April 12, 2001
Economists Slam War on
Cost-Effectiveness of Incarceration Doubtful,
National Academy of Sciences Report Says
DC: America now spends twice as much money annually to combat illegal
drugs as it spent fighting the Persian Gulf War, yet there is no evidence
indicating that existing policies are either working or cost-effective, charge
authors of a newly released study by the National Research Council.
“It is unconscionable for this country to continue to carry out a public policy of this magnitude and cost without any way of knowing whether, and to what extent, it is having the desired result,” said Charles Manski, chief author of the report, and a Board of Trustees Professor in Economics at Northwestern University. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) commissioned the study in 1998.
According to the report, drug enforcement activities — which comprise the bulk of federal and state anti-drug efforts — have grown exponentially since 1980. Authors note that there are now 12 times as many drug offenders in state prisons than there were in 1980, and that police arrest approximately 1.6 million Americans per year on drug charges, three times as many as they did 20 years ago. Government funding to pay for these activities has grown from 1.5 billion in 1980 to nearly 20 billion today. Nevertheless, “the nation is in no better position to evaluate the effectiveness of enforcement than it was 20 years ago, when the recent intensification of enforcement began,” the report said.
Allen St. Pierre, Executive Director of The NORML Foundation, cited these conclusions as further evidence that existing anti-drug strategies — particularly criminal penalties on the use and possession of marijuana — must be re-evaluated. “Taxpayers spend between $7.5 and $10 billion annually arresting and prosecuting individuals for marijuana violations,” St. Pierre said. “Almost 90 percent of these arrests are for marijuana possession only. This is a clear misapplication of the criminal sanction and a tremendous waste of fiscal resources.”
Prepublication copies of the report, entitled “Informing America’s Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don’t Know Keeps Hurting Us,” are available online from the National Academy of Sciences at: http://www.nas.edu. The National Research Council is a branch of the NAS.
For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Foundation Executive Director, at (202) 483-8751.
NORML Responds to Canadian Plan To
License and Regulate Medical Marijuana
U.S. Government Could Learn By Example, NORML Says
DC: Canadian regulations issued last week which authorize the use and
cultivation of medical marijuana are a positive step for patients who need it to
relieve their pain and suffering, NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq.
“This proposal, though far from perfect, is a legitimate attempt by Parliament to license and regulate the use of medical marijuana for seriously ill patients,” he added. “It is ironic that Health Canada issued these regulations only days after our own government told America’s highest court that marijuana has no acceptable medical value, a position that runs contrary not only to the scientific evidence, but also to worldwide public opinion. U.S. officials would be better advised to follow Canada’s lead and reschedule marijuana to permit its licensed use and distribution to those patients whose doctors recommend it.”
According to statements published in Friday’s Canada Gazette, the proposed regulations will “provide seriously ill Canadian patients with access to marijuana while it is being researched as a possible medicine.” Health Canada issued the regulations in response to a recent Ontario Court of Appeals ruling that found marijuana prohibition to be unconstitutional because it failed to provide an exception for medical use. The Court ordered Parliament to implement rules allowing for patients to use marijuana by July 31, 2001.
The proposal authorizes patients to grow and use marijuana under “special medical circumstances only.” Qualifying patients must suffer from a terminal illness or suffer from symptoms associated with a serious medical condition such as AIDS or multiple sclerosis. Patients who find symptomatic relief from marijuana, but who are not terminal, must possess the recommendation of a general practitioner and a medical specialist certifying that they have found all other alternative therapies to be ineffective.
Stroup said it was unfortunate that Canadian health officials were holding marijuana up to a higher standard than other medications. “The traditional yardstick for legal medications is that they demonstrate safety and medical efficacy. Marijuana should not be held up to a different standard.”
Under the guidelines, qualifying patients will be allowed to possess a 30-day supply of marijuana at one time. Either the patients or their recognized caregiver will be permitted to grow marijuana for medical use.
In the past year, Canadian officials have implemented several policy changes to address the medical marijuana issue. Last year, Parliament issued a contract to a private Saskatoon firm to grow marijuana for medical research, and began issuing legal exemptions to individual patients who use marijuana as a medicine. Health Canada will no longer issue exemptions once the proposed regulations take effect.
The public has 30 days to comment on the proposed rules, which appear online at: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb-dgps/therapeut/zfiles/english/schedule/gazette.i/marihuana_e.pdf.
For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500.
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