United States of America
At the turn of the century cocaine, heroin and marijuana were in use legally and widely promoted. Between 1907 and 1917 thc murder rate rose by 300% Cocaine and opium addiction rates in these early years rivaled those of today and the effects led to pub1ic outcry.
In 1914 these drugs were made illegal and by 1940 the number of addicts had dropped from 250,000 to 50,000. Between 1923 and 1939 the rate of opium addiction fell 90%, apparently simply as a result of a strict drug policy which dramatically reduced exposure factors.
The US experimented briefly with decriminalisation of marijuana in the period 1975 to 1978. This resulted in a statistically significant increase in the reported number of marijuana-related visits to hospital emergency departments compared to metropolitan areas where decriminalisation had not been implemented.
By 1979 use of all drugs in the US was very high but between then and 1991, largely due to the efforts of parents, the number of users dropped from 23 million to 14 million, a 60% reduction sustained over a 12-year period. Use of cannabis halved, daily use fell by 75% and the use of cocaine fell by 50%. A wide-ranging and successful collaboration between Customs & Excise. Police. educationists, social workers and parents and the young people themselves reinforced the idea that the use of drugs is not normal and is socially unacceptable However, since 1991 a relaxation of this strategy has seen an increase in the problem.
In the state of Arizona Proposition 200 authorised doctors to issue prescriptions for drugs such as marijuana, heroin, LSD and PCP. It encouraged the immediate release of 1032 prison inmates sentenced for drugs offences and prohibited prison sentences for drug offences until the third conviction. A poll carried out between January 27th and 31st 1997 by Dr. Bruce Merrill (Prof. Of Mass Communications and Director of the Walter Cronkite School. Arizona State University) overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that Arizona residents believe the enactment of Proposition 200 has led to dangerous unintended consequences 85% of registered voters in Arizona believe that Proposition 200 needs to be changed. 60% of registered voters believe it should be repealed.
1. Musto, David F. “The American Disease – Origins of Narcotic Contr6l’. OUP New York 1987 especially pp 70-73
2. US Bureau of the Census. Historical Statistics of the United States Colonial Times to 1970. Part One. Washington DC. 1975
3. See ref 1: especially pp 91. 115. Also Wall St Journal June 11th 1986. p30: Parade July 31st 1988
4. See ref 1. Also Wilson. James Q. “Against the Legalisation of Drugs”, Commentary February 1990, pp 21-28
5. Bejerot. N. ‘Drogue et Societe. Masson Paris 1990 ‘Cannabis: Physiopathology. Epidemiology, Detection.’ Nahas G & Latour C (eds). CRC Press. 1993.
6. Model. KE. The Effect of Marijuana Decriminalisation on Hospital Emergency Room Episodes 1975-1978. Journal of the American &Statistical Association. 88: 737-747. 1993
7. Rosenthal. MS. Report from North America. In “Cannabis: Physiopathology, Epidemiology. Detection.’ Nahas G & Latour C (eds). CRC Press~ 1993
8. News Release from the Office of Maricopa County Attorney, 301 West Jefferson, Phoenix, Arizona 85003