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More words of wisdom from the UNODC

On arguments for reducing the penalties for possession of cannabis…

A criminal record is a serious matter

A criminal record labels a person caught with possessing small amounts of cannabis as a criminal and severely limits their ability to find employment, professional certification and to travel to other countries. Criminalizing a behaviour has a number of effects: it may make it more attractive to some youth, and it may result in the further marginalization of some youth, making it more difficult to help them.

Reducing the severity of the penalty doesn’t seem to lead to increased use
… it is important that any change not result in increased use. Based on the experiences of those countries or states that have reduced their penalties, various reviews agree that there is no indication that this will happen. For example, the 11 US states that decriminalized marijuana possession in the 1970s did not see increases in use beyond that experienced by other states; neither did the Australian states that have introduced a civil offence model over the past decade.

Laws don’t seem to matter one way or another to young people
Over the past 10 years in most Western countries, the use of cannabis by young people has increased and attitudes have generally grown more tolerant toward the drug, with no difference between countries that had stiff or reduced penalties. For example in the Netherlands, where cannabis use is not a criminal offence, usage rates are lower than in the US, which has some of the toughest cannabis laws in the Western world. Young people who do not use cannabis generally say that their decision is based on health concerns or that they are just not interested. They aren’t as likely to mention the laws as being a factor in their decision. In fact, research with teenage students suggests that the criminalization of cannabis and the stigmatization of cannabis use as a dangerous and forbidden activity makes it even more attractive to some.

Resources could be better placed elsewhere
Cannabis offences can take one or two officers off the street for up to several hours + their time for court appearances + tying up other court resources. […] For example, laws cannot distinguish between levels of use, whereas educators can help young people by providing clearer messages (for example, all drug use contains some risk – heavy use can result in serious problems for young people, while light, infrequent cannabis use poses fewer risks).

This has been another edition of useful and true facts on the website of the United Nationals Office of Drugs and Crime that were deleted as soon as we pointed out that they were telling the truth for once.

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8 comments to More words of wisdom from the UNODC

  • Just me

    I bring before the court exhibit two , proof that truth is a poision to the powerful, reason is being replaced by insanity , common sense is becoming a crime in the eyes of our oppressors.

  • Just me

    opps…*Poison* ….fat fast fingers

  • Servetus

    The UNODC is a sanitized façade for the drug war and its soldiers. Dig a little deeper beneath their shining mask and the ugliness reveals itself. In this case, the mask developed a few zits and needed disinfecting, cleansing and clarification by the Holy Office of the Prohibition. Happens all the time.

    It’s wonderful that the Internet has allowed us to observe these events in real time. Absurdities like this are a once in a lifetime opportunity for classic comedy. And there’s a fascination about the decline and fall of the drug war and its mighty institutions that rivets the attention, sort of like a burning or collapsing building. This is great stuff.

  • DavesNotHere

    Good stuff. I really liked this section; “Laws don’t seem to matter one way or another to young people”.

    Duh

    CNN/Time Poll conducted by Harris Interactive. Oct. 23-24, 2002. N=1,007 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.1.

    “Assuming marijuana is not legalized, do you think people arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana should be put in jail, or just have to pay a fine but without serving any time in jail?”

    %
    Put in jail 19%
    Just pay a fine 72%
    Both (vol.) 2%
    Neither (vol.) 4%
    Not sure 3%

    http://www.pollingreport.com/drugs.htm

    This was 8 years ago, but 76% said cannabis should not result in jail. It’s got to be higher today, which is probably why they don’t ask that question in any recent surveys that I’ve found yet.

    Someone should do a poll including one question similar to one the above. Then we should deliver the poll results along with a page quoting exactly what Pete does from the UN to every relevant politician we can find. If I had a million dollars. Or even 50,000 or so of them.

  • Pete…excellent catch. I was hoping that you had caught the reference to the “failed drug war” by soon-to-be-outgoing New York State Governor David Paterson.

    Amazingly, I can’t find a single bloody transcript of his speech from yesterday.

  • Nick Zentor

    IMO, the UNODC has obviously given the drug war more serious thought than the DEA. The problem appears to be the DEA exercising too much influence over the UNODC.

  • DavesNotHere

    I came across an article that I just had to share here. It relates enough to “Laws don’t seem to matter one way or another…”

    First some background. MEG is a drug war police unit in central Illinois. One member of the drug unit was Tyler McCoy, the son of the Peoria (IL) County Sheriff. Tyler was involved in a one car accident, off duty, with a MEG vehicle where alcohol was “alleged” involved, including a video showing Tyler wasn’t “sober”. There are rugs with more dirt under them now,, to put it politely.

    But that isn’t the real juicy info, it just makes that info even less hard to swallow. $3,355 per arrest. And that’s only the cost from this year’s budget and doesn’t factor in those government drug war employees future pensions and benefit costs, so you can almost double that number to find the real cost. That doesn’t include courts or jails or anything, just the cost to make the arrest itself. $3,355 per arrest.

    Bibo: Questions concerning MEG mount – Peoria Journal Star

    – MEG has $346,493 in funding, a combination of $40,000 in federal forfeitures, a $71,179 federal grant, $105,300 from the Illinois State Police; and $130,014 from MEG funding by other groups.

    – In return, it made 318 arrests last year, which is roughly $1,090 apiece.

    – In 2008, MEG agents’ salaries ranged from $38,180 to $112,320. Director Hawkins was far from the highest-paid, at $63,000, although he is also drawing a pension. Overtime was zero for Hawkins but blew up to $33,185.30 for one agent and totaled $103,151.14 for the unit.

    – On top of the pay, the OT, the cars and the cell phones, MEG agents get a credit card to gas up. The lowest annual charge was $2,827.17; the highest was $7,437.26. Altogether, fuel reimbursement came to $69,647.03.

    – According to Lyons’ figures, in 2008, taxpayers paid $959,659.17 for a total of 286 arrests. That translates to $3,355 per arrest, and less than one per day.

    This is rare reporting, BTW, and I believe is a sign of more good things to come. The drug war isn’t playing in Peoria as nicely as it used to.

  • kaptinemo

    Dave’s article is illustrating a pattern predicted here long ago: as the economy contracts, the Media’s focus will be on public spending, and how much of it is waste. With millions of people out of work and desperate, focusing on government waste is a sure ‘red meat’ topic…especially in light of the bankster buyouts and bonuses…and all during an election year. Another perfect storm approaches.

    The money. The money. The money. The money. Namely, all the wasted money. The hundreds of thousands if not a million dollars spent on the local level as described in Dave’s article could have gone to Unemployment Insurance or Medicare, or even…treatment? A point which a local reformer could make again and again. And will no doubt have further opportunities to make, in the cash-strapped future we’re heading towards.