SAN FRANCISCO — Should Americans be able to buy marijuana in coffee shops?
A new study by U.C. Berkeley Law and Policy Professor Robert MacCoun explores whether the United States would benefit from regulating cannabis like the Dutch. MacCoun examined the effects of the drug on Dutch society over the course of more than 30 years and discovered that America might have a lot to learn from what he dubs “quasi-legalization.”
In the Netherlands, proprietors of such coffee shops sell marijuana in limited quantities to adults over the age of 18. They don’t offer alcohol or tobacco products on the premises, and advertising is strictly prohibited. While cannabis use remains technically illegal under Dutch law, the law also states that officials cannot take action against those who sell or use marijuana in designated coffee shops.
“It’s essentially legalization, but it’s slightly ambiguous,” MacCoun told The Huffington Post. He explained that despite the ubiquity of the coffee shop model, Dutch authorities have still managed to remain successful in enforcing against high-level trafficking, which keeps pot prices relatively high. “In a full legalization model, the price would drop substantially,” MacCoun said, “and you’d see bigger increases in use.”
On the other hand, MacCoun’s findings suggest that “quasi-legalization” doesn’t yield increases in pot smoking. “While use went up, it didn’t go up very much,” MacCoun said of Dutch marijuana habits since the country introduced the coffee shop system in the 1970s. “And problematic use is quite modest by European standards.”
Instead, MacCoun found that Dutch marijuana users were actually less likely to try harder drugs than their pot smoking counterparts in neighboring countries. He attributes that revelation to the fact that the coffee shop system breaks up the “gateway effect.” In other words, by separating the cannabis market from the markets for more dangerous substances, marijuana smokers will be less likely to be tempted to try, say, cocaine sold by the same drug dealer.
“For me, that was the most tantalizing result,” he said. “The Dutch have actually come up with a way to regulate cannabis use while minimizing its harms.”
MacCoun posited that the United States would indeed benefit from a similar system, but noted that marijuana’s federal classi爱上海shlf1314