The British Journal of Psychiatry
Evaluating alternative cannabis regimes
ROBERT MacCOUN, PETER REUTER

Abstract

Background Cannabis policy continues to be controversial in North America, Europe and Australia.

Aims To inform this debate, we examine alternative legal regimes for controlling cannabis availability and use.

Method We review evidence on the effects of cannabis depenalisation in the USA, Australia and The Netherlands. We update and extend our previous (MacCoun & Reuter, 1997) empirical comparison of cannabis prevalence statistics in the USA, The Netherlands and other European nations.

Results The available evidence indicates that depenalisation of the possession of small quantities of cannabis does not increase cannabis prevalence. The Dutch experience suggests that commercial promotion and sales may significantly increase cannabis prevalence.

Conclusions Alternatives to an aggressively enforced cannabis prohibition are feasible and merit serious consideration. A model of depenalised possession and personal cultivation has many of the advantages of outright legalisation with few of its risks.

View Full Text