Jim Newton: Has the loosening of the laws in California had some of the effect you're describing.
Jack Cole: Yes it has. In fact the drug warriors are now bragging that in the last four years teenage marijuana use has dropped 11%. That's 11% from where it was four years ago; it's still up 50% from where it was at the start of the war on drugs, which should be where you start measuring. They say it's dropped 11% in the last four years. But in California, where you were the first state to legalize medical marijuana, it's dropped by 47%.
Tim Cavanaugh: Teenage usage?
Jack Cole: Yeah.
Lisa Richardson: What's the correlation of that?
Jack Cole: I think the correlation is it's not particularly cool to get together and smoke a joint when that's what grandma does to treat her glaucoma.
Tim Cavanaugh: Come on, it's still cool!
David Fleming: We ought to outlaw spinach.
Jim Newton: Let's talk about what this world would look like. We wake up January 1, drugs are legal. Seems like there could be manifold unintended consequences of that too.
David Fleming: It would be from a Class 1 to a Class 2 drug.
Jim Newton: So drugs would still be illegal?
Jack Cole: They would be regulated. Most drugs would be legal. And we believe the more dangerous a drug is, the more reason there would be to legalize it, because you cannot control or regulate anything that is illegal. But it doesn't mean it won't be regulated, harshly regulated. It just won't be a Class 1 drug anymore.
Jim Newton: So as a consumer, would I buy from a doctor? How would I get access to these drugs?
Jack Cole: That depends on the drug. And it depends on the policies we set up. If you're asking, and we don't recommend any specific policy. The first half of our talk is to convince people of the horror of the war on drugs. And the second half is to discuss what we'd like to see. [...] The only drug we've had any success in lowering the rate of use of in this country is tobacco. In the last 22 years we've cut tobacco use in half in this country. We didn't do that by making tobacco illegal, by arresting executives at R.J. Reynolds. The most effective thing we did was a massive education program.
Cynics and prohibition
Jim Newton: What ended alcohol prohibition in 1933?
Jack Cole: It ended when the public began to see the unintended consequences of this misguided law.
David Fleming: There's another part of that. At the time we were in the midst of a depression. Income tax revenues were way down, and the federal government said to itself, where were we getting our revenues before? And the answer was that a substantial portion of federal revenues had been coming from taxes on alcohol.
Jim Newton: David, you are a cynic!