- Author Jonathan Sun
- Published March 22, 2012
- Word count 800
By adopting a less intrusive system for legalization of marijuana use in the United States as the Dutch have in place, according to UC Berkley law professor Robert MacCoun, could create savings in our criminal justice system. “I don’t think it would happen overnight”, said Professor MacCoun, who has studied the differing policies of marijuana use in other countries for over a decade. His study also shows no significant overuse has occurred due to this policy. They also seem less inclined to harder drugs.
The study, created by the Professor of Law and Policy, is centered on the question, “would Dutch marijuana polices benefit the US”. The policy in the Netherlands is not a policy of legalized marijuana use, but a part legal, part prohibition policy, that allows citizens of the Netherlands limited personal use of marijuana in controlled settings, such as the Dutch coffee and cannabis shops.
Allowing proprietors of coffee cannabis shops to sell a small amount of marijuana to adult citizens of the Netherlands, Dutch officials have reported that the percentage of illegal purchase from illegal street dealers has fallen. The study suggests that being able to legally buy and use the drug, while enjoying it leisurely, eliminates illegal drug pushers, who are likely trying to push harder drugs on a buyer.
Dutch laws separates drugs in to categories. Marijuana falls into a soft drug category, while drugs like cocaine and heroin are classified as hard drugs. When someone, who wishes to enjoy marijuana, doesn’t have to resort to a dark alley for the purchase, then they won’t fall prey to dealers that tempt customers to try harder drugs. This separation of specific drugs seems to make sense, and Dutch officials believe they have hit on a way to curb much of the activity of the darker drug world.
Recently these popular coffee cannabis shops have cut out a lot of trade by not allowing tourist to enter. While no minors have access to the shops, now it’s officially a place for only legally aged Dutch citizens. This policy has seen increase in marijuana use overall, but Professor MacCoun’s study doesn’t report that it has added to the country’s health issues. Recent years have shown the shops that sell marijuana have dropped by a considerable percent.
There is much more to their policy than meets the eye initially. The shops are off limit to anyone under the age of eighteen, and the shops are not allowed to advertise. There are also restrictions in place, and strictly enforced. This has led to shop owners to stay in line with the requirements in order to stay in business.
When the question of would these Dutch policies on marijuana benefit the US, one has to consider that adopting such policies here would mean making them work within the freedoms that Americans enjoy day-to-day. The First Amendment right of free speech to all citizens, individual and commercial, would likely challenge any talk of limiting commercial speech Any legal business in the US has the right to advertise its products.
The ongoing study has also gained much insight into the statistics of marijuana use in teenagers in America compared to those in the Netherlands. Dutch teens believe they have less sources for marijuana, and the percentage rate of illegal use of marijuana is lower there than in the US. It very well could be that, with a semi-legal market to sell marijuana, the youth of the Netherlands are finding it harder to find a seller on a street corner. One shouldn’t be surprise to find that some teenagers have found adults to secure the drug for them, however, but given that adults can only buy a very small personal quantity, around five grams, the percentage of teen use stills remains low.
Would the US benefit from a policy that allows a half legal, half prohibited use of marijuana? The negative attitude of the Netherlands’ neighboring countries suggests that not every area of Europe thinks highly of cannabis coffee shops. Indeed, these countries are rallying for a complete shutdown of the shops, and in a way, may be getting their way. Due to a change in the political face of the Netherlands, from a liberal led government, to more right-wing politicians aboard, the cut back on the number of shops selling marijuana has drastically cut back, and policy on selling to tourists has changed.
MacCoun stands firm his opinion, that by studying policies on drug use in other countries, we find ways to better current policies. He stresses that discussions on legalization of marijuana should focus on middle ground solutions. It is useless to take the stand that any talk of policy change on marijuana policy endorses the extreme policy of allowing marijuana to hit the free market as a hot market product.