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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy
Canadian Senate Special Committee on Illegal Drugs
Volume 3 - Public Policy Options

 Chapter 21 - Public policy options


The title of this section includes our conclusion: if the aim of public policy is to diminish consumption and supply of drugs, specifically cannabis, all signs indicate complete failure. We agree with the conclusions from the Swiss studies that prohibiting cannabis use through the application of criminal law appears to have little, if any, influence on levels of use.

One may think the situation would be worse if not for current anti-drug action. This maybe so. Conversely, one may also think that the negative impact of anti-drug programs that are currently centre stage are greater than the positive effect, specifically non-compliance with laws inconsistent with majority attitudes and behaviour.

One of the reasons for this failure is the excessive emphasis placed on criminal law in a context where prohibition of use and a drug-free society appear to remain the omnipresent and determining direction of current public policies.

Does this mean nothing can be done? We do not believe so. Does it mean market forces should be allowed to rule as if drugs were goods like any other commodity, a solution suggested by some free-market advocates?[1][16]Certainly not. Psychoactive substances, including cannabis, alcohol, and medications, are not ordinary commodities. Although cannabis (see Chapter 7)does not have the deleterious effects that some people claim and is in some respects a less harmful substance than tobacco, it must be the subject of regulation and government intervention.

 The question raised by the patent and costly failure in human, social, and economic terms of Canada’s public policy direction to date, is what should be the direction and components of public policy on cannabis and, as a corollary, the role and direction of legislation. This is what is discussed in the following sections.



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