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September 2008
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Cognitive Distortion

An interesting article about college students going to Amsterdam to study drug policy. Logical, right?
But I was struck by this fascinating passage in the article:

Marijuana isn’t legal in Amsterdam. Rather, it’s decriminalized. It’s similar to Americans going into a bar to drink. In Amsterdam, they go into coffee shops to smoke.
“You’d think that the availability of it would make it out of control,” Lutt said. “It was a lot more of a social thing.”
No craziness. No crime. Nobody walking around stoned or drunk. At least not Amsterdam natives.
“I saw Americans out of control,” Lilleholm said.
Which leads her to believe that such policies probably wouldn’t work here. Make marijuana as easy to obtain as alcohol, and people are going to overindulge.

The dysfunctional mental process there is breathtaking. First of all, the idea that making marijuana as easy to obtain as alcohol would lead to overindulging is directly contradicted by the previous observed facts.
And while there certainly are national and cultural differences in the popular reaction of different populations to certain drugs, there’s an obvious apples-and-oranges problem when comparing the natives or Amsterdam and the tourists of America in their dealings with decriminalized marijuana.
Of course the tourists would seem more out-of-control than the natives. It’s a function of tourism.
The characteristics of drug tourism are the result of prohibition in the visitor’s home country, not an indicator that sane policy wouldn’t work.
If chocolate was outlawed in the U.S., you’d probably see American tourists a little out of control with their cocoa consumption in Switzerland compared to the natives.

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