There has been a significant amount of controversy in recent years over the legalization of cannabis. Some countries and states have already legalized it, and other countries are slowly opening up the discussion. Still, in others, even medical cannabis remains completely illegal.
Why is it that some states and countries continue to maintain this all-natural plant’s illegal status? This article seeks to highlight all the reasons for legalizing cannabis for therapeutic applications.
A Growing Number of Legal Markets
Even though cannabis remains illegal in many places around the world, some governments have decided it’s nothing to be worried about and may even be beneficial. In Canada and now, a majority of individual American states are the most notable recent legal additions. These regions enjoy medical and often recreational access to cannabis. This means the production is regulated by strict legislation, the product is taxable, and patients have access to it for medicinal applications.
While the availability in legal countries is abundant, the black market continues to thrive in many places where cannabis remains illegal. Black market means shady cultivation practices, financing criminal gangs, increased violent crime, and a lack of access for the patients who need it the most.
The Economic Costs of Black Market Cannabis
Could legalized cannabis save governments money? This is one reason to legalize that you might not initially think about, but it’s an argument all governments will pay attention to.
According to Procon, “Legalizing marijuana would end the costly enforcement of marijuana laws and free up police resources. Arresting people for marijuana possession costs the United States between $1.19 billion and $6.03 billion annually.”
So for countries with a challenging and dangerous black market, legalization may be an opportunity to focus police resources elsewhere — on more dangerous crime and drug traffic. Plus, many new markets are now enjoying the tax revenue from legal cannabis sales. Legal weed reduces a source of income for criminal gangs and reroutes that through tax revenue to federal governments.
The revenue from the legalization of cannabis sales is nothing to scoff at. According to an article on Investopedia, “Better than expected sales of marijuana in Colorado and Washington over the past several years have resulted in buoyant tax revenues. In 2019, Colorado collected more than $302 million in taxes and fees on medical and recreational marijuana. Sales in the state totaled over $1.7 billion. Sales in the U.S were $12.2 billion, in 2019, and is projected to increase to $31.1 billion by 2024.”
Across the board, legalized markets not only saved governments money from fighting cannabis-related crime but actually made money for other parts of the government. It seems that legalizing cannabis has economic benefits.
Cannabis Is Cleaner and Safer When Legalized
Another reason for legalization is that cannabis doesn’t seem to have the same detrimental effects as other currently legal forms of intoxication, namely alcohol and cigarettes. Some argue that since these harmful substances are not only completely legal but have been for quite some time, that the prohibition of cannabis doesn’t make much sense.
Plus, regulated cannabis is safer, thanks to government oversight. According to the BC Government, “Legalizing cannabis provides an opportunity to put in place regulations to minimize potential harms. The danger of buying and using any illegal drug is that we can never know for sure what exactly is in it.”
It’s true that we often blindly consume products without reading the ingredient list, so many of us may ingest toxins and chemicals without realizing it. When you are purchasing a black market substance, it can be challenging to verify the history of the product. With legalization, the government sets out the guidelines on farming, processing, and sales. That means the government controls what pesticides go into the production and which cannot.
The risk of cultivators using toxic chemicals during cultivation is entirely removed because of strict regulations over the legal market. An unbiased laboratory tests all legal cannabis products for common contaminants before they go to the public. Within the legal market, you are much more likely to get a product that has been grown with care — and under safer conditions. The fact is that most unregulated products are not consistent.
Without regulations and standard practices, anyone can grow any way they like. Which sounds good until you realize some people might not grow that well. It’s cheaper to use harmful chemicals during the growing process than safe organic options. Some black market growers might value profits over patients. Legalization puts a regulatory body in place to perform the necessary checks to ensure that no harmful chemicals reach the consumer.
Legalization is crucial for any nascent industry. It leads to the development of safety standards. Without these safety regulations in place, anyone could make any claim about the benefits. We would have to use our judgment to determine whether or not those claims were true. With legalization, that responsibility is on the retailer and the government society, as opposed to the consumer. Legalization is a way of protecting consumers while still providing an open door for people to obtain the products they want to buy.
Cannabis is Dangerous is an Outdated and Unproven Idea
Another reason to consider when thinking about ending cannabis prohibition is that the standards many follow for prohibiting it are from another time, and not reflective of modern attitudes towards cannabis consumption.
As per a piece in the Boston Globe, “There are signs, however, that global drug policy could be changing soon. The international prohibition on cannabis legalization is nearly 60 years old at this point, as contained in the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. And many, including the president of INCB itself, have openly wondered whether its cannabis provisions are out of date.”
Legalize Medical Cannabis for it’s Proven Therapeutic Value
Another reason to legalize medical cannabis is the health benefits. There are already tens of thousands of cannabis patients (if not more) around the world using the plant to treat a variety of different conditions. Robust scientific study has proven some possible applications of medical cannabis, like for the treatment of chronic pain. Other areas are still in the preliminary phases, like cannabinoids for the treatment of cancer.
According to Harvard Health’s medical blog, cannabis can be used to treat many ailments, “Marijuana is also used to manage nausea and weight loss, and can be used to treat glaucoma. A highly promising area of research is its use for PTSD in veterans who are returning from combat zones. Many veterans and their therapists report drastic improvement and clamor for more studies, and for a loosening of governmental restrictions on its study. Medical marijuana is also reported to help patients suffering from pain and wasting syndrome associated with HIV, as well as irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease.”
Legalize Cannabis to Reduce Crime, Help Patients, and Boost Tax Revenue
There are many reasons to legalize medical cannabis, from the obvious fiscal reasons to the medical reasons to the benefits consumers enjoy from a well-regulated market. It means the police can focus their attention on dangerous drugs, not a natural plant with medical value.
Legalization also encourages scientists to continue research unfettered without having to worry about the legality of their studies. With more research, we all benefit from a better understanding of cannabis and how it affects us.
The only loser within a legal cannabis market are the drug gangs and criminals. Everyone else enjoys the benefits. The government enjoys increased tax revenue, and the consumers and patients reap the benefits of safe access. It’s a win-win for everyone to legalize cannabis.