by Valerie Grieve.
I read recently in the news that Colorado and Washington State in the US have legalized marijuana and are reaping huge tax benefits.
This raises the question of whether we should legalize marijuana for recreational as well as medicinal use here in Canada. I think we should for several reasons. Before I discuss those reasons, I want to say that I do not intend to use it. I enjoyed it in my youth in the seventies, but have not used it for over 30 years. I enjoy having a clear mind, and I have some concerns about possible health effects. I worry about the increased blood pressure associated with use at my age, and I certainly don’t need extra calories from the mad munchies. I make these arguments not as someone who wants to use it legally, but from the viewpoint that legalizing it is the sane and responsible thing to do out of concern for others.
- Tax revenue from legitimate business and employment income and sales taxes would help to offset the costs of use to society. I have no objection to high sin tax rates on tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana. These are things that we can live without, and those choosing to use them cost us money in terms of health care and other costs (regulation, monitoring, etc.). Legalization would legitimize the business of cultivation providing jobs and taxable income.
- Legalization would provide regulation and control of drug content and potency. Today’s marijuana is not the drug that we dabbled with in the sixties and seventies. Growers have bred strains with higher concentrations of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and paid less attention to CBDs (Cannabinoids). THC is the component that gives the high, but it also produces some degree of paranoia and is associated with an increased risk for schizophrenia in individuals with an existing predisposition for schizophrenia. CBDs seem to have some regulating effect reducing paranoia, and show some promise for medical applications, such as treating epilepsy. Some unscrupulous growers treat their product with other drugs to increase their psychoactive effect, such as PCP (Phencyclidine). Government monitoring and regulation could establish levels to exercise some control to make the drug somewhat safer, and provide labeling so that consumers know what they are buying. Legalization would also spur research into roadside strategies to help law enforcement determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana, which would improve public safety; at present they have no means to determine if a driver is under the influence.
- Harm reduction strategies could be developed and deployed. Smoking marijuana has been associated with increased risk of lung disease. Legalization would spur other means of administering the drug to be developed and sold, such as pill form, brownies, or perhaps some form of beverage. This would remove some of the risk for harm associated with smoking. Some of the taxes levied on marijuana could be directed towards education about the risks and treatment programs for drugs and alcohol in general. Inspection could also ensure that the marijuana is produced safely (pesticide control, washing of the product, processing of it, possible bacterial or fungal contaminants).
For more information I have provided two video links below showing how it works to produce the high, and some discussion about THC and CBD, and the associated increased risk for schizophrenia.