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UC Berkeley study compares Dutch marijuana usage to U.S.

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SEPTEMBER 15, 2011

A recent study by UC Berkeley professor of law and public policy Robert MacCoun examines drug use in the Netherlands following semi-legalization in 1976 of small amounts of cannabis possession and the implementation of a coffee shop system of cannabis distribution.

Most noticeable in the study’s results is its conclusions regarding the “gateway association” — or the theory that widespread marijuana legalization would inevitably lead to use of harder drugs like cocaine and amphetamines. Though the study states that the data is not yet conclusive, it suggests that despite widened legal availability of cannabis, there is not necessarily increased usage of harder drugs.

According to the study, Dutch youth have higher rates of cannabis use and start at a slightly earlier age in comparison to other European countries. However, despite wider legal availability of cannabis, Dutch citizens “do not appear to be particularly likely to escalate their use relative to their counterparts in Europe and the United States.”

This research holds particular relevance to the residents of the city of Berkeley as the city moves forward implementing Measure T, which allows for the expansion of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city from three to four and the construction of six cultivation sites. Berkeley has already implemented Measure S, which imposed a tax on medical marijuana sales.

However, there have been troubles in putting the measures into action.

“I’d like to see Berkeley move ahead with licensing schemes that the people of Berkeley voted for and hopefully expand that licensing scheme,” said former Medical Cannabis Commission member Kris Hermes. spokesperson for Americans for Safe Access.

Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin attributed the delays to a more hands on prosecution policy on medical marijuana cultivation from the federal government. He also expressed concern for drug use among youths and called for a differentiation of “medical marijuana, which is a medicine under state and city law, which patients are able to use as a treatment, versus the recreational uses of marijuana.”

Contact Jaehak Yu at 


SEPTEMBER 15, 2011