Snapshot of some of the impact of the ever increasing liberalisation of drug use: Cannabis

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“Permissibility, availability and accessibility all increase consumption.” Dalgarno Institute

The pro-drug lobby has been relentlessly pushing the liberalization of drug use for about 25 years. Whilst the vast majority of people stay clear of illicit drugs, the push for Cannabis use has been aided and abetted by first medical marijuana (a Trojan Horse if ever there was one) and the ‘giving up’ on demand reduction strategies — especially aggressive and fully government supported education against cannabis. Cannabis use was in decline up until the ‘medical marijuana con’ got traction, this trend has reversed because a growing and completely false perception that ‘dope’ is relatively harmless.

The following is just a snapshot of the impact of this ‘it’s harmless really’ ideology has had on our communities.

Some USA Data

According to NSDUH survey data, the number of people reporting current (past month) marijuana use increased 21 percent from 2007 to 2011. In each of those years, the number of people reporting marijuana abuse was greater than for all other drugs combined.

  • DAWN (Drug Abuse Warning Network — SAMHSA) data show there was a 59 percent increase in marijuana-related emergency department visits between 2006 (290,565) and 2010 (461,028). Marijuana was second only to cocaine for illicit drug-related emergency department visits in 2010.
  • According to Monitoring the Future (MTF) data, between 2008 and 2012 there was a steady decline in the percentage of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders who view trying marijuana once or twice, smoking marijuana occasionally, or smoking marijuana regularly as high-risk behavior. The most pronounced decline in viewing marijuana use as risky behavior occurred among 10th graders.
  • Marijuana-related treatment admissions increased 14 percent between 2006 (310,155) and 2010 (353,271), according to TEDS data.

In 2012, marijuana availability appeared to be increasing throughout the United States, most likely because of increased domestic cannabis cultivation and sustained high levels of production in Mexico. Additionally, marijuana potency is increasing. According to the Potency Monitoring Project, the average percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the constituent that gives marijuana its potency, increased 37 percent from 2007 (8.7 percent) to 2011 (11.9 percent).

Taken from: USA National Drug Threat Assessment 2013 summary

Some UK findings

We evaluate the impact of a policing experiment that depenalized the possession of small quantities of cannabis in the London borough of Lambeth, on hospital admissions related to illicit drug use. To do so, we exploit administrative records on individual hospital admissions classified by ICD-10 diagnosis codes. These records allow the construction of a quarterly panel data set by London borough running from 1997 to 2009 to estimate the short and long run impacts of the depenalization policy unilaterally introduced in Lambeth between 2001 and 2002.

We find the depenalization of cannabis had significant longer term impacts on hospital admissions related to the use of hard drugs, raising hospital admission rates for men by between 40 and 100% of their pre-policy baseline levels. Among Lambeth residents, the impacts are concentrated among men in younger age cohorts, and among those with no prior history of hospitalization related to illicit drug or alcohol use. The dynamic impacts across cohorts vary in profile with some cohorts experiencing hospitalization rates remaining above pre-intervention levels six years after the depenalization policy is introduced.

We find evidence of smaller but significant positive spill-over effects in hospitalization rates related to hard drug use among residents in boroughs neighbouring Lambeth, and these are again concentrated among younger cohorts without prior histories of hospitalizations related to illicit drug or alcohol use. We combine these estimated impacts on hospitalization rates with estimates on how the policy impacted the severity of hospital admissions to provide a lower bound estimate of the public health cost of the depenalization policy.

… Our results suggest policing strategies have significant, nuanced and lasting impacts on public health. In particular our results provide a note of caution to moves to adopt more liberal approaches to the regulation of illicit drug markets, as typically embodied in policies such as the depenalization of cannabis. While such policies may well have numerous benefits such as preventing many young people from being criminalized (around 70% of drug-related criminal offences relate to cannabis possession in London over the study period), allowing the police to reallocate their effort towards other crime types and indeed reduce total crime overall [Adda et al., 2011], there remain potentially offsetting costs related to public health that also need to be factored into any cost benefit analysis of such approaches.

Policing Cannabis and Drug Related Hospital Admissions: Evidence from Administrative Records; Elaine Kelly & Imran Rasul, October 2012


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