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Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy


Major Studies of Drugs and Drug Policy

This page will contain full-text copies of the major studies of drugs and drug policy as they become available and as we have resources to scan them and put them on the web. Readers who wish to fund the addition of new research to the web should see How You Can Support the Schaffer Library.

We are currently seeking copies of any reports for which we do not yet have full text. These reports are marked with

We also invite submissions of major reports which are not yet listed here.

 Major Studies Table of Contents - Titles only

Year Country Title



Indian Hemp Drugs Commission Report
Zip file of all documents - about 97K

This 3,281-page, seven-volume classic report on the marijuana problem in India by the British concluded: "Viewing the subject generally, it may be added that moderate use of these drugs is the rule, and that the excessive use is comparatively exceptional. The moderate use produces practically no ill effects." Nothing of significance in the report's conclusions has been proven wrong in the intervening century



Report of the Committee Appointed by the Philippine Commission to Investigate The Use of Opium and the Traffic Therein...Bureau of Insular Affairs, War Dept., Philippines

Summary not yet available.



Departmental Committee on Morphine and Heroin Addiction, Report

(The Rolleston Report): This landmark study by a distinguished group of British doctors appointed by the government codified existing practices regarding the maintenance of addicts on heroin and morphine by individual doctors and recommended that they continue without police or medical society interference. In coming to this conclusion, these physicians displayed a humane regard for the addicts in their care, perhaps due to their view of the nature of narcotic addiction: "Me condition must be regarded as a manifestation of disease and not as a mere form of vicious indulgence." The British addiction experts took pains to state that they did not agree with the opinions of "some eminent physicians, especially in the United States" that addicts "could always be cured by sudden withdrawal."



The Opium Problem by Charles E. Terry and Mildred Pellens
Zip File of all documents - about 165K

Summary not yet available.



Panama Canal Zone Military Investigations (US Military, 1916-29)

After an exhaustive study of the smoking of marijuana among American soldiers stationed in the zone, the panel of civilian and military experts recommended that "no steps be taken by the Canal Zone authorities to prevent the sale or use of Marihuana." The committee also concluded that "there is no evidence that Marihuana as grown and used [in the Canal Zone] is a 'habit-forming' drug."



Report on the Enforcement of the Prohibition Laws of the United States by the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement (Wickersham Commission Report on Alcohol Prohibition)
Zip file of the report - about 300K

This report is important because it was the official Federal Government investigation into alcohol Prohibition - while Prohibition was still in effect. This report is interesting because the Conclusions are in such apparent contrast to the evidence amassed by the Commission. The evidence showed that Prohibition enforcement was, at best, ineffective and, at worst, spawned law enforcement corruption on a grand scale. Prohibition was not a success and this report explains the reasons why.

Among the significant findings of this report were:

  • Alcohol use declined during the first two or three years of Prohibition (a trend that had begun before Prohibition started) but rose every year thereafter. There was, in particular, an increase in the use of distilled liquors. There was also evidence of increased alcohol use and addiction among minors.
  • Enforcement of the laws was disorganized and ineffective, with employee turnover of more than 50% in some years. It seems apparent from reading the report that law enforcement could not have had a significant impact on the illegal distribution of alcohol and even the recommended improvements in enforcement would not have solved the problem.
  • Corruption was rampant with up to ten percent of the enforcement employees being discharged for cause in any given year.

Despite this, the Commission recommended that Prohibition be continued but that law enforcement efforts should be improved in several respects.

The evidence, however, was overwhelming that Prohibition was not a success and it was repealed two years after this report was issued.




The LaGuardia Committee Report Mayor's Committee on Marihuana, The Marihuana Problem in the City of New York commissioned by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, written by the New York Academy of Medicine, and published by the City of New York in 1944
Zip file of the entire report - about 114K

This study is viewed by many experts as the best study of any drug viewed in its social, medical, and legal context. The committee covered thousands of years of the history of marijuana and also made a detailed examination of conditions In New York City. Among its conclusions: "The practice of smoking marihuana does not lead to addiction in the medical sense of the word." And: "The use of marihuana does not lead to morphine or heroin or cocaine addiction, and no effort is made to create a market for those narcotics by stimulating the practice of marihuana smoking." Finally: "The publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York City is unfounded."



Interdepartmental Committee, Drug Addiction, (The First Brain Report)

When the Brain Committee first met at the invitation of the minister of health, its mission was to review the advice given by the Rolleston Committee in 1926. That advice had been to continue to allow doctors to treat addicts with maintenance doses of powerful drugs when the doctors deemed it medically helpful for the patient. Brain I reiterated that advice and in this first report recommended no changes of any significance on the prescribing powers of doctors. This report expanded on one important point alluded to in Rolleston-the authenticity of the existence of "stabilized addicts."

While many American experts doubt their existence, this report explained, "careful scrutiny of the histories of more than a hundred persons classified as addicts reveals that many of them who have been taking small and regular doses for years show little evidence of tolerance and are often leading reasonably satisfactory lives." Six "case histories of known stabilized addicts" were included in an appendix. They were mature, older patients, functioning normally on what would be huge doses of drugs by American standards. "Mr. F.," for example, a clerical worker, was receiving the equivalent of 200 milligrams of morphine tablets each day. It is likely that these patients and their doctors would be dealt with as criminals in the United States.



Drug Addiction: Crime or Disease? Joint Committee of the American Bar Association and the American Medical Association on Narcotic Drugs, Interim and Final Reports, 1961:
Zip file of the entire report - about 110K

This report was the result of the only major combined study of drug policy made by two of the most important professional societies in the country. Chaired by attorney Rufus King of Washington, D.C.. the committee presented a direct challenge to the tough policies of Federal Bureau of Narcotics Director Harry Anslinger, a philosophical ancestor of the previous "drug czar," William Bennett. The blue-ribbon committee included a senior federal judge and was advised by Indiana University's Alfred Lindesmith, one of the most distinguished addiction scholars in history. The report observed, "Drug addiction is primarily a problem for the physician rather than the policeman, and it should not be necessary for anyone to violate the criminal law solely because he is addicted to drugs." The report concluded that drug addiction was a disease, not a crime, that harsh criminal penalties were destructive, that drug prohibition ought to be reexamined, and that experiments should be conducted with British-style maintenance clinics for narcotic addicts.



Interdepartmental Committee, Drug Addiction, Second Report, (The Second Brain Report)

Brain II has been consistently misinterpreted by leading American scholars and officials. It did not recommend the dismantling of the British prescription system nor the compulsory registration of addicts, as has been claimed. Instead, Brain II urged that

  1. doctors who wished to prescribe "restricted drugs" to addicts for the purpose of maintenance be required to obtain a special license from the Home Office;
  2. treatment centers be established for treating addicts who were to be regarded as sick and not criminal; and
  3. doctors and other medical personnel be mandated to "notify" the Home Office when they encountered an addict in the course of their professional work. Originally, the category of restricted drugs included heroin and cocaine; now, dipipanone has been added.

The core of the British system remains, however, and in recent years has been reinvigorated. Approximately 200 doctors with special licenses are free to prescribe all drugs, including the restricted medicines, for maintenance of addicts. Also, any doctor, unlike those in the U.S., may prescribe all of the other drugs for maintenance, including, for example, injectable morphine and methadone. Brain II in the end was aimed at controlling a few overprescribing doctors, not at adopting the American system of treating addicts as the enemy.



Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence, Cannabis, (The Wootton Report)
Zip File of the Entire Report - about 134K

This study report on marijuana and hashish was prepared by a group that included some of the leading drug abuse experts of the United Kingdom. These impartial experts worked as a subcommittee under the lead of Baroness Wootton of Abinger. The basic tone and substantive conclusions were similar to all of the other great commission reports. The Wootton group specifically endorsed the conclusions of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission and the La Guardia Committee. Typical findings included the following:

  1. There is no evidence that in Western society serious physical dangers are directly associated with the smoking of cannabis.
  2. It can clearly be argued on the world picture that cannabis use does not lead to heroin addiction.
  3. The evidence of a link with violent crime is far stronger with alcohol than with the smoking of cannabis.
  4. There is no evidence that this activity ... is producing in otherwise normal people conditions of dependence or psychosis, requiring medical treatment.



Canadian Government Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, (The Le Dain Report)
Interim Report  -  Cannabis Report
Zip file of the entire report - about 1,024K

The distinguished Canadian experts on this governmental commission were led by law school dean, later Supreme Court Justice, Gerald Le Dain. The report was similar to the other great commission reports in terms of its non-martial, calm approach to the facts and in its belief that marijuana use did not constitute a great threat to the public welfare. The official governmental commission was remarkable in the extent to which its report portrayed casual drug users as decent, thoughtful citizens whose views deserved the fullest possible hearing by the government in the process of developing drug control strategies.

A mother of four and school teacher was quoted in the report as saying: "When I smoke grass I do it in the same social way that I take a glass of wine at dinner or have a drink at a party. I do not feel that is one of the great and beautiful experiences of my life; I simply feel that it is pleasant, and I think it ought to be legalized." The commission did not ask for that change immediately but instead recommended that serious consideration be given to legalization of personal possession in the near future. The report also urged that police and prosecutors go easy on casual users and keep them out of jail as often as possible.



The Forbidden Fruit and the Tree of Knowledge: An Inquiry into the Legal History of American Marihuana Prohibition by Professors Richard J. Bonnie & Charles H. Whitebread, II, Virginia Law Review, Volume 56, October 1970 Number 6
Zip File of the entire report - about 217K

This is the most definitive history of the marijuana laws. See The History of the Non-Medical Use of Drugs for the author's short version of this history.

The authors concluded that the marijuana laws were motivated by three major factors.

  1. The first state marijuana prohibition law came in Utah in 1915 and was enacted into law along with a number of other Mormon religious prohibitions.
  1. The early state marijuana laws in the Southwest and West were passed because "All Mexicans are crazy and marijuana is what makes them crazy." That is, they were the result of racial prejudice against newly arrived Mexican immigrants.
  2. The other early state marijuana laws were passed out of the fear that opiate addicts, who had been deprived of legal access to opiates by the Harrison Tax Act of 1914, would turn to marijuana. In other words, they were afraid that opiate use would lead to marijuana.

The first Federal prohibition on marijuana was passed for reasons which can only be described as "nonsense," including the racial reasons listed above, as well as allegations that marijuana caused young lovers to elope. Interested readers may want to review the original source documents under Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.



The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs, by Edward M. Brecher and the Editors of Consumer Reports Magazine
Zip file of the entire report - about 500K

(Highly Recommended) This is a landmark study, a "must-read", used as a basic textbook at major universities. It presents a comprehensive, fascinating and highly readable overview of the entire drug issue. It is certainly one of the first books which should be read by anyone who wants to know about this subject.

The recommendations in this report included:

  • Stop emphasizing measures designed to keep drugs away from people.
  • Stop publicizing the horrors of the "drug menace."
  • Stop increasing the damage done by drugs.
  • Stop misclassifying drugs.
  • Stop viewing the drug problem as primarily a national problem, to be solved on a national scale.
  • Stop pursuing the goal of stamping out illicit drug use.
  • Consumers Union recommends the immediate repeal of all federal laws governing the growing, processing, transportation, sale, possession, and use of marijuana.
  • Consumers Union recommends that each of the fifty states similarly repeal its existing marijuana laws and pass new laws legalizing the cultivation, processing, and orderly marketing of marijuana-subject to appropriate regulations. 
  • Consumers Union recommends that state and federal taxes on marijuana be kept moderate, and that tax proceeds be devoted primarily to drug research, drug education, and other measures specifically designed to minimize the damage done by alcohol, nicotine, marijuana. heroin, and other drugs.
  • Consumers Union recommends an immediate end to imprisonment as a punishment for marijuana possession and for furnishing marijuana to friends.*
  • Consumers Union recommends, pending legalization of marijuana, that marijuana possession and sharing be immediately made civil violations rather than criminal acts.
  • Consumers Union recommends that those now serving prison terms for possession of or sharing marijuana be set free, and that such marijuana offenses be expunged from all legal records.



The Koerner Commission Report, State of Ohio

Summary not yet available.

1972 US Dealing With Drug Abuse: A Report to the Ford Foundation, by the Drug Abuse Survey Project.
Zip file of the entire report - about 1,200K

Summary not yet available.

1972 US Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding, US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
Zip file of the entire report - about 517K

This commission was directed by Raymond P. Shafer, former Republican governor of Pennsylvania, and had four sitting, elected politicians among its eleven members. The commission also had leading addiction scholars among its members and staff and was appointed by President Nixon in the midst of the drug-war hysteria at that time. While the commission supported much existing policy, it produced two reflective reports, this being the final comprehensive document, which recommended research, experimentation, and humane compromise. The first recommendations of the commission were:

  1. Possession of marihuana for personal use would no longer be an offense, but marihuana possessed in public would remain contraband subject to summary seizure and forfeiture.
  2. Casual distribution of small amounts of marihuana for no remuneration, or Insignificant remuneration not involving profit, would no longer be an offense.

The recommendations in this reports were endorsed by (among others) the American Medical Association, the American Bar Association, The American Association for Public Health, the National Education Association, and the National Council of Churches.

1973 US Drug Use in America: Problem in Perspective, US National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse
Zip file of the entire report - about 300K

The recommendations included:

  • All public and private institutions should sponsor research and objective evaluation of drug-related issues, programs, and policies.
  • Congress should create a single Federal drug agency. The accomplishments should be reexamined four years after its creation; and the agency, by law, should disband within five years. Each state should establish a unified drug agency on the same model as that proposed for the federal government.
  • Congress should establish a commission four years hence to determine which measures have justified their costs and which have not and to propose new policies.
  • The Single Convention Treaty should be redrafted to make clear that each nation is free to determine which domestic uses of drugs it will allow.
  • Cannabis should be removed from the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (1961), since this drug does not pose the same social and public health problems associated with the opiates and coca leaf products.
  • The American Medical Association should determine cocaine's therapeutic benefits.   If no unique therapeutic use remains, the government should eliminate manufacture altogether.
  • Except where the Commission has specifically recommended a change, the present levels of control on availability of psychoactive substances should be maintained. 
  • With respect to the drug trafficking laws, the trafficking offenses and penalty structure presently in force should be retained. 
  • The unauthorized possession of any controlled substance except marihuana for personal use should remain a prohibited act. The primary purpose of the possession laws should be detection of those persons who would benefit by treatment or prevention services, rather than criminal punishment.
  • Federal criminal investigative agencies should concentrate primarily on the top level of the illegal drug distribution network. State enforcement should concentrate on the lower levels of both licit and illicit distribution networks.
  • Criminal investigation activities at the federal level should not have regional offices, as BNDD and Customs have now but instead should deploy strike forces.  (Note: This was tried. For a description of the results, see A View From the Front Lines of the Drug War, by Judge Volney Brown.)
  • Each state should have a separate unit charged with the responsibility of investigating any evidence of corruption in drug law enforcement agencies. 
  • Local police should receive appropriate training in dealing with the medical needs of drug-dependent persons, including alcoholics.
  • The government should continue to prohibit heroin maintenance. (Note: For information on the results of current heroin maintenance  programs in Europe, see
  • Each state should establish a comprehensive statewide drug dependence treatment and rehabilitation program, with confidentiality-of-treatment laws.
  • Drug abusers who are suffering from emergency medical conditions should not be refused treatment in hospitals, solely because of their drug abuse.
  • The states should provide by law for emergency detention and treatment of persons (not to exceed 48 hours) so incapacitated by use of a drug that they cannot intelligently determine whether they are in need of treatment.
  • Drug use prevention strategy, rather than persuading or "educating" people not to use drugs, should emphasize other means of obtaining what users seek from drugs, means that are better for the user and better for society.
  • The government role should be limited to providing accurate information regarding the likely consequences of the different patterns of drug use.
  • A moratorium should be declared on the production and dissemination of new drug information materials, including all drug education programs in the schools. State legislatures should repeal all statutes which now require drug education courses to be included in the public school curriculum. 
  • Government should not interfere with private efforts to analyze the quality and quantity of drugs anonymously submitted by street users.
  • The government should not support programs which compel persons to undergo drug testing, except in limited situations.
  • Government should remove legal and bureaucratic obstacles to research into the possible therapeutic uses of currently prohibited substances, such as marihuana and hallucinogens.
  • Schools of medicine, pharmacy, nursing, and public health should include the social and medical aspects of drug use in their curriculum.
  • Drug companies should end the practice of sending doctors unsolicited samples of psychoactive drugs.
  • The business community should not reject an applicant solely on the basis of prior drug use or dependence, unless the nature of the business compels it. 
  • Industry should consider alternatives to termination of employment for employees involved with drugs.  The business community should adopt  "employee assistance" programs for drug problems.
  • College and universities should make their policies and practices regarding drug use, including alcohol, explicit, unambiguous, and readily available to all students.   Even those colleges and universities which strongly disapprove of student drug-use behavior should expand their counseling services rather than rely upon disciplinary measures alone. 
1977 US The Nation's Toughest Drug Law: Evaluating the New York Experience, by the Joint Committee on New York Drug Law Evaluation, of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York

This commission was formed to review the Rockefeller drug laws, the toughest in the nation. The report basically concluded that tougher sentences had provided little, if any, benefit. Instead, they had increased the incentive for drug sellers to commit violence and had clogged the criminal justice system. The report also found that tougher penalties had done nothing material to reduce drug use but had instead exacerbated some of the existing problems with drug abuse.

1979 Canada Cannabis Control Policy: A Discussion Paper  - Canadian Government - Health Protection Branch Department of National Health and Welfare - January 1979

This report discusses a range of eight options for cannabis control, ranging from complete prohibition to complete legalization.  The report recommends a form of "semi-prohibition" of cannabis, with no penalties for personal use but retaining criminal penalties for trafficking:

Our primary concern is to minimize the health and safety risks associated with the use of cannabis. The pursuit of this objective has required careful consideration of the gravity of the harms attributed to cannabis and the countervailing costs of any control measures. Given our empirical understanding of both the effects of cannabis and the adverse consequences that flow from applying a counterproductive possessory sanction, it appears, on balance, that essentially the same measure of public health protection can be attained through a less comprehensive and injurious use of the criminal law. Although a broad range of variations is possible, a legislative reform which best achieves this balancing of interests would probably bear a close resemblance to the semi-prohibition model.

1980 US The Facts About Drug Abuse, The Drug Abuse Council
Zip file of the entire report - about 150K

A 1972 report to the Ford Foundation, "Dealing With Drug Abuse," concluded that current drug policies were unlikely to eliminate or greatly affect drug abuse. This conclusion led to the creation and joint funding by four major foundations of a broadly based, independent national Drug Abuse Council. The council reviewed and assessed laws, programs, and projects-federal, state, and local, private and governmental-related to use and misuse of psychoactive drugs. In its final report, the council's board of directors offered a set of observations considered central to the process of reaching mom consistent, coherent, and responsible approaches to drug use and misuse.

  1. Psychoactive substances have been available throughout recorded history and will remain so. To try to eliminate them completely is unrealistic.
  2. The use of psychoactive drugs is pervasive, but misuse is much less frequent, and the failure to make the distinction between use and misuse creates the impression that all use is misuse and leads to addiction.
  3. There is a clear relationship between drug misuse and pervasive societal ills such as poverty, racial discrimination, and unemployment, and we can expect drug misuse so long as these adverse social conditions exist.
  4. The price of an effective strategy to eliminate drug misuse through the criminal law would be perceived by many Americans as too high in terms of invasions of privacy and abrogations of individual liberties.
  5. Drug laws and policies attend insufficiently to the problems of people misusing drugs and too much to the properties of drugs themselves, as though the drugs were somehow inherently to blame.
  6. Too many Americans have unrealistic expectations about what drug policies and programs can accomplish.
  7. We have a regrettable tendency to blame our drug problems on others, failing to recognize that our drug problems are products of our own national experience.

The council's directors then offered a set of suggestions, Principal among them are the following,

  1. Treatment for drug dependence should be available chiefly because people need help, rather than as a crime control or behavior control method.
  2. There should be a major study of the effects of drug laws and their enforcement on personal decisions to use or not use illicit drugs.
  3. Legislative efforts to decriminalize at both state and federal levels the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use should continue.
  4. The report ends with the recommendation: "... that serious consideration be given to the use of state and local option as a means of attempting solutions appropriate in one place but not in others. Local options could encourage greater flexibility and ingenuity rather than reliance on an unrealistic, rigid homogeneity in national drug policy. We need to respond to the diversity of people who use and misuse drugs, base all our policies on a consistent set of principles seeking to discourage misuse, and keep our seemingly innate drug-using behavior within reasonable limits through means. which do not themselves produce more harm than they prevent.
1982 US An Analysis of Marijuana Policy

Committee on Substance Abuse and Habitual Behavior, Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council, National Academy of Science,

National Academy Press Washington D.C. 1982
Zip file of the entire report - about 56K

The NAS Committee on Substance Abuse and Habitual Behavior was composed of some of the leading American experts on medicine, addiction treatment, law, business, and public policy. These experts reviewed all of the available evidence on every aspect of the marijuana question. The committee then recommended that the country experiment with a system that would allow states to set up their own methods of controlling marijuana as is now done with alcohol. Under this approach, federal criminal penalties would be removed, and each state could decide to legalize the drug and impose regulations concerning hours of sale, age limits, and taxation.

In the same vein as all the previous major objective studies, this report stated that excessive marijuana use could cause serious harm, that such use was rare, and that, on balance, the current policy of total prohibition was socially and personally destructive. The report placed great emphasis on building up public education and informal social controls, which often have a greater impact on drug abuse than the criminal law. Regarding the possibility of disaster for our youth under legalization, the report observed:

There is reason to believe that widespread uncontrolled use would not occur under regulation. Indeed, regulation might facilitate patterns of controlled use by diminishing the "forbidden fruit" aspect of the drug and perhaps increasing the likelihood that an adolescent would be introduced to the drug through families and friends, who practice moderate use, rather than from their heaviest-using, most drug-involved peers,

1988 US DEA Docket No. 86-22, DEA Chief Administrative Law Judge ruling on medical marijuana
Zip file of the entire document - about 50K

This is the ruling of the DEA's own Chief Administrative Law Judge which arose as the result of a suit against the Federal Government, seeking to reschedule marijuana for medical purposes. Before issuing his ruling, Judge Francis Young heard two years of testimony from both sides of the issue and accumulated fifteen volumes of research. This was undoubtedly the most comprehensive study of medical marijuana done to date. Judge Young concluded that marijuana was one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man, that it had never caused a single human death, and that the Federal Government's policy toward medical marijuana is "unconscionable."

1989 US AIDS and Drug Misuse, Part 1, Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, 1988; Part 2, 1989

"The spread of HIV is a greater danger to individual and public health than drug misuse," declared the leading drug abuse and health experts of the United Kingdom who sit on this distinguished quasi-governmental advisory group. This concept operated as the guiding principle in this commission report, one part issued in 1988, another in 1989. In stark contrast to the Bush administration's war plans, the British council provided a comprehensive health plan that seeks to prevent the use of drugs, as is the American goal. However, the plan has realistic goals regarding drug abusers; abstinence in the American mode, where possible, but above all else, health and life. Thus, the Advisory Council accepted the lessons of the "harm reduction" programs of the Liverpool area and recommended that they be spread to the entire United Kingdom. Some of these lessons involve needle exchanges and prescribed drugs for addicts.

The report even went beyond the Liverpool experience when these leading British experts quietly observed, "We believe that there is a place for an expansion of residential facilities where drug misusers may gain better health, skills, and self-confidence whilst in receipt of prescribed drugs." Thus, while the United States is planning more prison space for drug addicts, the United Kingdom is contemplating more hostels where addicts could be taught to live more healthy, more self-confident and more productive lives in the community.

1989 US Report of the Research Advisory Panel for the State of California

This panel, appointed by the state legislature of California to regulate all research on controlled substances, reviewed drug policy and recommended that "the legislature act to redirect this, state away from the present destructive pathways of drug control." The report noted that we had followed a path of prohibition over the last fifty years and concluded that this policy "has been manifestly unsuccessful in that we are now using more and a greater variety of drugs, legal and illegal." In addition, the failure of prohibition has resulted in "societal overreaction (that] has burdened us with ineffectual, inhumane, and expensive treatment, education and enforcement efforts." They recommended a move toward the formulation of "legislation aiming at regulation and decriminalization" and the winding down of the war on drugs.

The Research Advisory Panel made three specific recommendations for initial legislative action. These were

  1. permit the possession of syringes and needles;
  2. permit the cultivation of marijuana for personal use; and
  3. in order to project an attitude of disapproval of all drug use, take a token action in forbidding the sale or consumption of alcohol in state-supported institutions devoted in part or whole to patient care or educational activity.

The panel recommended immediate and innovative action, concluding it is "incontrovertible that whatever policies we have been following over the past generations must not be continued unexamined and unmodified since our actions to date have favored the development of massive individual and societal problems."

1991 US "The Twin Epidemics of Substance Use and HIV" The National Commission on AIDS

This indictment of current drug policy focuses on the relationship between the spread of HIV and drug use. The commission criticized the federal government's failure to recognize that these are twin epidemics and found that the "strategy of interdiction and increased prison sentences has done nothing to change the stark statistics" showing spread of AIDS by drug users. The commission singled out the Office of National Drug Control Policy for ignoring AIDS and "neglecting the real public health and treatment measures which could and must be taken to halt the spread."

The commission put forward five recommendations:

  1. Expand drug treatment so that all who apply for treatment can be accepted into treatment programs.
  2. Remove legal barriers to the purchase and possession of injection equipment.
  3. The federal government must take the lead in developing and maintaining programs to prevent HIV transmission related to licit and illicit drugs.
  4. Research and epidemiologic studies on the relationships between licit and illicit drug use and HIV transmission should be greatly expanded and funding should be increased, not reduced or merely held constant.
  5. All levels of government and the private sector need to mount a serious and sustained attack on the social problems of poverty, homelessness, and lack of medical care that promote licit and illicit drug use in American society.

The National Commission on AIDS could be described as the echo of the British Advisory Council on the misuse of drugs in its report on AIDS and drug misuse, as it made virtually the same policy recommendations. The commission concluded that "the federal government must recognize that HIV and substance use is one of the issues of paramount concern within the 'war on drugs.' Any program which does not deal with the duality of the HIV/drug epidemic is destined to fail." The commission urged the federal government to move away from a law enforcement approach in controlling drugs toward a public health approach, which to date has "been seriously neglected."

1994 US A Wiser Course: Ending Drug Prohibition, A Report of the Special Committee on Drugs and the Law of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York

The Bar of the City of New York studied the issue of drugs and drug policy for about five years and concluded that the only reasonable way to correct the current problems would be to repeal the Federal laws on these drugs in their entirety and allow the states to develop their own programs, similar to the situation with alcohol.

1994 Australia Legislative Options for Cannabis. Australian Government
Zip file of the entire report - about 134K

This was the largest study of marijuana laws by the Australian Government.

The report identifies five policy options for controlling marijuana:

  • total prohibition;
  • prohibition with civil penalties for minor offences;
  • partial prohibition;
  • regulation; and
  • free availability.

The report states in the Conclusion:

Our review suggests that two of the five legislative options discussed in Chapter 4 are inappropriate in contemporary Australian circumstances. They are the options which we have characterised as 'total prohibition' and 'free availability'. The arguments for rejecting these options will not be repeated here as they are detailed in Chapter 4.

We point out, however, that the cultivation, possession and supply of cannabis remain an offence in all Australian States and Territories (and using it is an offence in most), even though cannabis use is commonplace and little evidence exists that cannabis itself causes significant harm when used in small quantities. Australian society experiences more harm, we conclude, from maintaining the prohibition policy than it experiences from the use of the drug.



Drugs Policy in the Netherlands

Summary not yet available

1996 Australia Drugs and our Community - Report of the Premier's Drug Advisory Council, Melbourne: Victorian Government, March, 1996

Summary not yet available.

1996 US Report and Recommendations of the Drug Policy Task Force, New York County Lawyers Association

The recommendations are:

  1. Pursue Alternative Models in Establishing Future Drug Policy
  2. Provide Immediate Sentencing Relief and Additional Judicial Discretion in Criminal Prosecution of Drug Cases
  3. Reduce the Harms Associated With Substance Abuse and Drug Prohibition
  4. Concentrate Law Enforcement Resources on Reducing Violent Crime and Prosecution of Violent Criminal Offenders
  5. Reshape the Drug Policy Debate -- Return to Objective Analysis and Realistic Goals
  6. Implement Public Education Campaign on Drug Use and Substance Abuse
  7. Decriminalize Marijuana
  8. Reverse Encroachments on Civil Rights and Restore "Due Process of Law"
  9. Provide Alternative Social and Economic Opportunity for Inner City Youth
  10. End War on Youth and Inner City Communities -- Restore Confidence and Integrity in Government
1996 Netherlands Drug Control Through Legalisation - A plan for regulation of the drug problem in the Netherlands

See also, More Studies and Reports


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