In February 2023, SB 135 in Kansas proposed legal access to medical cannabis for people with certain conditions. The measure would have regulated the cultivation, processing, distribution, sale and use of cannabis for medical purposes. “Patients [in Kansas] have been forced for too long to have to go to the illicit market for products that have not been tested for contaminants as well as face legal repercussions for possessing medicine that can greatly improve the quality of their lives,” Kevin Caldwell, a legislative manager at the Marijuana Policy Project told Marijuana Moment’s Kyle Jaeger, at the time.

Qualifying patients would have included ones suffering from cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain, among others, and they would have been permitted to possess up to a month’s supply of cannabis legally. Sadly the proposal was ultimately dropped, and Kansas remains one of 12 US states which does not allow marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.

Recent arguments against legalization

A 2023 US study published in Elsevier reported that the number of high schoolers reporting vaping cannabis, was higher in states where medical cannabis is legal. Titled, “Cannabis vaping among high school seniors in adult-use, medical, and prohibited legal contexts,” the study by Christian Maynard, a WSU sociology Ph.D. student and his advising professor, WSU sociologist Jennifer Schwartz, analysed responses from 3,770 high school seniors who took part in the 2020 Monitoring the Future survey.

The complied data suggested that about 27% of twelfth graders in States where medical marijuana is legal, reported vaping cannabis, in comparison to 19% in states where cannabis is not legal or only allowed for adult use. “More than a quarter of our youth in medical states were vaping cannabis. That’s a lot,” said the researchers.

While a recent article on Bloomberg, said that the push for marijuana legalization without adequate safety protocols is fuelling a notable surge in car accidents, resulting in increased fatalities across Canada and the US. The author added that research reveals a staggering 475% spike in cannabis-linked crashes in Ontario, alongside a concerning statistic indicating that 21.5% of motor-vehicle fatalities in the U.S. involve cannabis use.

Real-world data indicate that marijuana legalization has been a success story

Under regulation, cannabis products are now subject to quality control, lab testing, and taxation, generating significant tax revenue for communities, and guaranteeing safety.
In contrast, an op-ed written by Paul Armentano of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), details the success of marijuana legalization in states like Colorado and Washington. Armentano argued that legalization, regulation, and education have proven to be superior policies in comparison to criminalization, stigmatization, and incarceration.

The author emphasized that legalization did not create the marijuana market but rather brought it out of the underground, where it flourished unchecked. Under regulation, cannabis products are now subject to quality control, lab testing, and taxation, generating significant tax revenue for communities. Moreover, legalization has spared millions of Americans from criminal records, as evidenced by a significant decline in marijuana-related arrests from 2012 to 2022.

Arguments by opponents have been proven wrong

Contrary to opponents’ fears, highlighted Armentano, marijuana use among teens has not increased with legalization. Data from the CDC shows a 30% decrease in high schoolers’ marijuana use over the past decade. Compliance checks in legal marijuana states also demonstrate that licensed retailers do not sell to underage patrons.

Additionally, legalization has not led to spikes in psychosis or mental illness, as some critics feared. Studies have found no higher rates of psychosis-related health claims in jurisdictions where cannabis is legal compared to non-legal states.

Another advantage of legalization, is the disruption to the illicit market, with a significant percentage of consumers sourcing their cannabis from legal establishments rather than illegal dealers. Even consumers in non-legal states often travel to neighbouring states where they can purchase regulated cannabis products legally.

Armentano concluded by highlighting that the growing public support for nationwide marijuana legalization, with 24 states having legalized the adult-use market. Of these, not one has repealed their legalization laws, indicating that these policies are working as intended and are preferable to cannabis criminalization.

Is the European Union the next frontier?

Meanwhile, Germany’s recent legalization of cannabis marks a significant shift in drug policy in Europe, with implications beyond its borders. The new law took effect on April 1st, and decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis, allows for the removal of past possession offenses from criminal records, permits home growing of up to three plants, and establishes a regulatory framework for not-for-profit cannabis associations.

Initially, Germany had considered a commercial market similar to Canada’s but opted for a more cautious approach to comply with international and EU laws. This “legalization-lite” model aims to provide legal access while avoiding potential conflicts with international drug conventions. Similar retrenchments have been observed in the Czech Republic and Luxembourg, following Malta’s non-commercial home-grow model established in 2021.

While Germany and other EU countries see their new models as transitional steps towards commercial retail, Malta views its non-profit model as a deliberate harm-reduction strategy. Germany plans to proceed with a retail “pilot study” in select cities, aligning with similar experiments in the Netherlands and Switzerland under the guise of scientific research.

A recent article by Steve Rolles in The Guardian discussed the fact that Germany’s move carries weight due to its economic and political influence in the EU and internationally. As debates over cannabis policy unfold globally, Germany’s decision could reshape drug policy discussions elsewhere, including in the UK, where the real-world examples of successful regulation in neighbour states will become impossible to ignore.

Moreover, public support for cannabis legalization is growing worldwide, challenging traditional “tough on drugs” stances, with support exceeding 60% in London. Hence, as the momentum for legalization builds, Germany’s reforms may push other European countries closer to a tipping point, forcing policymakers to reconsider outdated drug policies in favour of more pragmatic and effective approaches.

Emerging Patterns of Cannabis Consumption

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