Why Cannabis regulation makes sense
Advocating for Cannabis Legalization: A Call for Sensible Drug Policy.
Much has been written and said in recent weeks about efforts to decriminalise, legalise and regulate cannabis in many jurisdictions around the world – efforts that I have long supported because I believe strongly that they will wrestle control from those in charge of the illicit market, reduce harm, and ultimately make people and communities safer. As a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, I stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow Commissioners in making the case that no one should be criminalised, marginalised, or stigmatised for simple possession and personal use of illicit drugs. When problems arise, drug addiction should be treated as a public health issue, not a responsibility of already overburdened criminal justice systems.
To be clear, when it comes to cannabis, no serious proponent of much-needed drug policy reform will downplay the risk of potent cannabis strains to mental health and brain development. Creating legally regulated cannabis markets really means managing those risks more effectively, both in terms of outcomes and costs. But the continued criminalisation of cannabis has proven counter-productive and disproportionately impacts young people, affecting their chances in life.
The dominance of potent cannabis strains on the illicit market is precisely the result of drug prohibition. It’s a simple truth proven over and over again: in an unregulated environment controlled entirely by criminal organisations, producers will always seek to sell more a more concentrated drug that promises higher returns.
The only effective response to this dilemma, supported by the Global Commission on Drug Policy and countless medical and policy experts, is to decriminalise and legally regulate cannabis, offering not only greater transparency and choice to consumers, but, ultimately, greater safety. The evidence from those countries and US states that have created regulated cannabis markets in recent years speaks volumes in this regard: none have seen notable increases in mental health issues or violent crime as a result of cannabis regulation. What’s more, regulated markets create tax revenues that governments can invest in public education, prevention campaigns and harm reduction measures, including mental health services.
Interestingly, many of those lobbying against cannabis regulation seem to have no such reservations about the sale and consumption of alcohol, a legal drug that is responsible for thousands of deaths every year and has been effectively linked to a range of issues, from domestic and sexual violence to traffic fatalities. But it cannot be ignored that alcohol use across the UK and in many other countries has seen a steady decline over the last decades – a shift in attitudes that is also the result of consistent education and awareness-raising about its risks and health impacts. Sensible drug policy prioritises decriminalisation, regulation, and treats drug use as a health issue not a crime.