The Benefits of Cannabis Legalization
With cannabis legalization upon us, there are, as always, an array of contrasting opinions. Is it helpful? Is it harmful? A simple Google search will show the controversy this topic sparks, with strong arguments on both sides. However, whether you are for or against the use of marijuana, there are undeniable benefits of its legalization.
As October 17th has approached, there have been an increasing number of dispensaries operating in the Toronto area. While these shops are not technically operating legally, they give a preview to what can be expected from legal pot shops that are due to open after the legalization date. This manner of purchasing marijuana gives pot users the opportunity to choose between different varieties of indica, sativa, and hybrid strains. While for some people this choice is based on preference, for others there are important reasons that motivate this decision. Sativa generally results in a “head high,” which can produce creative energy and help with productivity. However, it can also showcase the negative effects of marijuana use, such as increased feelings of paranoia and anxiety, leading certain individuals to avoid this variety. On the other hand, indicas give a “body high,” resulting in a relaxed and comfortable feeling. Because of this, indica strains are usually the variety used for medicinal purposes. Like with anything you purchase, it’s important to know what you’re buying, which is not always the case with “street” marijuana. Buying legal marijuana rather than that of the black market marijuana will result in a product that is known to be safe and regulated.
Another benefit of cannabis legalization is the legalization of its possession. A study done by the University of Ottawa estimated that in 2001, there were 71 600 reported offences involving marijuana, and that 70% of these offences were for possession. Also estimated was the annual cost of enforcing marijuana laws which, including police and court procedures, came to $500 million. Not included in this figure is the cost of marijuana-related incarcerations. The legalization of cannabis will help to unclog the justice system, allowing courts to focus on more serious offenses. Yes, marijuana usage does have its physical and societal risks, but they are rendered negligible by the dangers associated with alcohol consumption, the use of tobacco, and other drugs. Given the cost-benefit analysis of criminalized marijuana, the $500 million would be better spent on rehabilitation for people dealing with substance abuse and addiction, further supplemented by the tax revenue of pot sales.
The common arguments against legalization have primarily stemmed from health concerns about its use. They bring up potential health and safety risks such as addiction and respiratory health. In contrast, the common arguments for legalizing cannabis include points such as an increase of tax revenue, decreasing gang-related violence, and making medical marijuana more accessible. This implies that those who are against legalization assume that it will increase the consumption of marijuana. While it is possible that people who are mildly curious but were deterred by its illegality may try it now that it is legal, it is also clear that most people who want to use marijuana were doing so prior to its legalization, and it is unlikely that their use will be drastically affected by this change of law.
Whether you are for or against legalization, the truth of the matter is that, while it will impact things like legal procedures and government revenue, there is not likely going to be a significant difference in day-to-day life. If places like Amsterdam, where pot is sold publicly, can be any indication, the streets are not going to be suddenly flooded by marijuana users, and there is not going to be a dramatic spike in the number of those users. It is likely that marijuana use in Canada will be the same, but legal.