Why were marijuana restrictions implemented in the 1970s more successful in South Korea than in the United States?

The Politicus
May 21, 2022 08:58 PM 0 Answers
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In the debates over drug regulation, there is typically one side which argues the government should ban and restrict use of property that is harmful or has high risk of being harmful. They may cite the US Supreme Court case United States v. Miller or bans on more obviously dangerous narcotics like methamphetamines as support for this argument. On the other side, a popular argument is that it is ultimately impossible for a democratic society to have a sufficient level of control over what citizens do in private, and that the result of a strict ban would be an illegal underground marijuana trade and mass incarceration will make the problem worse in total. They may cite the US examples of the failure of Prohibition or failure of the “War on Drugs” in the 1990s to support this view.

According to wiki, in South Korea recreational cannabis was popular in the 60s and 70s before being strictly banned in 1976 (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cannabis_in_South_Korea). Currently, South Korea has one of the lowest marijuana use rates in the world (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annual_cannabis_use_by_country). South Korea’s incarceration rate is much lower than that of the US (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_incarceration_rate).

Does the example of South Korea in the 1970s provide an example of a democratic and capitalist country successfully prohibiting marijuana use? What factors could explain the discrepancy in outcome of these policies in South Korea since the 1970s as opposed to the United States over the same period? I think it likely that South Korea being close to other tough-on-crime countries, historical culture, a more homogeneous ethnicity, and maybe even lead levels in the US baby boomer generation could be possible explanations. Are there other factors?

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