Seattle, Washington (TFC) – The cannabis industry blooms in areas that have legalized recreational marijuana sales, prompting governments worldwide to weigh their alternatives as the end of cannabis prohibition dawns. Cannabis advocates have asserted for decades that governments were being unjust by prohibiting cannabis use and cultivation. No one has ever died from a marijuana overdose. Prescription drugs, alcohol, and even tobacco are known to be more harmful. Over half of Americans say that marijuana should be legal, according to Pew Research Center. After nearly 100 years of prohibition, the tides are starting to turn in the favor of cannabis policy reform.
In 2012, state voters in both Colorado and Washington legalized recreational use and sales, despite federal prohibition. State officials and entrepreneurs hustled to form a viable market, tax, and regulatory structure. Four years later, recreational cannabis can be purchased by adults who are 21 and over in specialty shops in both states. Oregon, known for their liberal pot policies, just joined the list of states that will stand to profit from cannabis sales in October. Alaska and Washington D.C. allow adult recreational use and cultivation, but neither has moved forward with implementing a retail sales and tax scheme. In light of these successes, several other jurisdictions are expected to consider legalization and recreational sales in 2016.
Internationally policies restricting cannabis use are changing, as well. Possession and use of marijuana has long been deprioritized or decriminalized in many countries in Europe and Latin America. In 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize marijuana. The government there hopes to dispense it via pharmacies in order to fully regulate the market. According to this blog post from the cannabis community, that plan should finally bear fruit this year. Supreme Court decisions in Mexico City indicate a recent support for legalization, as well. A United Nation General Assembly Session (UNGASS) is scheduled for 2016 to address the issue of drugs on a global scale; it is expected that the global reform of marijuana policies will be an important topic of discussion. The worldview on cannabis is changing, but the idea hasn’t germinated everywhere.
Despite the preponderance of evidence to the contrary, the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy maintained in 2014 hearings that cannabis is a dangerous and addictive drug. The establishment is reluctant to let go of this mainstay of law enforcement revenue. According to Drug Sense, it’s estimated that the U.S. federal government spends about $500 per second in the failed war on drugs. In response to state legislation defying national drug policy, the current administration has sent mixed messages about its own stance on continued cannabis prohibition, but has thus far allowed the cannabis industry to develop unimpeded in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon.
Michael Botticelli, who was appointed Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy last year, reluctantly agreed in 2014 under cross-examination that other drugs – including alcohol and prescription drugs – pose a far greater risk to public health than marijuana. According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, twice as many teens and young adults are using alcohol than are using marijuana. The survey data also shows more young people are using heroin, methamphetamine, and illicitly-obtained prescription drugs than in years past. The government and industry already profits off some of the most dangerous legal drugs in America – alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceuticals. Cannabis prohibition has been a costly failure; it is time to free the weed.