Benedikt Fischer

Report tracks ‘clear failure’ of cannabis prohibition

November 4, 2010

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The International Centre for Science in Drug Policy (ICSDP) last month released a research report co-authored by SFU health scientist Benedikt Fischer demonstrating “the clear failure of U.S. marijuana prohibition” and supporting evidence-based models for cannabis legalization and regulation.

Entitled Tools for Debate: U.S. federal government data on cannabis prohibition, the report uses 20 years of data collected by surveillance systems funded by the U.S. government to highlight the failure of cannabis prohibition in America.

The report finds that while increased funding for cannabis prohibition has increased cannabis seizures and arrests, the U.S. government’s own surveillance data shows that it has not led to reduced cannabis potency, increased prices or meaningfully reduced availability.

“On the contrary,” it notes, “the falling prices imply that supply is increasing faster than demand. Given that cannabis prohibition has clearly failed to achieve its stated objectives and has also resulted in a range of serious unintended harms, regulatory models should be given urgent consideration, both in the United States and in other settings.”

Given the widespread, often free availability of cannabis despite aggressive criminal justice measures, the report also casts doubt on the notion that legalizing and regulating it will lead to increased cannabis use or an overall increase in harm from the drug.

“Successfully reducing rates of cannabis-related harm,” the report concludes, “will likely require the implementation of strict regulatory mechanisms… associated with reducing the harms of other legal substances (that) are too commonly underutilized in the areas of tobacco and alcohol control.”

A British Medical Journal (BMJ) editorial on the report observed: “The evidence from Tools for Debate is not only that the prohibition system is not achieving its aims, but that more efforts in the same direction only worsen the results.”

For a copy of the report (PDF) visit; to read the BMJ editorial, visit


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