Washington, DC -- Marking the 74th anniversary of the repeal of national Alcohol Prohibition, StoptheDrugWar.org (DRCNet) on Tuesday released polling results suggesting that drug prohibition's main supporting argument may be simply wrong. Drug policy reformers point to a wide range of demonstrated social harms created by the drug laws -- crime and violence, spread of infectious diseases, official corruption, easy funding for terrorist groups, to name a few -- while prohibitionists argue that use and addiction would explode if drugs were legalized. But is the prohibitionist assumption well-founded?
DC-area beer raid during Prohibition (Library of Congress)
The results are similar to usage rates occurring under today's "drug war," as measured by the federal government's National Survey on Drug Use and Health (formerly the National Household Survey). The 2006 NSDUH found 0.3 percent of the population had used heroin in the past month and 2.4 percent had used cocaine. Even for cocaine, the numbers are compatible, because Zogby surveyed persons aged 18 years and up, while NSDUH begins with age 12; and because of the poll's statistical margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
A comparison of drug use rates in countries with criminal penalties for drug use with the drug use rates of countries that have decriminalized personal use also suggests that policy may play only a secondary role in determining use rates. For example, in the Netherlands, where marijuana is sold openly in the famous "coffee shops," 12 percent of young adults age 15-24 reported using marijuana during 2005, as compared with 24 percent in neighboring France, where marijuana is an arrestable offense, according to data compiled by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction.In the United States, where police make nearly 800,000 marijuana arrests each year, young adults age 18-25 in the 2004-2005 survey year reported past-year marijuana use at the rate of 27.9 percent.
David Borden, StoptheDrugWar.org's executive director, commented when releasing the Zogby data:
"Prohibition is sending hundreds of billions of dollars per year into the global criminal underground. That money fuels violence and disorder on the streets of our cities, while simultaneously helping to finance international terrorist organizations. Meanwhile, inflation-adjusted cocaine prices are a fifth of what they were 30 years ago, and any kid who wants to join the Mafia can sign up to deal it in his school. Addicts are harmed by the prohibition policy worst of all. It's time to stop shooting ourselves in the feet, and to control and regulate drugs through legalization."
The full Zogby poll results are available online at: http://stopthedrugwar.org/legalization
Drug War Chronicle