Does Dutch pot mean fewer prisoners?

“Coffee shops” are quite popular in Amsterdam and other parts of the Netherlands. That’s because although cannabis, a/k/a/ marijuana, is technically illegal, authorities take no action if it is smoked in a “coffee shop.” The shops are licensed and regulated by the government and marijuana and hashish can be consumed on site, although the shops cannot sell alcohol.

Thus, proponents of legalizing marijuana for medical use in South Dakota might find succor in this headline from one of Netherlands’ evening newspapers: “Netherlands to close prisons for lack of prisoners.” According to the article, “The Dutch justice ministry has announced it will close eight prisons and cut 1,200 jobs in the prison system. A decline in crime has left many cells empty.”

Now it’s certainly doubtful anyone could say there is a direct causal connection between Dutch marijuana policies and the country’s declining crime rates. But it does at least give one pause and put at least one arrow, however small, in the quiver of the legalization camp.

[Marijuana is used by] musicians. And I’m not speaking about good musicians, but the jazz type.

Harry J. Anslinger, Commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics, 1948

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