An economic evaluation of alternate cannabis policy options - towards a cost-benefit analysis.
This thesis takes the form of a policy debate regarding alternate cannabis policy options. It will adopt the cost-benefit analysis theory and framework to inform this debate. It is said that cannabis had been used for multiple purposes (spiritual, medicinal and recreational) since early mankind. The first international drug control treaty came into effect in 1912 which aimed to control substances such as opium and coca only. However, with support from the US and Italy in particular, it was argued that cannabis be recognised as a dangerous and dependence-producing drug and was therefore contested that cannabis be added to this Drug Convention. Only in 1961, with the revision of the International Drug Convention, was cannabis confirmed to have aspects that posed risks of abuse and dependence and was therefore added to the treaty. It was also in this year that South Africa became a signatory to this multilateral agreement. The international consensus however, has changed considerably over the past few years, with examples of legalisation illustrated by countries such as Uruguay, and ironically, the US (Colorado and Washington). The efforts of the United Nations aiming to reduce, and ultimately eliminate cannabis abuse paradoxically coincide with the increasingly popularity and widespread use. It is estimated that approximately 4% of the world’s population has used or consumed cannabis, with the US and UK recording the highest increases over the past few decades. Further in SA, cannabis is considered to be the most abused illicit substance and it is estimated that approximately 6.3% of the population consume it. Currently there is a vigorous international debate around the legalization of cannabis, which is based on the fact that control efforts have largely failed. In addition, evidence suggests that restrictive drug control policies have had a very limited impact on the overall level of usage. Therefore, this thesis aims to identify and analyse the different policy options available regarding cannabis and to identify and highlight a wide range of costs and benefits associated with two policy options, that is, an illegal model versus a regulated-legalised model, in the hope of informing this debate.