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Thursday, June 21, 2007

A more sensible drug policy

A tip of the hat to GMoney for the reference. This video is a nice tongue-in-cheek look at the "drug war" and the role of politics in overcoming research and common sense in drug policy.

The video is distributed by the Drug Policy Alliance, an organization focused on numerous non-incarceration strategies for fighting drug abuse and distribution.

On marijuana, they support legalization for prescription medicinal purposes and the decriminalization of "consumption-related offenses." In other words, make marijuana legal for cancer patients and only charge those who distribute the drug illegally. They have an extensive page on myths and facts about marijuana, and while they certainly have their biases, it seems fairly honest.

I find the issue of impaired cognitive ability interesting:
The cognitive process most clearly affected by marijuana is short-term memory. In laboratory studies, subjects under the influence of marijuana have no trouble remembering things they learned previously. However, they display diminished capacity to learn and recall new information. This diminishment only lasts for the duration of the intoxication. There is no convincing evidence that heavy long-term marijuana use permanently impairs memory or other cognitive functions.
Their conclusion is that marijuana is fairly harmless to cognitive ability. However, since youth in particular have a lot of learning to do (in school and outside of it), I'd say that using marijuana at any time is probably harmful to their cognitive development. To be fair, I have no studies to cite today.

The DPA has a page devoted to a drug-by-drug analysis of American drug policy. Their overview notes that the DPA would like drug policy to reflect the relative harm of a drug. In their view, a low harm drug such as marijuana should be regulated (and criminalized) much less than ecstasy or heroin.

At any rate, it's clear that a policy more reflective of science and common sense could do better than the politically-driven one we enjoy today and the DPA video is a clever way to point that out.

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