I believe that ultimately, cannabis should be legalised, taxed and in cases where it used for medicinal purposes, proscribed in favour of more costly and potentially more harmful synthetic medications. Although I am personally against the use of all drugs, marijuana’s effects tend to be far less impactful than that of alcohol, a narcotic that is widely available in most countries in the world with only a few exceptions. Furthermore, as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte stated, medicinal marijuana can be far more beneficial to those in pain than opiates which are far more costly and far more detrimental to the human condition.
This of course does not mean that I am in favour of healthy people smoking cannabis and as such, those opposed to cannabis use but who for economic, pragmatic and medical reasons are in favour of its legalisation, are best placed to shape the way in which it is legalised, bearing in mind that its legaliastion seems to be an inevitable (however gradual trend). Those who enjoy marijuana for recreational purposes are in a poor position to rationally argue for its legalisation. Instead, such individuals readily expose themselves as trying to shape the political debate to suit their personal interests. Although shaping political debates for one’s personal interests is incredibly common in all countries, it should nevertheless be minimised whenever possible.
As such, any country that appears to be on the verge of legalising cannabis (as the US federal government may well be after recent legalisation moves in individual states), must seize the opportunity to simultaneously crack down on the normalisation of both cannabis and alcohol, as well as other products that are traditionally seen as socially harmful. Just because something is legal, does not meant it should be promoted as normal. Likewise, just because something is outlawed (such as smoking cigarettes in an adults only restaurant), it does not mean that such behaviour is abnormal.
Thus the following proposals ought to be in place in jurisdictions preparing to legalise marijuana:
1. All shops selling marijuana or alcohol must blacken their windows and remove any large advertising signage
Policy rationale: Shops which currently flaunt their alcohol products and which may someday do the same with marijuana are invading the public space in order to sell something that has negative social consequences. Thus, whilst banning commerce of a legal product is self-evidently impossible, legalisation should entail strict limitations on the product’s visibility to anyone outside of the private property in which said product is being sold.
Similar practices have long been in place for businesses selling pornography.
2. The smoking of marijuana must be banned on the streets, in public parks or anywhere within a 10 km radius of a school or children’s playground.
Policy rationale: Children must be protected from the consciously exploitative practice of marketing narcotics to the broader public whilst children must also be protected from the exploitative practice of seeing harmful substances being “enjoyed” in a normalised environment.
3. All advertisements which directly reference or infer to drug or alcohol use in a positive light must be banned
Policy rationale: One of the best ways to expose the truth about mild narcotics (such as marijuana or alcohol) is by legalising them in order to remove the phenomenon of attraction through mystique. Simultaneously authorities should work to remove traces of their existence from the wider public space. In this sense, those who insist on legally taking a mild narcotic can do so whilst adding value to the public purse, but at the same time, by removing references to the existence of marijuana and alcohol from the public space, many younger people will begin to see legal substances as nevertheless, morally repugnant.
4. Governments shall create no laws banning the smoking of marijuana or tobacco on private property
Policy rationale: In addition to stifling individual liberty, the bans on cigarette smoking on private property have had the perverse effect of pushing smokers out of bars and restaurants and into the streets, parks and thoroughfares. This has made life worse for both tobacco smokers and those who wish to avoid contact with tobacco byproducts.
As such, so long as a private property owner is willing to entertain smokers (tobacco or marijuana) whether in a bar, restaurant private home etc., he or she can do so, so long as no large advertising is used to promote such places as “smoker friendly”. A small sign at the front of an establishment will suffice to alert passers by of a smoking friendly environment. Likewise, a written rather than pictorial acknowledgement of a pro-smoker policy on company websites (for example, a restaurant’s website) will be permitted.
This will help to keep both marijuana and tobacco off of the streets by effectively removing their presence from the streets and bringing them back behind closed doors which is the only place smoking of any kind ever belonged in the first place.
5. Increase alcohol taxation, introduce heavy marijuana taxation and punish black marketeers with capital punishment
Policy rationale: One of the main benefits to legalising marijuana is that it can be taxed rather than sold on the black market. As such, it should be taxed substantially and so too should alcohol. Of course, one argument against this is that even in an age of legal marijuana, high taxation could push the narcotic back onto the black market.
However, one of the reasons that many countries have a thriving marijuana black market is because the penalties against drug dealers are so lax. If anyone found to be selling or cultivating marijuana on the black market would receive a death sentence, it would strongly disincentivise those whose conscience would otherwise have been tempted to engage in criminal activities.
6. Ban the sale of marijuana and alcohol in supermarkets
Policy rationale: It goes without saying that as supermarkets are places in which children and other impressionable individuals often visit, marijuana and alcohol should not be available for purchase in such places. Instead, all alcohol and marijuana should be sold in specially licences shops with the blacked out windows described in section one.
7. All pornography in print form should be made illegal
Policy rationale: When taking on social vice, one should address the problem in the most holistic manner possible. Such opportunities typically only come about once in a generation. Since those who view alcohol and marijuana as acceptable also tend to view pornography in the same manner, legalising marijuana would present an opportunity to at long last crack down on the vestiges of printed pornography.
Since much pornography is already mostly viewed digitally, there is no need to allow for the printing of obscene materials that stand a chance of accidentally passing into the hands of those who are disgusted by vulgarity.
Internet pornography has already led to the closure of most pornographic cinemas and retailers selling printed pornographic material. Thus, banning such things would have a minimal effect on commerce but a major effect on public welfare.
At present, marijuana is legal but considered normal across many societies. What is gradually needed is a policy shift in which the widely used mild substance is legalised and taxed, but isolated from the public space whilst openly condemned as frequently as possible.
This is clearly the way forward given the present facts on the ground.