Federal Government Admits Marijuana Should Be Regulated, But How?

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Some of Uncle Sam’s leading health officials believe the time has come to explore non-prohibition models with respect to national marijuana laws, placing the focus on establishing policies that are rooted in science rather the current political herky-jerky.

An article published yesterday by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the federal health agency responsible for looking into drug abuse and addiction, expressed the importance of allowing science to be the guide in the creation of policies regarding the nation’s marijuana laws.

In the piece, which cites a 2015 report from the RAND Corporation showing more options for marijuana’s end game than just prohibition and legalization, NIDA suggests using the nation’s familiarity with alcohol and tobacco when considering advancements in cannabis policy. 

“Our country’s experience with other legal drugs provides useful lessons for states to consider,” the report reads. “Alcohol is often seen as the most obvious comparison to marijuana, as it is a legal drug with wide range of health and safety risks but also a history of prohibition that is now viewed by most as having been a failure.”

Despite the fact that the federal government went through a leaning curve with alcohol laws, eventually tweaking them in the interest of public health and safety by raising the legal drinking age to 21-years-old, NIDA admits that this attempt at stopping the American population from turning into a wild-eyed legion of boozehounds never really worked out.

“Alcohol remains widely misused in all age groups, is cheap and readily available in most locales, and numerous adverse health and safety outcomes are attributable to it,” NIDA said.

It is for this reason the agency believes that allowing marijuana to be regulated similar to alcohol may not the best option as more states continue to legalize. The article goes on to say that, since the demonization of smoking in general has reduced use, perhaps dealing with the herb in the same fashion as tobacco would be a better approach.

“We have seen continuous reductions in cigarette smoking and corresponding gains in public health for decades thanks to a number of efforts aimed at reducing demand for tobacco products, including significant increases in tobacco taxes, comprehensive smoke-free laws, hard-hitting media campaigns, and offering help for smokers to quit,” the report states.

NIDA believes because some studies have shown marijuana causes an increase in car crashes, brain development problems in children and is addictive, it should be put under the “appropriate regulation” in order to prevent the cannabis industry from further perpetuating the idea that marijuana is a safe drug.

However, the takeaway from the piece is that federal health officials no longer believe a total prohibitionary standard is acceptable when it comes to the cannabis plant.

“At this juncture, there in an opportunity to conduct research on the impacts of marijuana policies now existing in different states and countries, and examine the range of options that have not yet been tried,” the report reads. “Research needs to explore which policy structures—beyond simply prohibition or free market—are most likely to keep harms to a minimum. Where the public health is at stake, policy should be guided by science.”

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