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Marijuana (Cannabis) Prohibition, Decriminalization and Legalization

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Historically, governments and churches have tried to prohibit various practices and substances through both social and legal sanctions. Often the reasons for these actions are not as clearly positioned as transparency might require. As well, the effectiveness of these prohibitions is usually less than the sanctioning body might desire or take credit for. Typically, prohibitions are employed for practices deemed to be detrimental to society and social order (e.g. prostitution) or detrimental to the health and welfare of the citizenry (e.g. alcohol and cannabis).

The reality is that other reasons are sometimes a competitive market advantage or the opportunity for personal profit, either monetary or exerting power over others. As a general rule, prohibitions are not effective in curtailing the activity or use of the substance but instead lead to the development of an underground, illicit market that bypasses governmental control or taxation. In the past, the embargo against prostitution did nothing to curtail the practice, but rather lead to unsafe working conditions for the woman and profiteering by criminals running both street prostitution and escort services. It also limited supply somewhat, increasing the cost and the profit levels of those pimping the women. The Netherlands dealt with the problems created by decriminalizing the act and imposing health standards on the market. Incomes and businesses were also taxed.

It was treated as a business, albeit with strict controls. The prohibition on alcohol was relatively shortlived but contributed to the substantial wealth of a criminal class, and almost made folk heroes of some of these characters. In fairly short order, the prohibition on liquor was lifted. The product was legalized, distribution was controlled and monitored and taxes levied on what became some of the largest organizations in the world. This regardless of the severe health and social consequences of alcohol abuse. Alcohol is addictive, it is a depressant and can induce severe, violent anti-social behaviour.o Cannabis is non-addictive.

Even when THC is present (the psychoactive ingredient), generally the effect is stupor rather than violence. That is not to say I am advocating unfettered access. Like alcohol, rules and regulations are important to ensure that the potential negative aspects of the drug can be minimized. For example, restrictions against use by youth given both the psychological impacts and the potential for physical harm in use by pre-teen and teenage users warrants age restrictions similar to those imposed on liquor. Government or highly restricted private licensed dispensaries allows a level of control significantly enhanced from today’s freewheeling, underground marketplace.address Quality control becomes more and more important as stronger strains are demanded by users.

The lack of government standards in the North American market led to the addition of very dangerous and addictive substances, making the product very dangerous for users. Fentanyl, cocaine and heroin are now routinely added to illegal cannabis both to increase the high and develop addiction and dependencies, ensuring an on-going market for the illegal suppliers, and leaving a trail of sick and dead users in its wake.

A government is faced with options as to how it wishes to address this product: Status Quo The Government of Liberia may choose to leave the laws as they currently stand, except that authorized organizations will be authorized to cultivate, process and EXPORT cannabis legally. The restrictions will apply to all uses: medicinal, edibles, topicals and recreational. Alternatively, the GOL may choose to authorize CBD for medicinal and/or edibles and/or topical uses, prohibiting cannabis only with active levels of THC (the psychoactive component).

Decriminalization Drug decriminalization calls for reduced control and penalties compared to existing laws. Proponents of drug decriminalization generally support the use of fines or other punishments to replace prison terms and often propose systems whereby illegal drug users who are caught would be fined but would not receive a permanent criminal record as a result.

A central feature of drug decriminalization is the concept of harm reduction. Drug decriminalization is in some ways an intermediate between prohibition and legalization and has been criticized as being “the worst of both worlds”, in that drug sales would still be illegal, thus perpetuating the problems associated with leaving production and distribution of drugs to the criminal underworld (decriminalization’s flaw is that it does nothing to undermine the criminal monopoly on the multi-billion-dollar drugs industry) , while also failing to discourage illegal drug use by removing the criminal penalties that might otherwise cause some people to choose not to use drugs.

However, there are many that argue that the decriminalization of possession of drugs would redirect the focus of the law enforcement system of any country to put more effort into arresting dealers and big-time criminals, instead of arresting minor criminals for mere possession and thus be more effective. Countries that have legalized the medical use of cannabis include Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Sri Lanka and the United Kingdom (effective November 1, 2018). Others have more restrictive laws that only allow the use of certain cannabinoid drugs, such as Sativex or Marinol. In the United States, 31 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the medical use of cannabis, but at the federal level, its use remains prohibited for any purpose. Whilst many people would argue that decriminalization will only cause an increase in usage, studies from California and Colorado, two states who implemented the policy, found that ‘”decriminalization” of marijuana possession had little or no impact on rates of use, and found that it was effective in reducing drug usage due to better control. Proceedings of the Special Committee on Illegal Drugs, Senate of Canada, 28 May 2001 Legalization Legalization refers to the repeal or abolishment of laws that prohibit the use, sale and possession of cannabis and/or the establishment of new legislation that permits use under certain conditions or restrictions.

In Canada, the Cannabis Act creates a strict legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis across Canada. The Act aims to accomplish 3 goals: keep cannabis out of the hands of youth  keep profits out of the pockets of criminals  protect public health and safety by allowing adults access to legal cannabis What is legal as of October 17, 2018 Subject to provincial or territorial restrictions, adults who are 18 years of age or older are legally able to:  possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis, dried or equivalent in non-dried form in public  share up to 30 grams of legal cannabis with other adults  buy dried or fresh cannabis and cannabis oil from a provincially-licensed retailer o in provinces and territories without a regulated retail framework, individuals are able to purchase cannabis online from federally-licensed producers  grow, from licensed seed or seedlings, up to 4 cannabis plants per residence for personal use make cannabis products, such as food and drinks, at home as long as organic solvents are not used to create concentrated products Cannabis edible products and concentrates will be leg Possession limits for cannabis products The possession limits in the Cannabis Act are based on dried cannabis. Equivalents were developed for other cannabis products to identify what their possession limit would be.

One (1) gram of dried cannabis is equal to:  5 grams of fresh cannabis, 15 grams of edible product, 70 grams of liquid product, 0.25 grams of concentrates (solid or liquid) 1 cannabis plant seed This means, for example, that an adult 18 –  year of age or older, can legally possess 150 grams of fresh cannabis. Cannabis for medical purposes.

The current regime for medical cannabis will continue to allow access to cannabis for people who have the authorization of their healthcare provider. Protecting youth, the Cannabis Act has several measures that help prevent youth from accessing cannabis. These include both age restrictions and restricting the promotion of cannabis. Age restrictions No person may sell or provide cannabis to any person under the age of 18. There are 2 criminal offences related to providing cannabis to youth, with maximum penalties of 14 years in jail: giving or selling cannabis to youth, using a youth to commit a cannabis-related offence Restricting promotion and enticement The Cannabis Act helps discourage youth cannabis use by prohibiting:  products that are appealing to youth, packaging or labelling cannabis in a way that makes it appealing to youth, selling cannabis through self-service displays or vending machines, promoting cannabis, except in narrow circumstances where young people could not see the promotion Penalties for violating these prohibitions include a fine of up to $5 million or 3 years in jail. Protecting public health The Act protects public health by creating strict safety and quality regulations. In addition, public education efforts are currently underway to raise awareness about safety measures and any potential health risks.

Strict regulation Federal, provincial and territorial governments share responsibility for overseeing the cannabis regulation system. The Federal government’s responsibilities are to set: strict requirements for producers who grow and manufacture cannabis, industry-wide rules and standards, including: o types of cannabis products available for sale o packaging and labelling requirements for products o standardized serving sizes and potency o prohibitions on the use of certain ingredients o good production practices o tracking requirements of cannabis from seed to sale to keep it out of the illegal market o restrictions on promotional activities Provinces and territories are responsible for developing, implementing, maintaining and enforcing systems to oversee the distribution and sale of cannabis.

They are also able to add their own safety measures, such as: increasing the minimum age in their province or territory (but not lowering it), lowering the personal possession limit in their jurisdiction creating additional rules for growing cannabis at home, such as lowering the number of plants per residence, restricting where adults can consume cannabis, such as in public or in vehicles Public education The Government of Canada has committed close to $46 million over the next five years for cannabis public education and awareness activities. These are to inform Canadians, especially youth, of the health and safety risks of cannabis consumption. Reducing criminal activity Statistics Canada reports that in 2017, almost 48,000 cannabis-related drug offences were reported to police. The majority of these (80%) were possession offences.

A criminal record resulting from a cannabis offence, even a minor possession charge, can have serious and lifelong implications for the person charged. In allowing the production and possession of legal cannabis for adults, the Act helps keep Canadians who consume cannabis out of the criminal justice system, reducing the burden on the courts. Criminal penalties Cannabis offences target those acting outside of the legal framework, such as organized crime. Penalties are set in proportion to the seriousness of the offence. Sanctions range from warnings and tickets for minor offences to criminal prosecution and imprisonment for more serious offences. Some offences specifically target people who make cannabis available to youth.

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