In November Californians will see on their ballot the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010. The act would basically “legalize” cannabis—all involved in such an industry would remain in violation of the federal Controlled Substances Act, and subject to the whims of the federal DEA and Dept. of Justice—for adults 21 and up, and set up some initial regulations on use, sale, cultivation, and transport. The act is fairly short and readable and seems like a reasonable initial regulatory structure to me.
- Could greatly reduce the prevalence of violent raids on private homes
- Would keep otherwise-law-abiding adults out of the criminal justice system
- Would reduce the wasteful use of treatment facilities on individuals just choosing treatment over jail
- Would restore more respect for law enforcement
- Home growing might greatly reduce the market value of cannabis, which might keep cannabis selling industries smaller, less able to lobby for looser regulations, and less able to afford expensive advertising campaigns. Ironically this act might make large-scale dispensaries—who funded the signature drive—less likely to exist.
- The legitimization of cannabis could result in safer usage practices becoming the standard of use.
- Local governments could add regulations to force sellers to provide safety information (e.g. how long impairment could last, how to recognize signs of trouble, recommending the use of vaporizers, harm research results)
- Users who medically benefit from the drug (a small but non-zero percentage of CA’s current users) would have less trouble obtaining it.
- Could significantly shrink black markets, including those that will continue to serve minors. E.g. A teen who can more easily steal pot from adult siblings or friends is less likely to seek out a dealer who may sell other drugs.
- Could reduce alcohol use and associated violence and overdose deaths.
- Could nudge Congress toward more reasonable cannabis laws and more federal research of cannabis (not just limited to harms).
- Commercialization and legitimization will yield increases in the number of users (though in many parts of the state there are plenty of adult users).
- Would make some law enforcement activities more difficult. E.g. users and sellers of harder drugs are often caught due to possession of marijuana, which is generally harder to conceal.
- Home growing doesn’t nudge users toward safer delivery methods or place users in contact with someone who could theoretically provide helpful education/intervention. I say “theoretically” because California’s current policy creates too much incentive for doctors to be “pot docs”, who do little more than sell handwritten licenses.
- Many users will simply combine pot use with alcohol use.
- Even though it would remain illegal, driving under the influence of pot will probably rise. This is concerning, but the best available research is still pretty weak on the notion that casual usage creates significant danger. Pot users appear to be more aware of their impairment.
- Will probably not yield of windfall of tax revenue for California
- More people smoking things. Learning to smoke pot lessons the difficulty and foreignness of trying other smoked substances, which are generally more harmful than pot, including tobacco. If “spliffs”—cannabis with tobacco—became popular, this could lead to more tobacco smoking (which is proven to be carcinogenic) and more complicated addiction.
I still think the good outweighs the bad. Bring on the great democratic experiment!