Why Decriminalization Failed in the Past, and Why Legalization Won’t
I recently read a New York Times article that spoke about decriminalization efforts that occurred in the 1970’s all over the country, and how it failed.
The general gist of the article speaks about how activists eventually managed to get most of the country to decriminalize use and render the penalties to mere fines. Eventually, as a result, the paraphernalia industry exploded and bongs, pipes and all of the rest were being sold virtually everywhere.
Some of the products were too appealing to kids such as Frisbees with pipes in it, bongs shaped like spaceships and so forth. As a result, parents began worrying and tied the sales of paraphernalia to the increase of youth cannabis consumption. Then came Nancy.
When Nancy Raegan saw the political power of embracing the concerns of the parents, she upped her game and implemented the “Just Say No” approach to the drug war. Her and her husband then increased the severity of drug laws in 1986.
The article concluded that this is why decriminalization failed and there is some truth within that statement. It also suggested that legalization might go the same route, however there is where I disagree.
Why Legalization Wouldn’t Fail Like Decriminalization
There is a vast difference between legalization and decriminalization. Firstly, while decriminalization reduces the penalties surrounding consumption and possession, it doesn’t legitimize the industry. This means, that the market is still controlled by underground forces.
It means that there is no age limit to sales, there is no regulation in terms of quality and marketing tactics. In fact, prior to legalization cannabis was a pure “mouth-to-mouth” marketing scheme where a friend or an acquaintance would introduce you to the plant.
Under legalization however, there is a lot of regulation. We can see how it’s different already in places like Colorado where they banned making edibles like gummy bears and so forth that would appeal to children.
Furthermore, they limit the sales near schools, have strict age restrictions when purchasing and as we saw with a recent CBS experiment where young-looking journalists wanted to get people to buy them weed from a dispensary (as teens do with booze), they didn’t get the response from the cannabis community they expected. In fact, only one guy said he would buy weed for the journalists [this was after they switched from female journalists to male journalists] out of like 20 people.
As you can see, the modern cannabis consumer is more responsible than people think. They want to keep the legal framework in place and will follow the rules. Why risk buying weed for a kid when it’s legal for you to consume?
Additionally, under legalization advertisement and marketing is restricted. People can’t market to children as with the decriminalization experiment in the 1970s. This means that bongs and pipes are sold in establishments that are meant for adults. Kids can’t gain access to it.
And as a final point to drive the argument home, under legalization we have actually seen a decrease in youth consumption rates. In fact, in Colorado it is amazing to see how kids are consuming less weed, despite the fact that availability is everywhere.
The Industry will endure
We are now only seeing the very first fruits of cannabis legalization. Increased tax revenue, higher quality cannabis and a competitive marketplace are all good things.
As time continues and more states legalize, we’ll see the industry grow. It has reached a point that to overturn the legalization efforts is political suicide. This is especially true due to the fact that more than 60% of Americans are in favor of full legalization.
Every year, that number grows.
There will come a time when politicians can no longer deny that cannabis is here to stay. Sure, they are trying to fight it tooth and nail, but the fact of the matter is that we have reached a tipping point globally. Countries all over the world are legalizing, people are no longer ignorant to the fact that cannabis provides a wealth of benefits.
Unlike the 1970s and 1980s, we are at a record high in distrusting the government. Back then, the government had more power over the minds of the people. They didn’t have access to the internet, they couldn’t fact check and were subjected to hearing information from limited sources.
Today, with people being able to share their testimonials on cannabis, expose their ideas on a global platform…it is difficult to imagine that the government rolls back all the progress that’s been made over the past twenty years.
This isn’t to say that it is impossible, after all…just look at the state of the government currently. There are morons all over the place. Nonetheless, I doubt the more than 50 million Americans who have tried cannabis in the past month will sit idly as the government tries to take their weed away. Cannabis is now associated with freedom from oppression, freedom of choice and medical/economic benefits galore.
The point is…you can’t put the genie back into the bottle.
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