What happens when you legalize cannabis?

What happens when you legalize cannabis?

Some believe that the legalization of the cannabis industry in Australia is inevitable – that Australia will ultimately follow world trends.

Cannabis is now legal in a number of places around the world, notably, in a growing number of states in North American. As a result, Australia is in a position to learn through the experiences of these countries, and to apply the insights that come from them to the development of sensible legislation here, in the event that it becomes required at some point. There is plenty of factual evidence available to get a reliable idea of what will happen, if the government chooses to move  in favour of the legalization of cannabis in Australia.

 

FACT

There is plenty of factual evidence available to get a reliable idea of what will happen, if the government chooses to move  in favour of the legalization of cannabis in Australia.

  

What will happen?

Evidence from other territories in which cannabis has been made megal suggests that these are the most likely effects.

  • Cannabis price drop:
    Cannabis prices are likely to drop precipitously as a result of legalization. Pricing in Canada, where the government anticipates legalizing marijuana by mid this year (2018) are already falling (link to  ) It appears prices fall because, when the substance is legal, there is no longer any risk with having or being associated with it. Stores which sell cannabis don’t charge ‘danger money’ in the way illicit drug dealer may feel entitled to. Additionally, supply increases – since it is unconstrained by a watchful police force and can be shipped in en masse. Finally, in many places where cannabis has been legalized, individuals are permitted to grow some for their own for personal use which raise supply in a different way but which has the same effect. By offering a readily available (and essentially free) alternative to store bought weed, home cultivation serves to lower the price, too.
 

FACT

Legalizing cannabis would likely lead to a drop in crime rates.
 
  • A drop in the crime rate:
    Perhaps counter intuitively, for some, crime rates seem to drop on areas where marijuana has been legalized. In the state of Washington, for example, there has been a 96 percent decline in the arrests of people involved marijuana or cannabis related crimes. More broadly, organized crime which was often involved in shipping and distributin marijuana seems to have less of a foothold. With their absence, violent crime seems to fall.
  • Millions of Dollars Saved:
    When cannabis is legal, law enforcement officials do not have to deal with the thousands of cannabis cases that currently swamp police and law courts (in some cases). Fewer people are incarcerated meaning that the state saves by being able to divert resources which would have kept those people in the correctional systems. To be clear, there is not a total concensus among law enforcement officers that legalization of cannabis is in the interests of the public. In some states (South LA, for example) the police have other priorities and don’t consider cannabis among them. Some senior police officers are against legalization, fearing an increase in car accidents.
  • Victimless crimes would drop:
    Most cannabis related crimes (for example, being caught with an amount of the substance large enough to be considered ‘dealing’,  are ‘victimless’. Never-the-less, they can often result in lifelong criminal records, and the associated consequences for those convicted. In America, this can mean offenders finding it much tougher to find work as an adult, as a result of a transgression committed as a child or juvenile.
  • A safe, standardized product:
    C
    reating a legal local domestic cannabis industry, regulated in a similar way to the current methods employed to regulate alcohol, would ensure there was a safe product available to those who required it. Reports often suggest that ‘street’ bought cannabis can vary in strength (although the most popular variants are often the strongest.) Standardisation helps those who do choose to use cannabis to manage that intake.

  

Huge Economic Opportunity

Economics is an aspect of life which should inform government policy, not decide it. There are aspects of citizen wellbeing that are affected by Cannabis and are non economic. That said, the economic case for legalization does seem convincing.

 

ECONOMICS

Cannabis is the world’s number 1 cash crop.
 
  • Number one cash crop:
    Many estimate suggest that cannabis is the number one cash crop in the Western World, worth around 150% the corn market. Many people are making a good living from growing it. As things stand, however, the tax man is missing out on the fruits of this cultivation. Retail sales of legal recreational marijuana in the state of Colorado were over $1 billion in 2016 and, as we’ve covered elsewhere, tax revenue from this revenue are being applied directly to schools in the district.
  • Black-market in California:
    It is estimated that the black-market last year when marijuana was still illegal was over $14 billion.
  • Agricultural Production:
    Legalizing marijuana could potentially create many thousands of new agricultural jobs as well as jobs in the industries that go with it, such as transportation, warehousing, packaging, advertising, and distribution.

  

Some myths and concerns about what might happen following legalization

  • We are unlikely to see ‘stoned’ teenagers everywhere:
    The fear in some areas which legalized weed, before the law was loosened, was that large numbers of young people would be ‘zombified’ or would start to behave in an out of control way, once cannabis was made available legitimately.
  • Roads and Highways safe:
    It now seems that in the states that where cannabis became legal earliest, there has been a total reduction of arrest for drunk driving and the using of other drugs. Australia has a second line of defence against those who would use legalized weed before they drove – it is the only country in the world to have an existing roadside test to detect levels of cannabis in drivers’ systems.
  • Number of auto crashes unchanged:
    The number of car crashes are statistically similar in states who have legalize cannabis and those that have not.

  

Moral Implications

  • Public expenditure:
    The taxation from legal cannabis could help pay for some basic moral needs, when legalized. These might include drug education programs, healthcare, and affordable higher education as well as those we’ve mentioned above.
  • Secondhand smoke:
    It is important to adequately safeguard the public from secondhand smoke in the same way that they are safeguarded from tobacco.
  • Vise Tax:
    It is important to have adequate legislation and social systems in place to assist the approximately 10 percent of people that could be harmed by the ready availability of the drug. Roughly one in 10 people have an ‘addictive personality’.

The Australian government needs to have policies that look after the interests of the people when legalizing cannabis. Because it has been illegal for so long, there needs to be an honest, open debate, which considers all of these variables and which provides adequate public education about the subject within the broader context of all drugs, legal and illegal which are available.

Proper drug education needs to be introduced at an early level, when children are in school, and continued so everyone understands the implications and possible dangers of using them.

  

Summing up

Some suggest that the only real reason that legalization and reform is being held up at present, in Australia, is because many politicians regard the subject as too dangerous for them to tackle. They like to spend their time in less contravertial waters.

On the other hand, it’s hard to ignore science, and it’s hard to avoid facts. Despite the prophets of doom, who for years preached about all manner of social ills that would be unleashed if cannabis ever became legal again, where it has been, few negative effects have yet been experienced.