|Is Legalization and Prevention Better Than Getting Tough With Drugs?|
|Topic||Supply and Demand; Economic Analysis|
|Key Words||Britain, drugs, law, rehabilitation, penalty, costs|
|News Story||Three years ago, the British government decided to downgrade the legal status of cannabis (marijuana) from a Class B to Class C drug, reflecting attitudes toward the drug. Now the government, in the midst of a “get tough on drugs” campaign, is considering reversing the move. Is it a good idea?
More adults in Britain smoke marijuana than in any other European country except Switzerland, and rivals other countries in consumption of cocaine, heroine and alcohol. While total consumption of all drugs has declined since 1998, most of that can be attributed to a decline in consumption of marijuana. Consumption of all other drugs has increased, however; this has happened in conjunction with past “get tough” criminal programs as well as a significant reduction in the price of cocaine.
It’s not clear, unfortunately, how many people are deterred by “get tough” programs, and how many users of one drug upgrade to another drug. And while it may be difficult to completely eliminate drug use through government programs, it may be possible to reduce some of the more dangerous social implications. For example, a program designed to allow heroin users to exchange needles and other equipment has resulted in a reduction in drug use-related deaths over the last five years. It is hoped that a program that targets youths who may be inclined to take risks to do so more safely will result in similar successes.
Unfortunately, reducing the number of deaths from taking drugs isn’t the same thing as reducing consumption. But those types of programs help eliminate the larger social cost, if not the individual costs. And that’s a good start, at least.
|Source||“Prescription Renewal.” The Economist, July 26th, 2007.|
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