Marijuana Legalization

What Can Be Learned from Other Countries?

by Peter Reuter

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In recent decades, a number of other countries have implemented changes in law that significantly reduce the extent of criminalization of marijuana use. Only in Australia and the Netherlands have there been any changes on the criminalization of the supply side and in neither of those countries is it legal to both produce and sell the drug. Thus what is being contemplated in California breaks new territory for any Western nation with a well developed marijuana market. The relaxations so far, with the exception of the Netherlands, have not been very great i.e. have not much changed the legal risks faced by a user of marijuana. Thus it is perhaps not surprising that the changes in prevalence of use have not been substantial. This paper provides a brief review of the changes that have been tried in other countries with an emphasis on the nature of the changes and how they have been implemented.

The research in this report was conducted by the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.

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