The Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, headed by MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), is looking to draw conclusions from the legalization of soft drugs in Colorado.
”Four years into the legalization in Colorado and the sky did not fall. When things are legalized, the claim is that more people smoke legally and report it,” Zandberg said during the committee`s meeting on Monday.
Dr. Adi Inbar, from the Knesset Research and Information Center, presented the figures of the first year of legalization in Colorado: ”The main conclusion is that it is too early to determine the effects of this move, the future trends and its implications on other places”.
Dr. Yossi Harel-Fisch, Chief Scientist of the Israel Anti-Drug Authority, said, ”The result deriving from meetings of professionals from all around the world is that not enough time has passed to draw conclusions. We are worried about some trends – Colorado is unique also within the US for its high rates of drug use over the years. According to the figures, Colorado is placed first among the 50 states in marijuana use among youth aged 12-17.”
Harel-Fisch presented additional figures showing an increase of 32% in the number of students who are expelled from school due to drug-related issues, as well as an increase in marijuana use among students, a 30% rise in emergency room visits due to the use of soft drugs and an increase of 44% in the number of people killed while driving under the influence of soft drugs.
(MK Tamar Zandberg)
MK Sharren Haskel (Likud) said: ”It is strange that people from the Knesset Research and Information Center say that there are no unequivocal figures, and yet the Israel Anti-Drug Authority presents unequivocal facts. It creates an uneasy feeling”. Dr. Harel-Fisch replied and said that ”The rates are not precise and therefore do not prove causativeness. There are many interpretations but no clear conclusions”.
Committee Chairwoman Zandberg replied: ”It is unclear why cannabis stands for itself, it should be considered the same as any other substance on the list. While we see a moderate increase in cannabis use, we see a rise in designer drugs which cause harm. In Colorado figures show that the crime rate is declining, as is the number of road accidents and state income from taxes, and a new figure shows a drop in the use of medicine parallel to the increase in cannabis use”.
MK Michal Rozin (Meretz) stated that ”The main concern is for children and teenagers, and the question is whether legalization was made alongside an educational plan. During a visit to the Geha Mental Health Center yesterday, I was told of an increase in the purchase of the `Nice Guy` drug, which causes a rise in violence towards staff and mental patients”.
Orit Shapiro, Head of the Prevention and Education Division at the Israel Anti-Drug Authority, noted that ”Over the past few years we have found that some youth are confused as to what is allowed and what is not dangerous. Legalizing would have immediate implications on the use of drugs – if it is allowed by law, then it must be fine”.
In response, MK Zandberg said, ”There is an improper situation here, and you claim that the discourse is harmful. We are trying to have an intelligent discussion- alcohol is a more dangerous drug than cannabis, designer drugs as well, and my feeling is that because cannabis is considered criminal- you cling to the horns of the altar.”
MK Dov Khenin (Joint List), said ”Criminal law today does not reduce cannabis purchase, but it [negatively influences] the attitude towards criminal law. We must reexamine the policy and should begin with no incrimination. It will enable to combine criminal law with the symptoms which should actually be tackled”.
Prof. Gal Yadid, Head of the Scientific Committee of the Israel Anti-Drug Authority, said ”Before we make decisions we must study the conditions in Israel and the Israeli type. I believe in legalization, but in a responsible way, with the help of professional and scientific advisors”.
Committee Chairwoman Zandberg summed up the meeting by saying, ”The conclusion is that the sky in Colorado did not fall and the gloomy forecasts were not fulfilled. In the past months, the Anti-Drug Authority [ask us] to make decisions in a smart way. We will carry on accompanying the governmental process and make sure it is smart and right, because the incrimination against private use appears to be pointless and harmful”.