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August 2006
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The Czars’ Reefer Madness

John Tierney in the New York Times

“Drug policy is irrelevant,” says Cohen, the former director of the Center for Drug Research at the University of Amsterdam. It’s quite logical, he says, to theorize that outlawing drugs would have an impact, but experience shows otherwise, both in America and in some European countries with stricter laws than the Netherlands but no less drug use. […]

“Prohibition does not reduce drug use, but it does have other impacts,” he says. “It takes up an enormous amount of police time and generates large possibilities for criminal income.”

In the Netherlands, that income goes instead to coffee-shop owners and to the government, which exacts heavy taxes. It also imposes strict regulations on what goes on in the coffee shop, including who can be served (no minors) and how much can be sold (five grams to a customer). […]

Roskam sneers at the street products in the United States, which he considers overpriced and badly blended. But he acknowledges there’s one feature in the American market he can’t compete with.

“Drugs are just less interesting here,” he said. “One of my best friends here never smoked cannabis, never wanted to even try my products. Then when she was 32 she went to America on holiday and smoked for the first time. I asked her why, and she said: ‘It was more fun over there. It was illegal.'”

Prohibition doesn’t work. It’s wrong, wasteful, and harmful.

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