Government and cannabis have never had the most comfortable of relationships in modern times
So it isn’t that surprising that some of those that have been passionate about cannabis for a long time are skeptical about their government’s role in regulating the plant they have been using for years without interference.
When we announced we were submitting an application to provide the track and trace system for their cannabis industry, this response on Twitter caught out eye:
While we totally get this point of view, legalizing cannabis is about more than government control.
Below are six reasons legalization, not decriminalization, is crucial to a cannabis industry that can benefit everyone who needs it.
1. Decriminalization doesn’t suppress the black market
Decriminalization means that the selling of cannabis is still illegal so those benefiting from its sale are ‘criminals’, while some of them will just sell cannabis as individuals it is also an avenue that funds organized crime and therefore funds much less reputable activities.
Additionally, legalizing cannabis allows police to attend matters that are of greater importance than cannabis-related crimes. This will eventually result in lower crime rates, better response times and an overall improved justice system.
In the past decade, police made more than 7 million arrests, 88% were possessions alone and the vast majority of these are for low-level offences. That is a lot of wasted resources for a crime that doesn’t have a significant impact on society. Imagine if the amount of time, people and money spent making these arrests was put to use for more pressing crimes.
In addition, some of the sale of illicit cannabis can be linked to groups that engage in other types of organised crime like violence and human trafficking. A properly incentivized and intelligently run legal cannabis industry could help to cut of a lucrative source of income for these type of criminals.
2. It puts up roadblocks for studying cannabis’ specific medical benefits
There is no end to the medical benefits that people claim they get from cannabis.
However, because it has been classified as an illicit substance for so long, we are a long way behind where we should be when it comes to understanding these benefits in any way that is backed by peer-reviewed research.
At a Federal level in the United States cannabis is still a schedule 1 drug and as such is considered to have “no currently accepted medical use”. As crazy as this is, it is the law and it makes it very hard to both get funding to study the benefits of cannabis..
And even if a study does get funded, sourcing the cannabis to complete the research and the legal hoops that researchers have to jump through to ensure they stay compliant makes things hard to produce meaningful results
Lack of cannabis research is something Parsl has written about more extensively in a previous blog post.
Once cannabis is fully legalized, access to cannabis to study and grants to fund the studies will become more common.
3. We can never be sure what’s in our illicitly-grown cannabis
As cannabis from the black market is illegal, there are no regulations set in place for a seller to disclose the history of cannabis products they sell to their customers. This means that there is no way to tell if a product is contaminated and poses health risks to a consumer.
On the other hand, let’s look to the legal cannabis industry to see the extent of testing done on cannabis to help understand the vast amount of contaminants that could potentially occur within a cannabis product.
In Canada, every product is required to be tested for mould, bacteria and other contaminants. Testers have to look for chemical contamination, the percentage of THC, THCA, CBD, CBDA, the presence of residual solvents, total bacteria count, yeast and moulds, E.coli and chemical contaminants such as pesticides, toxic fungus and heavy metals.
Without regulations, there would be no tests looking at the yeast and moulds in cannabis products, no tests on any chemical contaminants. Cannabis products that aren’t grown in a regulated system could very easily contain pesticides like hydrogen cyanide, toxic fungus and heavy metals and customers could unknowingly be ingesting this contaminated cannabis.
It is also problematic for medical users that need can treat conditions better when they can access the specified cannabanoid mix of the cannabis they consume, something that is almost completely inaccessible when buying cannabis in a criminalized or decriminalized system.
4. The stigma remains if it’s still illegal
As the saying goes “People fear what they don’t understand and they hate what they fear” and this definitely applies to cannabis.
In many places in the world, there has been a stigma that exists around the plant due to its illicit status. While decriminalization means that consumers can’t be arrested for cannabis possession but the fact that it is still illegal to sell and produce still casts a shadow on those that use it.
Changing laws are one thing when it comes to battling the stigma attached to the cannabis plant, but it is much more important to change minds. Unlike decriminalization, legalization is unambiguous in it’s intentions and will do a lot to speed up the change in societies perception of cannabis for the better.
5. The economic boost from cannabis is real
While taxation is inevitable, when it comes to the legalisation of cannabis taxation only exists where commerce does.
In 2015, Colorado earned more than $135 million in taxes from the sale of medicinal and recreational cannabis. A report from the Colorado State University-Pueblo’s Institute of Cannabis Research found that the legal cannabis industry contributed more than $58 million to the local economy.
And this is just at a local level. A report from New Frontier suggests that if cannabis was legalised at a federal level the industry could generate $131.8 billion in aggregate federal tax revenue by 2025.
6. Better for the environment
Without regulations there aren’t set locations to cultivate cannabis. This results in businesses lurking into the depth of forests, tearing down trees and setting up their growhouses and cannabis plants in restricted areas. Ecologist, Mary Power states “[a]s long as there is a market that will pay enough to compensate for the brutally hard work they do to grow this stuff in forested mountains… then it will continue to keep growing”
Not only are trees in restricted areas being cut down to make room for illegal cannabis plants and growhouses, the amount of water stolen from illegal sources is astonishing and quite frankly, deeply saddening. Various pesticides are used which affects the delicate ecosystems found in these areas, killing animals and plants within the proximity of the cannabis.
While their are problems with recycling in the cannabis industry, this is something Parsl is already addressing. Regulations prevent people from abusing the environment and will result in a compliant cannabis agricultural industry .
The bottom line?
Legalization is about more than the government wanting to get its hands on the cannabis industry and squeeze it for all it’s worth. Not only are regulations necessary, they will also provide a range of benefits for the industry whether that is economically, environmentally or through introducing safety precautions.