Marijuana is a plant that divides opinion like no other. The herb has thousands of years of history, and is taken as both a therapeutic and recreational substance. But due to its psychoactive effects, cannabis was banned just about everywhere in the world from the 1930s onwards. This was most notable in the United States, which introduced the Marihuana Tax Act. Officially, this didn’t prohibit the plant. But it levied taxes which served to choke both supply and demand. This was an effective trick that essentially took marijuana off the market.
In recent times, however, the steadfast opposition to weed in the US – and elsewhere – has started to crack. The benefits of medical marijuana have become clearer. This has led states like Colorado and California to permit medicinal, and later recreational use. Recreational marijuana is currently legal in 11 states. Other states are tentatively following in the footsteps of these trailblazers. Virginia, for instance, has a growing medical cannabis program, and New York decriminalized marijuana in 2019. However, all of the movement in the US has come at state level, and cannabis remains illegal in federal law due to the Controlled Substances Act.
Cannabis reform is going global
Beyond the US, several countries have looked to enact cannabis reform. The small South American nation of Uruguay legalized cannabis for all purposes in late 2013, becoming the first country to do so. In 2018, Canada was the second to legalize recreational pot, following years of a successful medical policy. The United Kingdom is also gradually starting to accept weed, legalizing medical cannabis for extraordinary cases in 2018 – although critics argue that doctors are reluctant to prescribe cannabis due to the absence of clinical research.
What is clear is that the world is moving in the same direction on cannabis, and marijuana legalization is becoming a reality for millions – and soon to be billions. But what are the arguments for cannabis and CBD legalization? We’ll take a complete look at all the advantages of full legalization in this post, focussing on:
- The medical benefits of marijuana
- Why it’s a human right to take cannabis
- How legalization will tackle the black market
- Why legalization will improve product quality
- The economic benefits of hemp and cannabis legalization
Medical benefits of marijuana
People have always contested marijuana’s health benefits. Even though the plant has been used in places such as Egypt and China for more than two thousand years, marijuana is not a typical medicine because of its psychoactive effects. Moreover, some countries have historically had issues with widespread consumption of highly potent hashish oil, which contains huge amounts of THC.
But in its natural form, when the compounds are well-balanced, cannabis is seemingly a powerful medicine. This view has been strengthened in recent times, with the advent of cannabinoid science. In the past century, researchers have successfully isolated individual cannabinoids, including non-psychoactive cannabidiol (CBD) and psychotropic delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
These discoveries ultimately led to the finding of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the late 20th century. This science is changing how people perceive cannabis, from a mysterious substance to one that operates in long-existing biological networks in the body. Now that we can see the mechanisms in which cannabis and its compounds function, we can see the commonalities that it has with other drugs.
Cannabis for pain
Cannabis is a natural painkiller, and an excellent opioid alternative. It doesn’t have the addictive properties of opioids, and crucially has no potential for overdose. This is vital for patients experiencing severe pain, who need the peace of mind that they can medicate without putting their health at risk. Cannabis with THC appears to be more therapeutic for pain than CBD alone, because it is a CB1 receptor agonist, and influences pain perception. Recently, scientists have highlighted flavonoids within cannabis has important to the plant’s analgesic properties.
Cannabis and CBD-infused products are already bringing relief to patients who can legally access these products. Some are able to take just cannabis to manage their symptoms. Others can combine cannabis with the prescription opioids they are already taking. This may then allow them to cut back their intake of prescription drugs.
Cannabis for inflammation
The anti-inflammatory effects of marijuana may also be revelatory as a medicine for relieving arthritis and autoimmune diseases. Treating inflammation and a dysfunctional immune system has always been very difficult because it is so prone to triggering excessive inflammatory messages, as a protection from viruses and other threats. However, this often causes the immune system to become detrimental to overall health.
Cannabinoids and the ECS, however, help regulate the immune system in a way that no other drug is known to do. This happens via the CB2 receptor, with THC binding straight to it, and CBD having an indirect effect. Anti-inflammatory effects also extend to other cannabinoids (i.e. CBG, CBC). This makes full-spectrum hemp and cannabis products best for reducing inflammation.
CBD for mental health
The benefits of THC for mental health are disputed, and in some cases – particularly psychosis and schizophrenia – may make matters worse. But contrastingly, THC has shown medicinal potential for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
But it is CBD that has generated excitement as a treatment for mental disorders, including depression and anxiety. The cannabinoid may help the former by treating brain inflammation, and the latter by correcting neurotransmitter imbalance, especially by boosting gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA).
The best bit about CBD likely being effective for mental illness is that people in the United States can already get products legally, without a prescription. Federal law makes it legal to sell CBD products, but as food supplements rather than medicines. This has allowed those with anxiety and depression to experiment with these products, which have a solid reputation for being safe. And the positive anecdotal reports of users is fuelling demand for clinical trials on CBD’s effectiveness for these conditions.
Why everyone should have the right to consume cannabis
Cannabis is a substance that changes our perception of reality, through the THC. This may be dangerous to those predisposed to psychosis and schizophrenia. But the truth is that many people can enjoy these effects without responding adversely.
An adult human being cannot claim to be truly free if they do not have sovereignty over their own consciousness. It should not be up to the government to decide which natural chemicals – and especially those that humans have taken for thousand of years and evolved with – people can put in their body. Studies have repeatedly shown that cannabis is much less dangerous than alcohol, and considerably less addictive than nicotine in tobacco cigarettes. Yet these substances are perfectly legal.
It is important that people know how to use marijuana safely and responsibly, and understand the effects of strains like Super Lemon Haze and OG Kush. But it is even more important that those who wish to sensibly experiment with the cannabis plant are able to do so.
Legalization will tackle the black market
In places where weed is not legal, there is inevitably an illegal black market. This allows gangs and organized crime to flourish. Some people are always going to be prepared to get marijuana buds in this way, so they can smoke joints and blunts with their friends or alone. It does more harm to ignore this reality than to recognize and address it. In addition, a black market makes it much easier for children and teenagers to access weed. Consuming cannabis in these years, when the brain is still forming, can be devastating for mental health.
Users don’t know what they are getting with street-bought cannabis. There is a risk that the flowers have been sprayed with rogue substances to make them stronger but ultimately more dangerous. Synthetic weed, such as spice, can also be very harmful. Not to mention, people do not know how much THC they get when they buy a gram, an eighth, an ounce or whatever. This essentially means they go into the cannabis experience blind. The result could be getting cannabis that is weak and ineffective, or spiked and dangerous.
Product quality will improve through legalization
However, if cannabis is legalized, those who partake can be sure of getting a perfect and fresh product. The packaging of flower, edible, concentrate, and any type of cannabis product will clearly state the amounts of THC and CBD present. If you want really strong weed, you can get it. If you want weaker weed that more resembles what people were smoking in the 1960s and 70s, you can get that too.
A legal market will allow growers to cultivate in optimum conditions, whether that’s indoors in greenhouses, or in a natural outdoor environment. Consumers will get much greater choice, and be able to decide on strains with varying ratios of THC to CBD, and unique terpene profiles. Terpenes give a product precise benefits, such as for depression, pain and anxiety.
The black market cannot provide tincture oils, vape juices, concentrates, and high-quality edibles. These products, many of which need to be made with the supercritical CO2 extraction process, are only possible when manufacturers can afford to take the risk and investment in the equipment that is needed to make them.
Economic benefits of legal cannabis and industrial hemp
The passing of the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills have opened up a legal hemp industry in the US. This is proving fantastic for farmers and small businesses alike. Legal CBD products are made from hemp plants and have less than 0.3 percent THC. Popular products include CBD oil and CBD vape juice. All CBD-infused products are non-intoxicating, but still very therapeutic. This industry, which didn’t exist prior to 2014, could be worth more than $1 billion by 2020 or 2021.
Cannabis legalization would bring an economic boom similar to hemp legalization. And not only would legalization help to create new businesses and jobs, but it would bring in tax revenue, too. The entire country could then benefit from that revenue. The marijuana industry has shown great potential in legalized states. But with full legalization, and an embrace of CBD and safe cannabis products, it could become so much more.
There are numerous reasons to legalize marijuana. Some are to do with economics, others concern the health benefits and then there is the simple freedom argument. What is more apparent than ever, however, is that the decision to prohibit cannabis and criminalize its use has been a bad one. People still use cannabis, but the products available now are not as safe as they should be.
The good news is that America is moving in the right direction. The emergence of CBD has been a nice introduction to cannabis to the general public. Medical cannabis legislation is also turning out to be a great success. The next logical step is for full legalization across the country.