It seems like a drug-induced fantasy to have white coated technicians taking care of cannabis plants, being disturbed by the government only when it is time to pay taxes. That’s what marijuana legalization is supposed to bring.
For a while, cannabis has been grown in secret by cartels and consumers who risked jail to smoke this herb. Now, a number of countries are licensing the drug for medical purposes while others are going a few steps further. So far, four states in the United States have approved marijuana recreational use while Canada and Uruguay will join this club very soon. In fact, a number of governments are already debating reform when it comes to marijuana.
This war on weed has been silly. A number of people that have been advocates of legalization will be glad to note that it is ending.
There’s a good reason too: the amount spent on cannabis in the illegal narcotics market is half of $300 billion and is usually the popular choice for the 250 million illegal drug users. If cannabis is legalized, then organized crime will lose its biggest source of income. Honest citizens will remain protected too.
Yet, this move towards legalization raises a number of questions: how does one regulate the use of this herb?
This seems like a question that bureaucrats usually grapple with: how should one tax it, what varieties should be allowed, and who should sell it and to whom. Answering these questions will force policymakers to decide as to which of cannabis’ legalization aims matter most.
It goes without saying that getting these decisions right is what will determine whether legalization succeeds or not. Canada is currently writing these rules which the rest of the world is bound to follow in the years ahead.
The Difficulties After Legalization
People who are in favor of legalization are usually an odd bunch – both libertarian and conservative. The former want maximum personal and commercial freedom, while the latter understands that legalization and regulation is better than prohibition.
Yet when it comes to questions about how the cannabis trade should work, they are rarely able to find consensus.
Libertarians tend to ask why cannabis, which has no lethal dose, must be regulated. There are two good reasons. One being that cannabis tends to induce dependency in a minority of users while very little authoritative information is available on its long-term effects. In that sense, the state is justified in keeping customers away from cannabis much like alcohol or tobacco.
So, American states can use tax to prevent consumption while also increasing prices to curb problem use as well as the number of drug dealers.
As for what products to allow, cannabis isn’t just about joints and blunts anymore, but also food and drink that contains pot. Then there are ultra-strong concentrates available as well. Of course, both edible and stronger strains will put illegal dealers out of business but will encourage people to take the drug in its strongest forms. For this reason, legalizing what is on the black market is a good starting point.
As for taxing or capping potency of cannabis, this could follow the model used for spirits which is expensive and less available than beer.
Of course, there is one aspect where the government should not hold back: this is in terms of advertising. While on the black market there is none, this will not be so when the drug is made fully legal. For example, cannabis sweets can be tempting for children and should be banned much like flavored cigarettes and alcohol-spiked sweets. In other words, the state should use the tax system as well as public education to ensure that people find the least harmful ways to get high on cannabis.
Which brings us to another difficulty: with the federal ban on cannabis, the business of writing new regulations has fallen on a couple of civil servants in a few states. They will have no assistance from federal agencies both in this respect as well as when it comes to pot advertising.
Without a doubt, the lack of policy in regard to cannabis by the federal government seems to be rather irresponsible even if it seems prudent to wait for a little longer.
As for campaigners both for and against the legalization of cannabis, they have to open their eyes to what is unfolding at this time. Prohibition will not work anymore and so it is best for those versions of legalization that cause the least harm. Legalizers must also realize that cannabis needs to be seriously scrutinized much like other alike products.
In other words, it is vital to get the policy of cannabis right from the get-go instead of having to take on the industry years later.