In a recent study, investigators at the University of California in Berkeley (UCB) have taken a look at the consequences the Netherlands were facing for allowing the quasi-legal use of cannabis on its territory.
The results were more surprising than the researchers anticipated, for starters because they expected to see numerous negative results that were simply not there. The Netherlands has been allowing the semi-legal consumption of cannabis on its territory since 1976.
Over these past few decades, marijuana consumption in the small European country appears to have increased only slightly, contrary to what everyone expected to find. At the same time, the nation became a popular tourist attraction for its European neighbors.
Interestingly enough, current users are more likely to avoid picking up heavier drugs than their peers in other countries, including the United States. This hints at a culture where cannabis is used only for recreation, with people fully aware of the effects stronger drugs have.
In a study published in the latest issue of the esteemed journal Addiction, the UCB investigators say that other nations too should take example from Dutch coffee shops, where marijuana can be sold legally to anyone above the age of 18.
Jurisdictions around the world have a lot to learn from how these special shops are operated by the government, explains UCB professor Robert J. MacCoun, who holds joint appoints at the Goldman School of Public Policy and the School of Law.
Some of the most important factors to remember about this system, he explains, are the bans on advertising and marijuana cultivators by individuals. These two aspects are probably more efficient than other regulation methods, because they keep prices up.
These coffee shop systems also play a tremendously important part in separating heavy and light drug user communities apart, which further reduces the risk of marijuana users going through to the 'other side.' This positive aspect cannot be ignored, the team says.
The study also confirmed that Dutch citizens consume considerably less cannabis now that they have unlimited access to it, when compared to people in other European countries, and in the United States.
“There are daunting analytical challenges in making cross-national comparisons of drug policies and outcomes ,but if we want to identify more effective policies, we need to make comparisons across jurisdictions, and it is surely better to make provisional judgments than provincial ones,” MacCoun says.