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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Twentieth Annual Report of the Research Advisory Panel - State of California



The Panel does not pretend to be able to suggest an ultimate solution to the problem of drug abuse and does not suggest that an ultimate solution be sought at this time. Instead, we suggest a phased approach based upon the above principles of differentiating drugs and their problems that would initially achieve minor change but would demonstrate to the public that the minor change involved would not be accompanied by any significant increase in use or other damage. Since the Panel does not pretend to have the ultimate solution it suggests that the outcome of such legislation be monitored closely.

Not only the traditional legislative responses, but most current proposals in the area of drug abuse legislation, are almost entirely in the direction of being increasingly more restrictive and vengeful. One can surmise this is a result of an apparent fear of being labeled "soft on drugs." Existing legislation, like prohibition itself, should be considered essentially a failure but one from which we can learn. Prohibition was characterized at the time as a "noble experiment," a judgment with which most of us would now agree. This noble experiment, however, was unsuccessful and after less than a generation was terminated. The intent of the 18th Amendment was beyond criticism and the effort was indeed noble, did accomplish a decrease in alcohol consumption, and could be used to justify additional experimental approaches. However, the experiment was unsuccessful in that the American public did not support enforcement and the illegal market generated an amount of associated criminal activity in the 1920's that was unacceptable to the public.

We are currently at a similar point in our history where much of the leadership and a considerable fraction of the public are coming to question whether prohibition is not equally unproductive in coping with the drug problems. Clearly the marijuana laws are unenforceable in the face of the attitudes and practices of a significant fraction of the population.

The Panel then suggests areas in which initial steps can be taken to prevent individual tragedies and unclog our judicial system. Should any of the ideas prove less than optimal, the legislation can be modified as easily as the Volstead Act was terminated. If the changes are successful, they will serve to demonstrate to the citizenry of California that different drugs can be viewed differently, that some decriminalization may be beneficial to the general public, and that they can be developed without great or irreversible harm.

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