LOS ANGELES, CA -- Over the weekend, as news of the tragic passing of Whitney Houston spread, speculation about the cause of death and the award-winning singer’s history of drug use caused many people to reconsider our nation’s failed war on drugs. Among them was fellow singer Tony Bennett, who called on attendees of a pre-Grammy gala to join him in the fight to end drug prohibition.
"First it was Michael Jackson, then Amy Winehouse, now the magnificent Whitney Houston," he told the audience. "I'd like every person in this room to campaign to legalize drugs. Let's legalize drugs like they did in Amsterdam. No one's hiding or sneaking around corners to get it. They go to a doctor to get it."
While Holland hasn’t actually legalized drugs, its policies are focused on reducing the harms associated with drugs, rather than arresting nonviolent drug users. Most significantly, the possession and sale of small amounts of marijuana are tolerated by the government, which has separated marijuana from the market for harder drugs. As a result of this policy and more readily available treatment options, drug use and addiction rates in the Netherlands are far lower than in the United States.
“Addiction is always tragic, but our nation’s knuckle-headed approach to drugs only makes matters worse,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. “Prohibition hasn’t stopped people – including Whitney Houston – from using drugs. And arresting a person for marijuana – like what happened to Whitney Houston in 2000 – is more harmful to the person than the use of marijuana itself, which even President Jimmy Carter publicly stated way back in 1977.”
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“If we were to remove the threat of arrest, many people who need help for drug use would be more likely to seek treatment, and this is certainly true for marijuana, which is the most commonly used illegal drug,” said Kampia.
“If we took marijuana out of the criminal market, where dealers have an incentive to sell their customers harder drugs, a large number of marijuana consumers would never be exposed to harder drugs. Just think about alcohol stores – when you go to buy a bottle of vodka, is there a pile of cocaine sitting on the shelf?”