws, our analysis suggests this is unlikely to be a causal association. Our difference-in-differences estimates suggest little detectable effects of passing medical marijuana laws on marijuana use or perceived riskiness of use among adolescents or adults, which is consistent with some limited prior evidence on arrestees and emergency department patients. ”
As NORML’s Paul Armentano notes, not only does this study contradict public statements by current drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, it also corroborates the findings of previous research on the subject.
The question then begs: Will this new study caution the willingness of drug warriors to traffic in their classic ‘legalizing drugs will lead to massive drug use, addiction, and widespread social disorder’ trope? Don’t count on it.