ChapterV The Impacts of Cannabis Policy Reforms

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This chapter reviews the existing evidence on the impact on cannabis use and other indicators of the alternative regimes of cannabis control which have been implemented within the current constraints of the international drug conventions. As noted in the preceding chapter, in a number of countries, at both a national and subnational level, governments have introduced changes to the policies and laws applying to cannabis.

The reforms that are generally agreed to have been conducted within the bounds of the existing international drug treaties and conventions (e.g. Krajewski, 1999), can be broadly seen as moving away from prohibition with strict criminal penalties on the user (full prohibition) to some form of depenalisation. As described in detail in the previous chapter, the reform typologies include: prohibition with cautioning or diversion; prohibition with civil penalties (often termed 'decriminalisation'); partial prohibition, including both 'de facto' and 'de jure' legalisation; and regulated availability of cannabis as a medicine, often referred to as 'medical marijuana'. While not all of these reforms have been extensively evaluated, there is a small but growing evidence base, and this is the focus of the present chapter.

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