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|Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy|
|Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs|
|Volume I - General Orientation|
It is clear that there is some
association between psychoactive substances and crime. It is just as clear that
this link is much more complex than is sometimes thought, as Professor Brochu
pointed out during his testimony before the Committee.
Just in my office at the Université de Montréal, I have 2,973 studies that attempt to show a link between psycho-active substances and crime. Most of these studies come from the United States or from English-speaking countries, which tends to colour their perspective somewhat, since we know that our neighbours to the south have very clearly opted for a punitive approach to illegal drugs. What comes out of all these studies is that the link between drugs and crime is very complex. 
Since his testimony, Professor Brochu has released the study he mentioned to the Committee.
We can examine the drug-crime
relationship from at least three angles: the effects of the substance itself,
the effects of the cost of the substance, and the drug’s position in the
A significant proportion of
offenders have psychoactive substance abuse problems, predominantly with
alcohol. In fact, the study concludes that alcohol is the substance most
frequently associated with violent crime; in the case of crimes against
property, illegal drugs predominate. Cannabis ranked third (3% to 6% according
to the study), far behind alcohol (24%) and cocaine (8% to 11%).
With respect to the second approach,
the authors establish that between 17% and 24% of inmates committed a crime to
obtain the money needed to buy their substance of choice, most often cocaine.
Lastly, regarding the third
approach, because illegal drugs are marginalized, users are exposed to a
deviant environment. In the previous section we noted that, with regard to
cannabis, the fact that dealers can offer heroin or crack as well as cannabis
could promote a gateway trajectory towards these other drugs. Similarly, the
fact that these substances are illegal could contribute to leading people to a
trajectory of delinquency. Furthermore, the drug trafficking environment is a
relatively violent environment where a whole series of crimes are committed.
Lastly, the simple fact of selling cannabis is itself a criminal offence, and
we know that a certain number of people are imprisoned for doing so.
All in all, cannabis itself does not
lead to a trajectory of delinquency and it is more likely to be the other way
around: someone who embarks on a trajectory of delinquency when young is
exposed to illegal drugs more quickly and can experiment at a younger age and
begin a career as a user when younger.
Furthermore, simply because of its
relaxing and euphoristic psychoactive effects and its effect of relaxing muscle
tone, cannabis is hardly likely to lead to acts of violence.
Data from studies on long-term users
confirm this global picture of the relationship between cannabis and crime.
Thus, Cohen and Kaal noted that less than 5% of their respondents had
committed offences to obtain cannabis (pilfering, shoplifting, theft). The
offence committed most frequently in order to obtain cannabis was selling it.
In short, the Committee has learned
that cannabis is not a cause of violence or crime except in rare cases, and of
course excluding driving while under the influence, which will be dealt with in
Professor Serge Brochu, Université de Montréal, testimony before the
Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs, Canadian Senate, First Session of
the Thirty-Seventh Parliament, December 10, 2001, Issue 12, page 18.
 Pernanen, K. et al., (2002) Proportions of crimes associated with alcohol and other drugs in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.
Schaffer Library of Drug Policy
Major Studies of Drug and Drug Policy
Marihuana, A Signal of Misunderstanding - The Report of the US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
Licit and Illicit Drugs
Short History of the Marijuana Laws
The Drug Hang-Up
Congressional Transcripts of the Hearings for the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937
Frequently Asked Questions About Drugs
Basic Facts About the Drug War
Charts and Graphs about Drugs
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Guide to Heroin - Frequently Asked Questions About Heroin
LSD, Mescaline, and Psychedelics
Drugs and Driving
Children and Drugs
Drug Abuse Treatment Resource List
American Society for Action on Pain
Let Us Pay Taxes
Marijuana Business News
Reefer Madness Collection
Medical Marijuana Throughout History
Drug Legalization Debate
Legal History of American Marijuana Prohibition
Marijuana, the First 12,000 Years
DEA Ruling on Medical Marijuana
Legal References on Drugs
GAO Documents on Drugs
Response to the Drug Enforcement Agency
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