A 66-page analytical report released recently debates the legalizing of Marijuana for recreational use. The report highlights the possible launch of a new profit-driven industry, quite similar to Big Tobacco which could significantly undermine recent progress in the health sector. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have stated that such a step could significantly disturb public health efforts and do much more harm to the current status of well-being of the society.

Legalizing Marijuana

They began by stating that legalizing marijuana does make sense to some extent, since its prohibition results in countless arrests each year and costs taxpayers a lot of money. But an in-depth analysis reveals that despite reducing instances of crime, this step would simultaneously create a massive public health issue.

The only way to effectively enforce such a ballot is to ensure the establishment of proper regulatory systems, such as those used for alcohol. Researchers also stated that the legalization would be more sustainable if it followed the patterns of the state’s Tobacco Control Program, which efficiently reduced health effects and costs associated with tobacco.

Legalizing Recreational Marijuana – Potential Initiatives

Marijuana is among the most widely used illicit substance around the world, which is why movements to legalize its use for both recreational and medical purposes are on the rise. In 2012 and 2014, the states of Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon, along with the District of Colombia passed citizen initiatives to legalize and regulate retail sales of the drug.

By November 2015, seventeen initiative proposals for the November 2016 general election were submitted to the California Attorney General, pressing the legalization of retail marijuana sales. Of these proposals, two initiatives seem to be compelling enough to qualify the 2016 ballot, based on their financial and political backing. These are the:

  • Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) – endorsed by drug reform drugs such as the Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project.

AUMA initiative grants authority to existing state and local governments, along with the California Legislature.

  • Marijuana Legalization. Initiative Statute – placed on ballot by the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (the Reform CA initiative), the organization behind the unsuccessful California Proposition Campaign of 2010, and supported by the existing medical marijuana industry including California Cannabis Industry Association and Emerald Growers Association.

Reform CA initiative creates and grants rulemaking authority to a California Cannabis Commission consisting of 13 representatives from the marijuana industry. It also proposes to adopt, amend, and overturn any ‘reasonable’ rules or regulations.

Experiences From Tobacco And Alcohol Control

Tobacco companies vigorously tried to enter the marijuana market in the late 1960’s, when the possibility of legalization was fresh and engaging. What researchers fear is that history may not repeat itself; major multinational corporations using their influential marketing and political strategies to enhance and sustain the use of drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. Moreover, economic and political tactics could be used to fight against health regulations and create serious problems for the public health sector.

Potential Health Risks In Legalizing Marijuana

Considering its potential effects on health, there is evidence to suggest that the direct use and secondary exposure of marijuana significantly increases risks of cancer, stroke, heart attack, respiratory impairment, reproductive toxicity and long-term alterations in brain function.

In terms of psychological health, increased use of marijuana could result in addiction, substance use disorders and drug-induced schizophrenia/psychosis which cause hallucinations, lack of motivation and suicidal urges.

Researchers claim that once the use of marijuana increases, the understanding of how these diseases are associated with the drug will become clearer and more terrifying.

Potential Concerns If Legalization Becomes A Reality

Legal and well-established markets in Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon are working to quickly modernize the marijuana industry by positively marketing and influencing the perceptions of the drug and its products. The entire concept has drifted from preserving the public health quotient and has become a means of maximizing and sustaining profits.

As a result, health experts and researchers have expressed the following concerns:

  • If left unchecked, a wealthy and politically influential marijuana industry resembling the already existing tobacco industry will be created. They fear that this industry might even be larger than the existing medical marijuana industry.
  • Legalizing marijuana will facilitate this upcoming industry to politically manipulate and block effective regulations for the control and prevention of marijuana use.

Possible Recommendations On Legalizing Marijuana

The following suggestions have been made by health experts and researchers to ensure that the legalization of marijuana would not go against the health and economic interests of the public:

  • The legalization of marijuana should proceed via a pro-public health framework which would counter social inequities and public costs.
  • The legalization of marijuana should result in the identification and prevention of future public health problems associated with the misuse of the drug such as youth initiation, indoor use, social normalization and other health disparities.
  • A robust public health-focused regulatory system must be implemented to monitor and address the concerns of the people.
  • The California Tobacco Control Program should be used as an operative model for the cultivation, production, marketing, and retail sale of marijuana. Analysts claim that it has effectively opposed the lobbying and marketing strategies of the tobacco industry for the past twenty-five years, and has also reduced health costs of tobacco despite its legalization.
  • Creating a unitary market for the legal sale of retail marijuana is essential to separate medical and recreational markets.

Legalizing recreational marijuana could result in a significant decrease in the number of drug-related crimes, but an in-depth analysis reveals that a massive public health issue might just be waiting around the corner. Moreover, multinational companies will use all their political and economic resources to manipulate the proposed initiatives in order to increase their profits.

Hence, legalizing marijuana and preventing it from becoming the next tobacco requires strict legislative measures and staunch regulatory enforcements, without which this initiative could be disastrous to both, public health and economy.