The legalization of marijuana is an issue that consistently discussed and debated, not only in North America, but throughout the entire world. Despite being illegal in every country, marijuana remains the most widely used illicit drug in the world. The popularity of this drug is the cause for the continuous legalization debate, resulting in various legislations pertaining to the consumption of the substance. Every country has its own stance on the issue, however, the Netherlands has a unique policy on marijuana use: it is decriminalized, classified as a “soft drug” and possession is limited to 5 grams in public or 30 grams in a private area.
There are also Dutch “coffee shops” that are able to sell the drug, while adhering to strict government regulations. The situation in the Netherlands relating to marijuana has set a precedent for other regions to work towards decriminalization/legalization such as the American states Colorado and Washington that have recently legalized possession. With these progressive actions taking place throughout the world, Canadians are left wondering if or when marijuana laws would be changed in their nation. Many Canadians are in favour of full legalization, but what would be the effects of such an action? The legalization of marijuana in Canada would potentially result in great economic benefits from regulation and taxation, reduced crime rate, and an exponential increase in research of marijuana for medical purposes.
One of the hottest debated topics in the legalization debate is the possible economic benefits resulting from the regulation and taxation of marijuana. Based on a 2009 report from the RAND Corporation for the European Commission, it was estimated that the annual market for cannabis in Canada is valued at approximately $4 billion. With effective taxation, this booming market could potentially be a great source of revenue for the government. If the government decided to implement special taxes to marijuana sales (akin to alcohol and tobacco), the potential revenue would be much greater. In addition, legalization would create a plethora of new job opportunities in various sectors such as: agriculture, transportation, distribution and retail. These jobs would be created as the government would begin to produce and regulate the sale of marijuana. Legalization could also potentially reduce legal costs associated the persecution of those involved in the purchasing and sale of marijuana. Law enforcement services would no longer be required to heavily persecute marijuana usage, thus resulting in the opportunity for those resources to be used elsewhere. Marijuana would create new avenues for government income and saving, therefore positively contributing to the economic health of the nation.
Illegal drug sales/trafficking is one of the greatest sources of income for organized crime, and will continue to be so as long as they remain in control of the drug market. By legalizing and regulating the sale of marijuana, this income stream for organized crime would be heavily impacted. Criminals rely on the massive profits produced by the low supply/high demand trend that is currently seen in the drug black market. Once legalized, there will be plenty of legal producers and suppliers, which would result in the price per unit of marijuana to dip significantly. Since legal suppliers will most likely have the resources to produce better quality product with better prices, the black market producers may not be able to compete. Especially with the safe, easy access that legalization would bring, a typical consumer would most likely prefer to buy their product from a licensed seller rather than a criminal. Also, once legalized, citizens would most likely be able to grow small amounts of the substance on their own, again reducing the demand for black market product. Aside from the sales aspect, legalization would result in less charges and arrests laid upon those breaking the law, many times for simple possession. This would lead to law enforcement services having time freed to be able to deal with more serious crimes. Reduction of crime is an aspect that anyone would appreciate, no matter their stance on the drug.
A number of studies have been done to investigate the medical benefits of marijuana, and majority of those studies have proven that marijuana does indeed contain medical properties. Cannabis contains properties that have shown to treat a variety of ailments, including: glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and HIV/AIDS. Despite the results of such studies, cannabis has not been explored to its full medical potential due to its legal status. However, medical cannabis is available in Canada and other parts of the world for those who qualify. Medical cannabis is used to treat the previously described ailments, along with chronic pain.
Those who use cannabis to treat chronic pain find it more effective compared to other pharmaceutical alternatives, and does not contain the high number of negative side effects that some over the counter drugs may inflict. Through legalization, further research can be done to discover more about the medical properties, and how those properties can be better utilized. One argument against medical marijuana is that dosages are very hard to keep consistent and the current popular form of consumption (ex. smoking) is unsafe and unhealthy. Only through further research will it be possible to discover how to deliver consistent doses of THC (one of medical properties in marijuana) and better consumption methods. With legalization, the pathway will be clear towards a healthier future with improved medicine.
The legalization debate over marijuana seems to be endless. Either side will continue to argue their point, yet it is hard to ignore facts. Legalization of marijuana will be highly beneficial to society, in many different aspects. Canada has the opportunity to be on the forefront of the progressive movement towards legalization, and the benefits of such action will destroy the negative stigma associated with marijuana. Prohibition has done more harm than good, and a change in legislation is the only possible way to turn things around. With the legalization of marijuana, Canadians will reap the great economic benefits associated with the product, marijuana related crimes would be reduced to an all time low, and the medical benefits of marijuana will finally be exploited.
van Ours, J.C. (2011). The Long and Winding Road to Cannabis Legalization. Retrieved from http://arno.uvt.nl/show.cgi?fid=121097 Miron, J.A. (2005). Tax Revenue from Legalized Marijuana. The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition. Retrieved from http://www.prohibitioncosts.org/mironreport/