This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.
Yet I understand that the liberal laws on cannabis in Holland are thought now to be a problem for them and they are thinking of modifying them - based on practical experience.
It is more than just the drug itself but something more?
If anyone has any information on this I'd be pleased for the links.
Incidentally, we could advocate banning tobacco and alcohol but the government derives a great deal of taxation from these and they try to find the maximum tax level that does not cause an actual reduction in the tax revenues (or cause people to get uppity e.g. fuel tax causing lorry drivers to blockade the M25) and it is noticable that what high taxes does is create crime. Smuggling and theft of fuels from farms, for example, but the only action taken By Gordo was to increase Customs staffing to prevent people bring the stuff in from overseas when he noticed a tax revenue fall off.
We should never trust our governments motives for anything, least of all when they tell us it is for our own good.
What government advisory panels are supposed to do is to provide "evidence" that supports policy, not evidence that informs it.
I think we've been here before.
Professor Nut is guilty of great naivety.
One point that seems to be lost on the anti-drugs legislators is that drugs only have the neurological effects they have because either they're chemically identical to the peptides and neurotransmitters produced naturally in the brain, or they trigger an increase of these substances. If cells didn't have receptors for those molecules then the drugs would have no effect.
Cocaine, for example, works by inhibiting the re-uptake of dopamine, thereby increasing dopamine levels, and it's the latter which produces the 'high'.
But the effects of having an orgasm, or falling in love, are also caused by increased dopamine levels, so the 'high' is identical to a cocaine 'high'. Amphetamines work by triggering the release of dopamine so, once again, the effect is the same.
So having sex or falling in love have the same effects, and lead to the same sort of irrational and reckless behaviour and addiction, as snorting cocaine. But the one's legal and the other isn't.
I'm rather concerned by the number of commenters on this thread who seem to take it as read that a drug should be banned just because it might (does) harm you. In my not exactly humble opinion my intelligence is at least equal to that of legislators, and I shall thank them to mind their own business in the matter of what strange and curious substances I might wish to put into my own body. Their sole legitimate concern is whether my actions affect others, as would be the case were I to blow smoke all over them in a confined space (a harmless but deeply unpleasant action) or to become so reckless as to decide in my cups to do a little pistol target practice down the High Street on a Saturday afternoon. Should I wish to sit at home with revolving eyes murmuring "Hey, the colours, man", even if by doing so I am shortening my life by [fill in suitably terrifying number of] years, that is nothing whatever to do with anyone outside the circle of my nearest and dearest, which legislators most certainly are.
If such bans a) worked and b) were harmless strutting by the incurably bossy whose incompetence is matched only by their venality, one could grit one's teeth and (perhaps) go along with it, but as several have remarked above they are far from harmless.
Mention has been made already of the hardships endured by producers of cocaine at the hands of the criminal syndicates (although whether such hardships are noticeably different from those inflicted by the "legitimate" "governments" in those parts of the world is moot), but what most people tend to skate over is the fact that the criminal gangs only thrive because cocaine is illegal. Were a free market to operate, the likes of Tesco would drive the cost of production so low that there would be no profit in it for any middlemen, let alone drugs "barons". Perversely, also, it would probably become less pervasive, since common observation shows that experimenting with drugs occurs mainly during late adolescence and early adulthood in the rebellious phase of growing up. Hence, as Oscar Wilde (who knew a thing or two about bans) said "As long as [war] is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular."
Let's do a quick cost/benefit analysis:
Enforcement - Astronomical. Financial, economic and social (increased central government powers and wholesale loss of liberty).
Personal - Catastrophic. Since drugs are illegal a black market grows up with prices controlled by gangsters. None of the normal legal/social controls on business operate, so "companies" grow by outright warfare, catching the innocent in crossfire and leading to subsidiary criminal activities like arms smuggling. The addict, because he is a criminal, is unwilling to seek medical help and cannot hold down a job (because of the danger of colleagues noticing, etc.) and so is forced into petty crime to pay the excessively high prices demanded (with menaces!). This affects the rest of society.
International - Disastrous. American meddling in South America and the current nonsense in Afghanistan have cost literally millions of lives. Since the opium poppy is about all that will grow in Afghanistan the better option would be for pharmaceutical companies to buy the crop and use it as feedstock for a whole range of drugs. At the moment doctors in the West are reluctant to prescribe opiates for pain relief in case someone steals some or (heaven forbid!) enjoys a high.
Enforcement - Nil.
Personal - Unlimited access to cheap drugs will cause a temporary rise in OD deaths, until the fact that they are cheap, legal and vulgar sinks in and people turn away from the more dangerous ones. There is no incentive for dealers to develop ever more addictive forms (crack cocaine) in order to hook their victims. If government sees an increase in a particular drug it can flood the market and put the criminals out of business.
International - With no "morally" driven agenda, many of the barriers between nations can start to fall.
A contentious issue.
Users tend to downplay the negatives and non-users perhaps overstate the problems.
However, the idea that Tescos would soon reduce it to the vulgar does not appear to be the Dutch experience.
It is worthwhile comparing this report/article from 1999 which tends to suggest this is the way forward and would soon become a model for EU legislation -
Then look at how things are in this 2008 report (http://www.braha.org/en/drug-law/1272) which says that TCH has risen to around 20%.
It says(despite being illegal to supply to under 18s):
"...cannabis use among Holland’s 14- and 15-year-old high-school students rose sharply between 1984 and 1996."
"Twenty odd years ago, the Netherlands was comparatively free of international drug-trafficking criminals. Today, Holland has become an illegal drug producing and distributing giant, a devastating threat not only to the Netherlands but across Europe."
It also says:
"Heroin addiction, virtually unknown in the Netherlands prior to the policy change, has escalated, with the number of addicts estimated by the Netherlands’ Institute of Mental Health (called the Trimbos Institute) to be 25,000. An estimated 12,000 addicts are being treated in methadone-maintenance programs."
Now the fact that these reports are separated by 9 years doesn't necessarily mean they represent a changing perspective, its just they were two illustrative reports that came up. For all I know both reports if repeated in both 1999 and 2008 might show both sets of authors unchanged in their attitudes.
But I doubt life would be as simple as you would suggest Disputin.
Nothing ever is.
In the closing sentence the report says:
"...observers are left wondering if the longed-for benefits of legalization were just wishful thinking."
JMW - You expect me to describe life, the universe and everything in one posting??? (No, 42 is not acceptable).
Of course nothing is that simple and in this case the Dutch experience was inevitably corrupted by outside influences. Naturally, given a tolerated base, drugs syndicates from elsewhere were going to come in and fill their boots. The Netherlands' mistake appears to have been not to have taken effective steps to minimise the incentives for cross-border trafficking, like for instance saying "you can import freely, but if we catch you trying to export to a territory where it is illegal we'll hang you" (Whoops, sorry, 'risk a violation of your Human Rights'). Also a policy of summary deportation to the country affected might also have helped. Naturally such an option was not available to a member of the EU.
As well as criminals, numerous foreigners also came to try it out, so it might be interesting to see figures on native vs. foreign indulgers. Nonetheless there doesn't seem to have been a major collapse of society due to drugs use.
Let us not forget either that the Dutch system is one of tolerance, not legalisation. Banned for under-18s, so what did you expect 12-15-year-olds to do. Don't these people have children? To my mind it is a typical case of half-measures preserving the bad without allowing the good points to emerge.
Remember that the British Empire rose to the peak of its power and prestige with half the ruling classes addicted to laudanum and worse. Only when we started to regulate drugs use did we start to go down the tubes. As I said before, government has no business meddling with free people unless it can show clear, unambiguous and immediate harm to third parties. If the natural culls wish to remove themselves from the gene pool by self abuse, that is a positive benefit for the rest of us in an overcrowded world. (Pace the Chief Rabbi)
I seem to have understated the matter of the use of death certificate data, so I have added a note.
I understand the practically everybody who does not die immediately from extreme violence or trauma actually dies of heart failure. We go on being seriously ill until the heart cannot keep beating. So, depending on your point of view, the cause of death could be 'going out without a scarf on', 'influenza', 'pneumonia' or 'heart failure'.
Heinlein once said in a book "In the end all forms of death could be considered 'heart failure'" after a Gestapo type tells the protagonist that the protagonist's elder friend had died of a 'weak' heart.
Book was "Between Planets".
Disputin: "....but what most people tend to skate over is the fact that the criminal gangs only thrive because cocaine is illegal. Were a free market to operate, the likes of Tesco would drive the cost of production so low that there would be no profit in it for any middlemen, let alone drugs "barons"...."
I'm sort of with Disputin on this. Funny really, we just don't learn from Prohibition which was a largely altruistic movement (just like all our banners) unfortunately due to the law of unexpected consequences, making something difficult/expensive to acquire raises the price and gives rise to crime - almost certainly worse than the good intentions of the banners.
As I recall, before all the criminalization, the law regarding drug addicts was that they could obtain their supplies from their doctor as a requirement or palliative for their symptoms and thereby live a "normal" life. Unfortunately after criminalisation we set in train a most appalling situation of global crime and all that follows. Not to mention the addicts turning to crime to get money in order to feed their habits.