• Drug Law Reform

last modified March 5 by strypey

Claims and Counter-claims for Drug Law Reform

 Recreational Cannabis Use

1. Prohibition is falsely conflated with strict regulation. In fact the black market in illegal drugs is totally unregulated. Legalisation would lead to more regulation, licensing of growers and retailers, quality control, and an incentive to supply users with accurate information about the characteristics and potential harm of the drug being sold. 1. Because alcohol and tobacco are being more strictly regulated, it makes sense to keep cannabis, ecstasy and lsd illegal.

2. Evidence shows that cannabis does not significantly impair driving safety (unless combined with alcohol). Besides which, there is no evidence that removing criminal penalties for cannabis use, cultivation, or trade would motivate people to drive while high.

2009: R. Andrew Sewell, MD et al, 'The Effect of Cannabis Compared with Alcohol on Driving'

2. Cannabis law reform would lead to more road deaths
3. A regulated, legal market in cannabis could be more easily restricted to those over 18. In the current black market, people of any age can easily access cannabis, with no quality control, from gang-run 'tinny houses' in every town and city in the country. 3. Cannabis needs to be illegal to keep it away from children.

4. There is significant evidence that some of the active ingredients in cannabis have anti-cancer properties. The latest results of long term studies covering large groups of people in multiple countries show no evidence of a link between regular cannabis use and lung cancer.

2013: Zhang et al, 'Cannabis smoking and lung cancer risk: pooled analysis in the International Lung Cancer Consortium'

4. Cannabis use leads to lung cancer 
4a. Dangers related to inhaling smoke have been held to justify prohibition of candles, or  incense. Legalising would make it easier for users to access harm minimisation information, and equipment like water bongs, and vaporisers that reduce or eliminate the harmful parts of the smoke (which is mainly the tar). 4a. Like any activity which involves inhaling smoke, cannabis is damaging to the lungs.
5. Many pro-legalisation activists are non-smokers, including Greens co-leader Metiria Turei. 5. The desire to legalise cannabis is a faulty thought process caused by cannabis use. 
6.  Going to work while impaired by any drug, especially alcohol, and even immoderate use of caffeine, can lead to accidents. There is scant evidence that cannabis use is significant factor in workplace accidents, and no evidence that legalisation would motivate people to smoke while at work. 6. Cannabis law reform would lead to more workplace accidents. 
7. Any statistical relationship between cannnabis use and use of more dangerous drugs can be explained by the fact that in a black market the same dealers are often selling all the illegal drugs. Also, once users realise that the "reefer madness" hype about cannabis is untrue, they become distrustful of all mainstream information about drugs, and more willing to experiment. Thus, it is the prohibition of cannabis which exposes users to harder drugs, leading to the "gateway" effect. 7. Cannabis is a "gateway drug" which causes users to eventually move onto more harmful drugs.
8. Depression, suicidal tendencies, and other mental illness, can lead to cannabis misuse. Used correctly, cannabis can be an effective treatment for many mental illnesses. 8. Cannabis causes mental illness, such as depression, and can lead to suicide.

9. There is no evidence that cannabis plays any significant part in poor sexual health. The nature of cannabis effects make it high unlikely that users would be more promiscuous, or less safety conscious. Alcohol, with its disinhibiting, and mentally disorientating effects is the main drug factor in sexual impulsiveness.

 9. Cannabis is a factor in STDs and unwanted pregnancies. 

 (for claims 1-9, see second comment by Bob, and fourth comment by anonymous)  

11. While there has been some increase in the proportion of THC in some strains of cannabis, especially when grown in a controlled environment, all that can be said with certainty is cannabis is available in a range of strengths. Also, stronger cannabis just means that users smoke less volume of herbal cannabis to get the same effect, which
10. Cannabis is much strong now than it was in the 1970s, which makes it more dangerous.
12. Alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis
11. Cannabis is more dangerous than alcohol
12. Legalizing cannabis would have no significant effect on cannabis use
12. Legalizing cannabis would increase cannabis use
13. Legalizing cannabis would reduce alcohol use
13. Legalizing cannabis would have no significant effect on alcohol use
14. UN drug treaties do not prevent experimentation with different ways of regulating drugs
14. UN drug treaties prevent experimentation with different ways of regulating drugs


  Medicinal Cannabis Use

 1. Herbal cannabis is a good treatment for chronic nerve pain
 1. Herbal cannabis is not a good treatment for chronic nerve pain

Ecstasy (MDMA)

 1. Taking ecstasy is a highly dangerous activity
 1. Horse-riding is more dangerous than taking ecstasy

Points of Interest

  • note: a good source for many of the regular arguments for and against drug law reform can be found in this comment thread on KiwiBlog, and the Transform website (thanks Paula). Stephen adds "there was an issue of Norml News back in 2001 or so, that contained a list of excerpts from various studies, reports, etc that could be used to cite from in any argument... The other great resource for dealing with pat arguments is the book Marijuana Facts/Marijuana Myths."
  • Another set of "myths" and counter-evidence from a pro-reform perspective is presented on marijuana.com
  • The case for cannabis prohibition is presented in a document called 'Marijuana Myths and Facts: The Truth Behind 10 Popular Misperceptions', issued by the US Office of National Drug Control Policy 
  • The Global Commission on Drug Policy recently released a report recommending legalisation and regulation of all drugs, based on a number of expert papers 
  • Professor David Nutt and other members of the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs blog regularly on DrugScience