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"Fall seven times stand up eight."
Japanese Proverb
"Marijuana is taken by musicians, and I'm not speaking about good musicians, but the jazz type."
Federal Bureau of Narcotics Chief Harry J. Anslinger
"I believe there is something out there watching over us. Unfortunately, it's the government."
Woody Allen

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Can't regulate an un-regulated market
As soon as the question is raised of reform to end prohibition, opponents of reform point to the dangers of illicit drug use. We are all agreed that drugs can be misused, but it is because of this that legalisers call for increased control and regulation of the market. This can only be achieved by bringing the trade back in to the legal framework (i.e. we should legalise drugs because they are dangerous, not because they are safe). What supporters of legalisation are calling for is a debate of drug policy in the light of the fact that there is an increasing prevalence of the use of drugs and increasing misuse.

The question we must ask is, are the policies and legislation effective in dealing with level and type of drug use that is taking place? On the basis of all the available evidence, prohibition would seem to be singularly ineffective.

In the high emotion of the debate, it is often difficult to make a distinction between the consequences of drug use and the consequences of using an illegal drug. The major producers and suppliers of illegal drugs operate in the clandestine world of organised crime which is violent and unregulated. Users have to pay very high prices for drugs (of extremely variable quality) and users who have no other source of income often resort to crime in order to fund their habit. (An average dependent heroin user involved in property crime will need to steal about pound;30 000 worth of property each year to pay for their drugs.)

Due to the fact that alcohol, tobacco, sleeping pills and methadone are readily available through legal outlets, there is almost no involvement from organised crime in the sale of these products. The price is relatively low and consequently there is no property crime associated with their use, even amongst dependent addicts. There are no violent turf wars fought over their distribution. The producers and suppliers of these substances are controlled and regulated

Police and Community Relations
Take away one very major area of conflict between the police and the community and you create better community relations. Most cannabis smokers are not criminals but engage in a single criminal activity. An activity they will tell you makes them more peaceful, more contemplative, more respectful and more appreciative. Cannabis smokers understandably resent the implication they don't know what's good for them. And they will understandably be more willing participants in a society they feel part of.

Gateway Theory
Part of the harm of prohibition will be solved by coffee shops. The part that criminalises young people for a personal choice, the part that forces them into an underworld. There's a simple reason why people mistrust Government information about drugs; they know its agenda is to get them to stop, rather than to inform them about relative safety. Force people out of society, even just a little bit, and you run the risk of them deciding to challenge society's norms in other ways too. Which most certainly includes the norm that all drugs are bad. Cannabis isn't a gateway drug but prohibition is a gateway policy.