Drugs Policy: What Should We Do About Cannabis?

47 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2009

See all articles by Stephen Pudney

Stephen Pudney

University of Essex - Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER)


Public policy has failed to prevent large-scale consumption of cannabis in most developed countries. So what, if anything, should we do to change the policy environment? Cannabis consumption is unambiguously harmful in several ways, but this does not automatically justify the prohibitionist policy dictated by the international drugs conventions. This paper sets out the arguments for policy intervention in the cannabis market and reviews the directions of policy change that have been called for. We argue that existing theoretical insights and empirical evidence give little compelling reason to prefer prohibition to the alternative of legalization of cannabis with harms controlled by regulation and taxation. Given this conclusion and the much wider prevalence of cannabis than of harder drugs, a reasonable way forward is to remove cannabis production and consumption (but not trade) from the current prohibitionist UN drug control treaties, to allow countries to adopt their own policies, thus generating new evidence on the potential impacts of a wider range of policy.

Suggested Citation

Pudney, Stephen, Drugs Policy: What Should We Do About Cannabis?. Economic Policy, Vol. 25, Issue 61, pp. 165-211, January 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1525964 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0327.2009.00236.x

Stephen Pudney (Contact Author)

University of Essex - Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

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