Saturday, October 9, 2010

Controlling cannabis

The debate over legalising recreational use of drugs has been on for ages. The US state of California is set to vote on Proposition 19 -  the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 - on November 2, and it appears as if economic considerations are outweighing ethical issues. One report that supports the economic benefits of legalising marijuana has been the new report from the International Centre from Science in Drug Policy, which suggests that current US policy has no effect on drug use or price. More from TIME Healthland:
While spending on federal drug law enforcement has increased 1,200% and marijuana arrests have risen 150% since 1981, the rate of marijuana use nationwide has bounced around, with no relationship to these efforts.

For the state facing a $19 billion budget deficit, legalising marijuana will help in cutting costs and increasing tax revenues.  However, there are concerns, as opponents have pointed out in The Washington Post:
They say the referendum would bar employers from firing stoned workers without proving first that they were impaired. That would mean school bus drivers, for example, could get high before climbing behind the wheel, according to critics.

Also, while the passing of the new Act would enable those over 21 to consume marijuana under California's laws, they would be in violation of the Federal laws in the US.

The economist Milton Friedman had some strong views on prohibition and drugs. Here's a link to an article written by him on the subject in the May 1, 1972 edition of Newsweek.

The Next Media Animation group from Taiwan has highlighted most issues as well as the repercussions of legalising marijuana by way of a rather funny video. If you don't understand the language, worry not for there are English subs.



So, will the increased tax revenues from legal sales of marijuana be nullified by corresponding decreases in sales of tobacco and alcohol products? Or will marijuana sales boost the sales of the rest? Also, will the big tobacco companies diversify their product line to include marijuana-based products? If California passes Prop 19, we may find out the answers in the years to come.

Please chip in with your thoughts on legalising drugs, and other related issues.

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