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Cannabis Legalization

War on Marijuana: Is it Justified?

Jordan Webber

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War on Drugs and Marijuana

Medical marijuana may be legal in many places across the globe, but the fact remains that wars on marijuana – and drugs, in general – are still being waged in other parts of the world. History.com defines ‘war on drugs’ as an initiative led by governments seeking to eliminate the illicit use, distribution and trade of drugs by implementing increased penalties. Cannabis is considered as an illegal substance by many governments.

Those who have watched Netflix’s Narcos telling the life of Pablo Escobar and Colombia’s war on drugs know how bloody this campaign can be. With such a complicated topic to which millions of deaths have been attributed, you may be prompted to ask: is the war drugs justified?

In attempting to answer the question, it is important to take time to research and read up on various stories and reports related to this topic. Read on to know more about this policy implemented in many parts of the world.

 

A Background on the War on Marijuana

Here’s a brief background to give you an idea about the different drug war campaigns across the world:

  • In the United States

The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was enacted in the United States, imposing a tax on the sale of cannabis. However, President Nixon repealed this act and placed marijuana in the list of Schedule I drugs along with heroin, LSD and ecstasy. Schedule I substances are those with high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical treatment use in the U.S. and without accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

While 33 states along with Washington, D.C. have legalized medical marijuana, it is still illegal on the federal level. In fact, marijuana remains to be a Schedule I drug until today. Some would say that the U.S. war on marijuana continues, especially as SWAT raids against marijuana dealers (big- and small-time) have resulted in deaths of suspects and officers alike. There are cases in which suspects were unintentionally and intentionally killed in custody.

Generally, the U.S. drug war has led the country to spend $47+ billion annually, with 659,700 individuals arrested in 2017 for violating marijuana laws and 599,282 individuals charged with the violation due to possession.

  • The Mexican Drug War

The drug war in Mexico was declared by President Felipe Calderon towards the end of 2006. It is reported to have resulted in the death of more than 200,000 individuals due to drug-related violence. This initiative was launched not only to stop the use and distribution of dangerous substances such as heroin and cocaine but also to intercept marijuana trafficking.

Ironically, this plant was deemed as the country’s largest agricultural export back in 2010, which means that the revenue brought by cannabis was funding the country’s war. From 2012 to 2018, President Felipe Calderon continued this campaign leading to the capture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and other significant figures in illegal drug trafficking.

  • The Philippines’ War on Drugs

Since 2016, the Philippine has been the subject of talks due to the relatively recent implementation of the drug war by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016. Reports on the death count vary as the Drug Policy Alliance says there is more than 12,000 dead due to the initiative, while Al Jazeera says that around 27,000 lives were lost.

Just like in the U.S. and Mexico, the Philippines’ war fights cannabis as part of this campaign. Recent criticisms against the implementation stemmed from the country’s authorities wanting to ban the song ‘Amatz’ by rapper Shanti Dope as it supposedly promotes MJ use.

Authorities also earned criticisms for burning millions worth of the plant in an open-air area to destroy it and for making jokes about using the herb in light of the death toll.

  • Other Parts of the World

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena expressed his commendation of the Philippine campaign, while Al Jazeera reported in Bangladesh’s ‘Philippine-style war on drugs’ launched on May 2018.

Meanwhile, Asia countries such as Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore practices violent penalties for individuals ‘accused’ of using drugs. These punishments include caning, whipping and flogging suspect, including adults and children.

China also has its version of the initiative launched in the 1990s involving placing drug users who were seen as national or public threats in detention facilities to be re-educated using ‘forced labor.’

Why Was Cannabis Legalized?

When this many governments are fighting marijuana as part of their drug wars, you might not help but think: why was this plant legalized in some parts of the world? Here are some factors that you should consider in finding an answer to this question:

The Failure of Drug Wars

An article published by Vox says that the legalization of the plant is a response to the failure of the drug wars. According to Vox, the war on marijuana has resulted in black markets for the plant. This shows that even with increased penalties and efforts to eliminate cannabis use, the wars fail to stop the consumption of the plant.

Places Where Medical Marijuana is Legal

Aside from failing to stop people from using the herb, these types of campaign fail to recognize the scientifically proven medical use of the plant. It is important to remember that the plant was utilized by ancient civilizations for medicinal purposes, as well as for recreational and industrial endeavors. Meanwhile, there are countries which have legalized the application of the plant not only in medicine but also for recreation.

  • Uruguay

This South American country is the first one to legalize the plant. Uruguayans have been able to access this herb for medical and recreational use since 2013.

  • Canada

In October 2018, Canada legalized not only MMJ but also the recreational use of this plant nationwide.

  • Thailand

Towards the end of 2018, Thailand became the first country in Asia to make medical cannabis fully legal.

  • Some States in the U.S.

In the last election conducted in November 2018, the U.S. now has 33 states that allow the use of medical marijuana. Of this number, 10 states and District of Columbia allows the recreational use of the plant. Meanwhile, only 3 states (Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota) complete prohibits cannabis and its cannabinoids. The rest of the states allow the use of cannabidiol (CBD) with regulated amounts of THC. The recently passed Farm Bill also legalized hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) as an industrial crop.

  • Other countries

According to various sources, the following countries with favorable marijuana laws are:

  • Argentina – Fully decriminalized with legal CBD and partial MMJ legalization
  • Australia – Partial decriminalization and fully legal MMJ
  • Chile – Fully legalized MMJ
  • Colombia – Fully decriminalized and legal MMJ
  • Croatia – Fully legal MMJ
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic – Fully legal MMJ
  • Germany – Fully decriminalized and legal MMJ
  • Greece
  • India – Legal in some states, but illegal on the federal level
  • Israel – Fully legalized MMJ
  • Italy – Fully legalized MMJ
  • Jamaica – Fully decriminalized and partially legal MMJ
  • Lesotho
  • Luxembourg
  • Macedonia – Fully legal MMJ
  • Malta
  • Mexico – Decriminalized and fully legal MMJ
  • Norway
  • Poland – Partially legal MMJ
  • Puerto Rico – Fully legal MMJ
  • Romania
  • San Marino
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey – Fully legalized MMJ
  • Zimbabwe

Meanwhile, personal use of the herb is legal in Peru, Spain, the Netherlands and South Africa.

The Medical Applications of Marijuana

The number of countries with favorable cannabis laws show that the plant has a lot to offer in medicine and medical treatments. It has been used for pain management, treatment for mood and mental disorders, preventive treatments and even as a treatment for opioid addiction.

Common chronic and debilitating diseases that are qualified for MMJ

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Brain degeneration diseases
  • Hepatitis C
  • PTSD

MMJ is also prescribed to patients who experience chronic or debilitating symptoms and effects of treatments. This includes:

  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
  • Muscle spasms
  • Severe and chronic pain
  • Severe nausea
  • Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy
  • Severe or persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis

The Future of Medical Marijuana

In the U.S., there are 9 state leaders who expressed the desire to legalize recreational cannabis. These states are Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has also introduced the S. 420 bill, which aims to legalize the plant on the federal level.

Meanwhile, the Philippines’ House of Representatives passed the House Bill 6517, which gives access to medical marijuana in January 2019.

Conclusion

The question stands: Is the war on marijuana justified? Doubts remain even as medical marijuana is legalized in many parts of the world. Some individuals believe that what reports call ‘state-sanctioned violence’ is called for in order to eliminate the use of illicit drugs including marijuana. However, the deaths of suspects and innocents are not justified and some analysts say that these drug war-related violence can be avoided through legalization. Moreover, the socio-economic implications of these initiatives should also never be pushed aside.

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Cannabis Legalization

Pennsylvania Rep Files a Bill to Allow Recreational Marijuana in State-Run Liquor Shop

Jordan Webber

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PA Bill to Allow Recreational Marijuana on Liquor Store

A lawmaker from Pennsylvania introduced a bill on Wednesday, Oct 2, that would legalize the sale of recreational marijuana and allow cannabis to be sold in over 600 state-owned liquor stores.

David Delloso, a Democratic state representative, introduced House Bill 1899, which allows individuals aged 21 and above to legally possess and consume marijuana. Under the bill, sales of cannabis will be limited to businesses licensed by the state. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) would be responsible for administrating the production and sale of marijuana at the state-controlled stores.

“What I’m afraid of is, without this bill, if we don’t sell cannabis in the state stores, big corporate interests throughout the United States are going to come to Pennsylvania and they’re going to put corner stores up,” Delloso said. “They aren’t going to provide family-sustaining jobs, and all the profits are going to leave Pennsylvania.”

The medical marijuana in the state has been approved last April 17, 2016, with 17 initial qualifying medical conditions.

Economic Benefits to Pennsylvania

According to Pennsylvania’s Budget and Policy Center, over 18, 000 new jobs could be produced once recreational marijuana is to be legalized within the state. The bill also proposes that retail sales of cannabis be taxed at 19%, which could generate around $581 million per year for the state in new tax revenue.

“As an administrative agency tasked under current law with responsible, effective, and efficient regulation of the sale of wine and spirits in Pennsylvania, we generally leave policy discussions regarding the future of this agency up to the General Assembly and the Governor,” said press secretary for the Liquor Control Board, Shawn Kelly. “If, however, a new law presents the PLCB with additional or different duties and responsibilities, we would adapt accordingly.”

With the said measure, individuals convicted of possession of marijuana would have their criminal record expunged while inmates currently confined for such offenses would be released.  Employers would also no longer be able to fire or discipline employees if a drug screening shows the “presence of a nonintoxicating level of cannabis.”

“It is time for us to not just have a conversation but sit down and really look at details on how we can do this in Pennsylvania understanding that the support is there, the revenue will be there for us and we could do a lot of good things with those resources,” added State Rep. Jordan Harris, (D) Philadelphia County.

To date, the House Bill 1899 has been raised to the House Judiciary Committee for its consideration.

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Cannabis Legalization

Australia allocated $3m Fund for Medical Cannabis Research

Stacey Wellington

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AU $3m Fund for Medical Cannabis Research

The Australian Federal Government allocated A$3 million (US $2.03 million) for medical cannabis research in the country. Greg Hunt, the Australian health minister, made the announcement last Sunday, October 6, 2019, alongside Grease star Olivia Newton-John in a wellness walk held in Australia.

Research in the field aims to address the growing number of cancer patients within the nation and the potential ability of cannabis to provide relief and cure to these patients. The research will build upon existing studies to gauge the effectiveness of the plant in pain management and its potential side effects on users.

The government’s decision to fund research comes as more than 11,000 patients have been approved for medical marijuana use.

In a statement, Hunt said that “there have only been a limited number of well-designed clinical studies on medicinal cannabis, and we need to increase the evidence base to support medical professionals.” In line with the safety and security measures observed by the Australian government and its healthcare institutions, individuals who are given access to cannabis medication are required to only obtain these from accredited medical professionals.

Despite more than 10,000 individuals being given access to medical marijuana, the Grease star voiced her disappointment for other patients and individuals having little to no access to cannabis. She said “I’m a great proponent of it, for general health, for pain, for sleep, for anxiety. I really believe it is important in my journey”. Olivia Newton-John had been diagnosed with cancer, and she has admitted to using cannabis to manage her pain.

Newton-John spearheaded the annual Wellness Walk and Research Run held in Melbourne, Australia. The actress supported the event in the hopes of raising awareness about the plant and the wealth of benefits and possibilities that could come from using it. In a statement, the Grease actress said “they’ve discovered it hasn’t caused all the problems that people are afraid of. People need to let go of that old hippie thing,” when asked about the lack of advancement and accessibility of medicinal marijuana in the nation.

ACT Cannabis Law

While the Australian federal government is providing funding for medicinal cannabis research, recreational use is still largely prohibited on a federal level. However, through the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), six states and two main territories have filed to legalize the recreational use of the plant.

The ACT Law is slated to start on January 31, 2020, with some of its provisions conflicting with the current laws in place.

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Cannabis Legalization

Cresco Labs Gains State Approval To Grow Recreational Marijuana for Sale

Daniel King

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Cresco Labs

Cresco Labs attains government approval to grow marijuana in the state of Illinois. Three of its cultivation facilities in the states have been granted approval and licenses to cultivate from the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Apart from the cannabis company, 3 other businesses have been issued licenses to operate their respective facilities. These include Ascend Illinois, Columbia Care, and PharmaCann. In total, the state sees a total of 21 operational facilities spearheaded by 17 cannabis cultivators.

In a press release, Cresco Labs chief executive officer and co-founder Charlie Bachtell expressed excitement for their company’s approval, saying they “are very pleased to receive the first adult-use cultivation approvals granted in Illinois, which speaks to our continued success in efficiently executing on our strategic priorities.”

Cresco Labs’ Plan and the Increasing Demand for Recreational Marijuana

According to the company CEO, “the approval of our cultivation facilities is a key milestone in our preparation for the legalization of recreational cannabis in Illinois on January 1, 2020. As the only operator with three cultivation facilities in Illinois – the maximum number allowed in the state – we will have the scale and capacity to effectively capitalize on the dramatic increase in demand for cannabis expected next year.”

Cresco Labs’ three facilities are located in Joliet, Kankakee, and Lincoln. The combined total space allotted for its sites reaches up to 630,000 square feet. All of its three labs in these locations have been permitted to grow recreational cannabis.

Under the Illinois state law, cultivators who have licenses will be allowed to grow marijuana geared for recreational use and purposes. Through gaining state approval and valid operating licenses,  cultivators will be given the chance to determine the type of products individuals and consumers will see and buy once recreational selling starts by 2020.

To keep up with the increasing demand for recreational marijuana, growers of the plant are making changes and gearing up to expand their operations. Apart from catering to an adult market in the recreational sector, cultivators are still providing medical cannabis to patients. Based on some reports, patients who availed marijuana as part of their medication grew in size.

In line with these demands, Cresco Labs intends to sell its Joliet and Kankakee operational sites for $46.3 million, providing an extra source of funding for the company. With help from Innovative Industrial Properties, the cannabis company plans to lease back these sites for a specific period of time.

Other companies who have been awarded licenses include Ascend Illinois’ facility in Barry, Columbia Care’s facility in Aurora, and PharmaCann’s two facilities in Dwight and Hillcrest.

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