Say you were emperor for a day and granted the power to create a new, fully rational policy for regulating alcohol and marijuana. What would that policy look like?
That’s the question a team of 13 drug policy experts set out to answer over the course of several conferences held in 2015 and 2016, the results of which have just been published in the International Journal of Drug Policy. The group included economists, criminologists, addiction experts and drug policy researchers, and was supported by the Research Council of Norway, a division of the Norwegian government.
For the project, the group first identified four general regulatory regimes that could be applied to a wide range of psychoactive substances:
- Absolute prohibition, where the use and possession of the drug is illegal for all purposes Decriminalization, where use and possession are a civil, not criminal offense, but the drug is otherwise illegal State control of the market, which can encompass everything from age limits on drug purchases to government control of production and sales Unfettered free market, where drugs are treated no differently than any other consumer good.
The United States, for instance, maintains an absolute federal prohibition on the possession and use of marijuana and other drugs like LSD. Certain states, however, have decriminalized the possession and use of marijuana under state law, or created a regulated legal market. A truly unfettered free market approach to either marijuana or alcohol does not exist in the United States — for both drugs there are age limits for purchase or possession, excise taxes on sales, limits on driving under the influence of