Marijuana and Drug Reform

A psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant used for medical or recreational purposes / any proposed changes to the way governments respond to the socio-cultural influence on perception of psychoactive substance use

Marijuana and Drug Reform

Marijuana and wider drug reform mean looking at the way that federal law regards drug use, possession and production. Policies need to respect an individual’s liberties without causing harm to groups or society as a whole.

With drugs like marijuana, the fact that consumption could compromise decision-making capabilities can complicate the matter. How can laws work in accordance with everyone’s best interests? Let’s explore the risks and benefits of drug reform.

Consequences of an Illicit Drug Market

One of the main drivers for drug reform is the consequences of an illicit drug market. Past experience has shown us that strict drug laws don’t necessarily reduce access and can push production and distribution underground. It can lead to the following:

  • High incarceration rates
  • Drug-related violence
  • Drug health crises
  • High cost of policing drug laws
  • Disparities in punishments for minorities

Potential Legal Reforms

There are several options for how the law can treat substances, such as alcohol, marijuana or other drugs. Changes can go from one end of the spectrum to the other. A progressive approach through different stages is often more common, though.

Prohibition

Prohibition typically means banning the production, sale, distribution, and use of a substance. It continues to be the main policy position for drugs. Reform bills might look to change that at a federal level, especially for marijuana.

The aim of prohibition is to restrict access to intoxicating, addictive, and potentially harmful substances. However, the approach can drive an increase in black markets and criminality.

Decriminalization

Decriminalization of marijuana and other drugs doesn’t make them legal. However, it takes the criminal aspect out of possessing a small amount of the drug. Use of the drug remains illegal, but with this approach, the penalties are more moderate, typically a fine.

Many states have decriminalized marijuana use and possession. Before this stage, defacto decriminalization might occur, where laws aren’t enforced. At these stages, incarceration and criminality are reduced. However, organized crime connected to production and distribution still exists.

Medicalization

More research is required to understand the medical benefits of most prohibited drugs. In the meantime, some consideration is being given to healthcare providers recommending rather than prescribing drugs, particularly marijuana. 

When a medicalization approach is applied, regulation and permits are required. These allow for legal growth and dispensing of a drug. For example, some states have introduced medicalization. It means that certain people have a medical marijuana identification card.

This approach can help solve issues of pain and illness, as well as destigmatize the use of drugs. A thorough scientific process and research are required to understand side effects and benefits.

Medicalization

More research is required to understand the medical benefits of most prohibited drugs. In the meantime, some consideration is being given to healthcare providers recommending rather than prescribing drugs, particularly marijuana. 

When a medicalization approach is applied, regulation and permits are required. These allow for legal growth and dispensing of a drug. For example, some states have introduced medicalization. It means that certain people have a medical marijuana identification card.

This approach can help solve issues of pain and illness, as well as destigmatize the use of drugs. A thorough scientific process and research are required to understand side effects and benefits.

Legalization

Legalization can take many forms. For example, alcohol is legal and commercialized, but there are still restrictions regarding age restrictions. States might want to take one of several approaches to marijuana and other drugs. Commercialization can be partial, with limits on access and advertising. It can be full, meaning widespread selling in existing outlets.

Alternatively, legalization can come without a commercial aspect. Local or state control is a common solution to ensuring regulation in these cases.

Communities need to work together to find and implement the best solutions for them.

Sources

https://drugpolicy.org/

https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/05/23/us-house-representatives-again-passes-marijuana-reform-bill

https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/explainers/why-we-need-drug-policy-reform

https://www.recoveryanswers.org/resource/an-introduction-to-drug-policy-positions/