Is cannabis use really so harmful?
Ali Palali, Jan van Ours 01 May 2014
There is a robust positive association between support for cannabis liberalisation and cannabis use, but it is unclear whether users have discovered that cannabis is innocuous, or if these types are inherently more liberal regarding drug policy. This column exploits variations in opinion between current and former cannabis users to work towards establishing causality. Results suggest that supporters of liberalisation are speaking from experience rather than personal interest.
Cannabis is prohibited in many countries. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (2013) discusses several alternatives to prohibition, varying from decriminalisation to regulation and legalisation.
cannabis, regulation, Prohibition, drug policy, legalisation, decriminalisation
Easy access to cannabis is tempting
Jan van Ours, Ali Palali 12 October 2013
The decriminalisation of cannabis is a policy that divides policymakers sharply. This column uses evidence from the Netherlands to show a positive connection between early cannabis use and easy access to cannabis through coffeeshops. The policy implications, however, require further research. Closing coffeeshops could result in some potential users searching in the black market where hard drugs are available as well.
Although worries about cannabis are usually based on prevalence rates of cannabis use in the population, age of the first use of cannabis is important as well. Early onset age of cannabis may have serious short-term and long-term negative effects on individuals. Previous studies find that early cannabis use increases the intensity of use and the probability of subsequent drug use (Yamaguchi and Kandel 1984). Van Ours and Williams (2007) find using Australian data that individuals who start using cannabis early in life are less likely to quit at later ages.
Health economics Microeconomic regulation
cannabis, Netherlands, Prohibition, legalisation, drugs, decriminalisation
The long and winding road to cannabis legalisation
Jan van Ours 06 December 2011
In many Western countries, between one quarter and one third of the population admit to having used cannabis at least once in their lives – according to the official statistics. This column provides an in-depth review of existing economic, social, and media evidence for and against legalisation. It concludes that although there is of course uncertainty surrounding the long-term implications, prohibition is not working and it is time to legalise.
Although some countries have quasi-legalised cannabis use (the Netherlands), made cannabis available for medical purposes (California), or allowed the growing of a small number of cannabis plants for personal use (Australia), in most countries – the Netherlands included – cannabis supply, distribution, and use is prohibited (Reuter 2010). Nevertheless, in 2009, between 2.8% and 4.5% of the world population aged 15-64, corresponding to between 125 million and 203 million people had used cannabis at least once in the past year (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime 2011).
cannabis, Prohibition, drug policy, legalisation
What should we do about cannabis?
Stephen Pudney 09 November 2010
More than one in five Europeans has taken cannabis at some point in their lives. This column explores the issues facing policymakers trying to deal with marijuana.
No serious commentator doubts that cannabis is potentially damaging to the user. Like tobacco, it is typically smoked and thus shares the potential for lung disease. Like alcohol, it affects reaction times and may raise the risk of road accidents. Cannabis has also been associated with cognitive impairment, deterioration in education performance (van Ours and Williams 2008), and psychotic illness (Arsenault 2004). Moreover, cannabis is often – albeit contentiously – seen as a causal gateway to more serious drug use (Kandel 2002). The question is what to do about it?
cannabis, Prohibition, drug policy