Intended for healthcare professionals


Prohibition of cannabis

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 07 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5492
  1. Robin Room, professor
  1. 1School of Population Health, University of Melbourne; Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs, Stockholm University; and AER Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, Fitzroy, VIC 3065, Australia
  1. robinr{at}

Is not achieving its aims in the US, and may even worsen outcomes

A new report, Tools for Debate: US Federal Government Data on Cannabis Prohibition, focuses on the effects of the enforcement of drug prohibition in recent decades in the United States.1 It shows that efforts to suppress the selling and use of cannabis increased substantially. Adjusting for inflation, the US federal antidrug budget increased from about $1.5bn (£0.95bn; €1.1bn) in 1981 to more than $18bn in 2002. Between 1990 and 2006, annual cannabis related arrests increased from fewer than 350 000 to more than 800 000 and annual seizures of cannabis from less than 500 000 lb (226 798 kg) to more than 2 500 000 lb. In the same period the availability of illicit cannabis and the number of users rose: the retail price of cannabis decreased by more than half, the potency increased, and the proportion of users who were young adults went up from about 25% to more than 30%. Intensified enforcement of cannabis prohibition thus did not have the intended effects.

The report then turns to “unintended consequences” of prohibition, arguing that both …

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