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.