Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to decriminalize some pot possession in Chicago is drawing response. Eric Zorn, writing in the Chicago Tribune, which you can find here, gives us this:
“Earlier this month, Rhode Island became the 15th state since the early 1970s to pass a law reducing the penalties for private, nonmedical possession of small amounts of marijuana — similar to laws in scattered municipalities throughout the U.S. and many European countries.
NORML points to the conclusions of academics and policy experts who’ve been picking over the data for decades:
“Evidence provides no indication that decriminalization leads to a measurable increase in marijuana use.”
— Boston University Department of Economics
“There is little evidence that decriminalization of marijuana use necessarily leads to a substantial increase in marijuana use.”
— National Academy of Sciences
“The preponderance of the evidence which we have gathered and examined points to the conclusion that decriminalization has had virtually no effect either on the marijuana use or on related attitudes and beliefs about marijuana use among American young people.”
— The University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research
“The Dutch experience, together with those of a few other countries with more modest policy changes, provides a moderately good empirical case that removal of criminal prohibitions on cannabis possession (decriminalization) will not increase the prevalence of marijuana or any other illicit drug; the argument for decriminalization is thus strong.”
— British Journal of Psychiatry
And so on. My colleague Steve Chapman this week pointed in his blog to a 2008 World Health Organization survey showing that pot use among teens in the Netherlands, where possession by adults is largely legal, is less than half what it is in the United States.
So there appears to be very little downside to Emanuel’s proposal to allow Chicago police to ticket rather than arrest those who are caught with 15 grams or less of marijuana — 15 grams is roughly the amount of tobacco in 15 cigarettes. The serious upside, according to police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, is that such a reform will free up more than 20,000 hours a year of police time now wasted — I mean spent — processing the more than 18,000 people arrested for possession on minor amounts of pot.
The question for which none of my devices has a ready answer: What’s taken us so long to seriously consider this change?
Eric Zorn has an interesting webliography on marijuana decriminalization and you can visit it here. It is an impressive research tool for you scholars out there.
Change is coming, Greenies. Are you sharing your ideas about our future? My idea is called “legalization (NOT decriminalization) with regulation.” What’s yours called?
[image: Google images Rahm Emanuel]