- 07 Jun 19
“Evidence clearly shows that societies with tougher drug laws do not have lower rates of drug use than those with less repressive regimes," they say
On Wednesday it was 18 Irish and international addiction specialist doctors. Now, thirteen leading academics in the field of drug policy research have challenged assertions made by another group of Irish doctors operating under the Cannabis Risk Alliance banner.
In a letter last month to the Irish Times, the Cannabis Risk Alliance claimed that, “Decriminalisation and ‘medical cannabis’ campaigns have proven to be effective ‘Trojan horse’ strategies on the road to full legalisation and commercialisation elsewhere such as the United States and Canada.Both debates have provided an effective platform for the spreading of misinformation to the public, who are being kept in the dark regarding the harmful side to ‘weed’.
"We are concerned that Ireland is being led down the path of cannabis legalisation," the letter continued." We are opposed to such a move as we strongly feel that it would be bad for Ireland, especially for the mental and physical health of our young people."
That stance has been robustly rebutted by the likes of Dr. John Collins, Executive Director of the LSE’s International Drug Policy Unit; Carl Hart, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at Columbia University; Dr. Magdalena Harris from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine who is a UK Hepatitis C Trust board member; Michael Lynskey, a Kings College London Professor of Addictions with a focus on adolescence and young adulthood; and Dr. Damon Barrett, Director of the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policy who is currently based at the University of Gothenburg.
Heavy hitters all, they speak of "the urgent imperative to protect people from needless criminalisation."
Here’s the letter they’ve released in full:
“The Cannabis Risk Alliance - a group of doctors - states that they are opposed to the decriminalisation of cannabis on the basis that Ireland is being ‘led down the path of cannabis legalisation’. The authors appear to believe that criminalising people who use drugs is an effective way to deter people from using them. As a group of experts on drug policy we wish to stress that this is not the case.
“Evidence worldwide clearly shows that societies with tougher drug laws do not have lower rates of drug use than those with less repressive regimes. But the damage caused by unnecessary criminal records and the costs of law enforcement and public health working at cross-purposes are now clear. The ideas underpinning criminalisation came from a different era, one where our understandings of drug dependence and consumption were limited by an absence of science and compassion for individuals who use drugs. The science has moved on, as have societal norms evidenced in Ireland’s recent referenda.
“To be clear, cannabis use carries risks, especially for young people. But a basic test of the effectiveness of public policy is whether the harms of the response outweigh the social issues it is seeking to address. In the case of drugs the evidence of damage and failure from harsh and repressive approaches provides the urgent imperative to protect people from needless criminalisation. As a society this is perhaps one point upon which all should agree, whatever one’s views on the legalisation of cannabis.”
Dr Damon Barrett, University of Gothenburg
Professor Leo Beletsky, Northeastern University
Professor David Bewley Taylor, Swansea University
Professor Julia Buxton, Central European University
Dr John Collins, The London School of Economics and Political Science
Dr Joanne Csete, Columbia University
Dr Julie Hannah, University of Essex
Dr Magdalena Harris, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Professor Carl Hart, Columbia University
Professor Michael Lynskey, Kings College London
Dr Anne Schlag, Kings College London
Dr Nicholas Thompson, The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Dr Dan Werb, University of California, San Diego