Here's What Happens When An Entire Country Decriminalizes Marijuana

The news: According to new data, legalizing weed does not lead to a crazed epidemic of stoned youth hysteria, disproving the sensational anti-legalization myth. A U.K. study has found that the country's incidence of cannabis use did not go up when the U.K. decriminalized weed in 2004, placing it in a not-so-serious enforcement category. Despite the reduced legal threat of using cannabis, there was no significant increase in youth use, nor was there an uptick in drug-related crime.

Mounting evidence: A similar report on teen cannabis use in the United States showed that American teens are no more likely to use cannabis now that it's legal in some U.S. states. In fact, teen use has actually gone down in recent years. Many opponents of legalization claim drug use among youth will increase , a remnant of the Just Say No era of drug deterrence. Data continues to show that this just isn't the case, punching another big hole in the case against legalization. 

In 2004, the U.K. moved cannabis from a Class B drug (medium danger) to a Class C drug, marking it as one of the least dangerous controlled substances. Just five years later, despite little disagreement from a government council on drug use, they returned it to Class B, citing the purported link between cannabis and schizophrenia. That link has since been disputed by Harvard Medical Schoolresearch. A new study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy further emphasizes that, during the period that cannabis was in Class C, it posed no increased social threat.

A sign for the U.S. Since 1970, the U.S. has kept marijuana on Schedule 1 along with highly dangerous substances like heroin and other opioids. The Food and Drug Administration has received extensive criticism for this policy and is finally considering moving weed to a less serious category. Taking into account recent findings that decriminalization and legalization don't significantly threaten young people and that many states are forging forward with various forms of legalization, a rescheduling in the U.S. is long overdue. Washington just became the second American state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, and Washington, D.C. is moving toward decriminalization of the drug: If the U.K.'s five-year experiment with declassification isn't enough evidence, we just have to look at the thriving, healthy weed economy in our own backyard.


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Abdullah Saeed

Abdullah Saeed covers drug policy, focusing on newly forming cannabis legislation in the US. He is the author of VICE's "Weediquette" column as T. Kid. His work has appeared in High Times, Huffington Post, Paper, and Village Voice, among others.

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