08 July 2015

10 Arguments in Favour of Legalising Cannabis

For every responsible cannabis consumer, there’s a negative 'stereotyper' who assumes that cannabis users are all 'mad on the reefer' without taking into account the many positive arguments for legalisation. Whenever you hear the claim that cannabis users are irresponsible 'drug' addicts or that medical cannabis is a sham, you can counter with fact and these research-backed arguments in favour of cannabis legalisation.

1. The World Will Not Collapse into Chaos 
Hemp sports car
No, cannabis consumers are not going on violent rampages; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Violent and property crimes have decreased in Denver, Colorado (US) since it legalised recreational cannabis. On the first of January, the one year anniversary since cannabis became available for purchase for adults 21 and older in Colorado was marked. For over two years, the state has also allowed adults to possess and cultivate limited amounts of cannabis. The city of Denver saw a decrease in violent crime rates in the first 11 months of 2014, following a similar trend in 2013 and state-wide traffic fatalities continue to decline, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. Since peaking in 2002, traffic fatalities have fallen by more than a third and since legal sales of recreational cannabis commenced in January, so far this year traffic fatalities are again down. Colorado’s experience does not provide evidence that less repressive cannabis laws make the roads more dangerous, they actually might even make the roads safer by encouraging the substitution of cannabis for alcohol. Law enforcement in Australia would do well to pay close attention to these statistics instead of wasting yet more taxpayer dollars on 'drug' detecting devices of dubious reliability from a company that seems to have a really great monopoly!

2. Prohibition of Cannabis Takes a Financial and Social Toll on Society 
There were 658,000 arrests for 'marijuana' possession in the US in 2012 alone, and the majority of those arrests were non-violent, low-level offenders. Enforcing cannabis possession laws costs the US approximately USD$3.6 billion annually. All of this time, cost, and effort takes law enforcement away from more urgent issues. In Australia, more and more time, cost and effort is seemingly being put into enforcing the archaic and inane cannabis laws across the country. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) the second most prevalent principal offence in Australia in 2013-14 was illicit drug offences (71,386 offenders or 18%). According to the Australian Crime Commission in 2013-2014 the 66,684 national cannabis arrests were the highest on record.

3. Cannabis sativa L., is a Therapeutic Herb and Hemp is a Complete Nutritional Source
Cannabis sativa L., is;
lan annual,
lherbaceous - denoting or relating to herbs (in the botanical sense),
lusually dioecious - either exclusively male or exclusively female,
lor monoecious - having the stamen (male, pollen-containing anther and filament) and the pistil (female, ovule-bearing) in the same plant (hermaphrodite).
Thus, as the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party of Australia so rightly point out, cannabis is a herb. A high-resin crop, cannabis is generally planted about 1.2-1.5m (four to five feet) apart and mostly used for its medicinal/therapeutic leaves and buds. Hemp is a low-resin crop, generally planted about 10 cm (four inches) apart, mostly used for its versatile stalk and seed. Different types of cannabis are classified as strains and different kinds of hemp are classified as varieties and cultivars. Whole hemp seed is additionally comprised of approximately 20-25% protein, 20-30% carbohydrates, and 10-15% fibre, along with trace minerals. A complete source of all essential amino and fatty acids, hemp seed oil is a complete nutritional source. In addition, constituents exist within the oil that have been shown to exhibit pharmacological activity.

4. Cannabis Has Medicinal Applications
Cannabis medicines
Despite the notion many anti-cannabis people have that medical cannabis is nothing more than a lie, studies have shown the potential of cannabis in shrinking aggressive cancerous brain tumours, preventing and treating Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, alongside a plethora of other diseases, disorders and syndromes. A recent US study found that treating epilepsy and other seizure disorders with Cannabidiol (CBD) reduced seizures by 54% and using Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) reduced spasticity in sufferers of multiple sclerosis by 30%. Cannabis may also reduce depression and relieve anxiety. While more research is needed to better determine how cannabis can help successfully treat many more diseases, disorders and syndromes, there's a reason why 24 US states thus far have legalised cannabis as a medicine and why other jurisdictions across the world are reviewing their laws and treating cannabis as the medicine it is. In Australia in February 2015, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee commenced an Inquiry into the Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill 2014 with a call for public submissions.

5. Cannabis is Far Less Toxic than Alcohol
In a comparative analysis on the risks of recreational drugs, alcohol was the top contender, while cannabis* was considered the lowest risk, making cannabis literally 114 times safer to use than alcohol*, a legal substance for adults ages 21 and older in the US and available to those over 18 years of age across Australia. On a population scale, only alcohol would fall into the 'high risk' category, and cigarette smoking would fall into the 'risk' category, while opiates, cocaine, amphetamine-type stimulants, ecstasy and benzodiazepines had a margin of exposure (MOE) >100, and cannabis had a MOE >10,000. The toxicological MOE approach validates epidemiological and social science-based drug ranking approaches especially in regard to the positions of alcohol and tobacco (high risk) and cannabis (low risk).
*There is no officially listed Lethal Dose in humans for cannabis, the Lethal Dose (LD50) in humans for alcohol (ethanol) is approximately 0.7g/kg.

6. Legalisation Hasn't Led to Increased Use Among Teens and Minors
When cannabis was legalised in Colorado, many feared it would lead to increased consumption among youth. In fact, legalisation has had the exact opposite effect, due to education and regulations restricting use to adults, the percentage of teenagers in Colorado who admit to using cannabis has been steadily dropping, from 22% to 20% between 2011 and 2013, and remains below the national average at 23.4%. Between 2010 and 2013 there was no significant change in the number of Australians (aged 14 years or older) who had used cannabis in the previous 12 months. The number of people recently using cannabis remained around 10%, 75% of Australians aged 14 and over support a clinical trial of cannabis to treat medical conditions, and 69% of Australians aged 14 and over support a change in legislation permitting the use of cannabis for medical purposes, while 26% think personal use of cannabis should be legal

7. Cannabis Generates Revenue
Ah yes, the almighty dollar. No matter how you put it, money talks. Colorado’s first year of legal cannabis provided USD$63 million in revenue, with an additional USD$13 million from licenses and fees. Not only that, the money is going to great causes - USD$30.5 million goes right back to the taxpayers (rewarding those who voted for legalisation) and the rest goes towards youth education programs, school construction and the costs of regulation (paying for itself). 

8. Keeping Cannabis Illegal is Expensive
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in 2010 the US spent more than USD$3.6 billion on enforcing cannabis prohibition. It's estimated that the US will spend more than USD$20 billion over six years on keeping cannabis illegal. 

An Australian government review, Government Drug Policy Expenditure in Australia – 2009/10, which looked at spending on prevention, treatment, harm reduction and law enforcement, found that spending on harm reduction measures fell over the period while prevention and treatment spending remained steady. In 2009/10 federal and state governments spent a total of AUD$1.7 billion in direct response to illicit drug use including: 

lAUD$1.12 billion on law enforcement – two thirds of the total spend (66%)
lAUD$361 million on treatment – just over a fifth (21%)
lAUD$157 million on prevention – just under a tenth (9%)
lAUD$36 million on harm reduction – 2%
lState and territory government spending accounted for more than two thirds of the spend (69%)
Dr John Herron, chairman of the Australian National Council on Drugs, said about the report, “It further strengthens the view of the Council that a much greater investment in preventing and treating drug and alcohol problems as well as reducing their harmful impacts is needed in Australia”. Lead author of the report, Professor Alison Ritter from the University of New South Wales, said that while spending on policing was high and had increased over the period, even allowing for inflation, it was not inconsistent with spending in other developed nations such as the USA, UK, Sweden and the Netherlands. However she said the drop in spending on harm reduction and the stable treatment spending over the period was concerning. “Australia has an enviable reputation worldwide in implementing programs which reduce the health harms of illicit drugs,” said Professor Ritter. “If anything we might have expected to see spending in this area increase over the period.

In March 2015, a new study, Health expenditure on alcohol and other drug treatment in Australia (2012/2013), was published online. The aim of the study was to analyse the health expenditure on alcohol and other drug (AOD) treatments to provide important information regarding the funding sources and distribution of AOD treatment funds. This study aimed to provide an estimate of annual health expenditure on AOD treatment in Australia and document a methodology for future estimates. The study followed international standards for health accounts and calculated health expenditure for the federal government, state/territory governments and private expenditure for the year 2012/2013. The total expenditure was estimated at AUD$1.2 billion in 2012/2013. The states/territories accounted for 51% of this total, the Commonwealth 31% and private sources 18%. In 2012/2013, AOD treatment represented 0.8% of total health-care spending.

9. Legalising Cannabis Helps Reduce the Black Market
It's possible to undercut the black market by making the legal market more appealing to the standard cannabis consumer through legalisation and tightly controlled regulations. Mexican cartels once saw the US as the top source of illegal cannabis, since legalisation has swept across four states and Washington DC, the amount seized by Border Patrols has dropped 24% (in the past year) and the price of Mexican-grown cannabis has dropped from $90 to $30 per kilo. Legalisation brings proper regulation and infrastructure and ushers in potency testing, product variety, warning labels and overall peace of mind for the consumer.

10. Legalising Cannabis Creates Jobs
Colorado created 10,000 new jobs in the legal cannabis industry, boosting the economy and lowering the unemployment rate to just 6%, making it one of the lowest in the nation. Legal cannabis is the fastest-growing industry in the US and if the trend toward legalisation spreads to all 50 states, cannabis could become larger than the organic food industry, according to a report by researchers from The ArcView Group, a cannabis industry investment and research firm based in Oakland, California. They found the US market for legal cannabis grew 74% in 2014 to USD$2.7 billion, up from USD$1.5 billion in 2013.

adapted from Top 10 Arguments in Favour of Legalising Cannabis
with additional resources
Comparative Risk Assessment

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