Real World Ramifications of Cannabis Legalization and Decriminalization

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 8, 2010

    Last week Rhode Island became the fifth state this legislative session to introduce legislation seeking to legalize and regulate the adult use, possession, production, and distribution of non-medical marijuana. Also last week lawmakers in the Hawaii Senate approved legislation seeking to ‘decriminalize’ (replace criminal penalties with civil fines) marijuana possession offenses — a policy reform that now exists in thirteen states.

    Opponents of such liberalization proposals inevitably argue that any efforts toward decriminalizing or legalizing cannabis will adversely impact the public’s use of marijuana and/or young people’s attitudes toward it. Yet regional data gleaned from around the word consistently demonstrates that the imposition and enforcement of harsh criminal marijuana penalties do not dissuade cannabis use, and moreover, that criminalization is an objectively ineffective public policy.

    To better educate lawmakers, opinion leaders, and our own constituents of this consistent, comprehensive, and growing body of scientific literature, NORML has authored the following white paper, Real World Ramifications of Cannabis Legalization and Decriminalization. This paper reviews dozens studies that have examined this issue in regions that have either:

    a) regulated marijuana use and sales for all adults;

    b) decriminalized the possession of small quantities of marijuana for adults;

    c) medicalized the use of marijuana to certain authorized individuals; or

    d) deprioritized the enforcement of marijuana laws.

    NORML’s paper also proposes general guidelines to govern marijuana use, production, and distribution in a legal, regulated manner.

    Based on the multi-decade experiences of various states and nations that have enacted various versions of marijuana decriminalization and/or legalization, NORML maintains that:

    1. Strict government legalization/regulation of marijuana is unlikely to increase the public’s use of marijuana or significantly influence attitudes.

    2. Decriminalization is unlikely to increase the public’s use of marijuana or significantly influence attitudes.

    3. Free market legalization of marijuana without strict government restrictions on commercialization and marketing is likely to increase marijuana use among the public; however, given that the United States already has the highest per capita marijuana use rates in the world, this increase is likely to be marginal relative to other nation’s experiences.

    You can read the entire paper online here.

    Spread the word…

    49 responses to “Real World Ramifications of Cannabis Legalization and Decriminalization”

    1. Rick says:

      I was under the impression that Canada hand the highest per capita use. Oh well. Have a good day

    2. I once heard that Cuban cigars are only so appealing because they are illegal, and this makes their demand go up. The same is true for marijuana, and if we actually made it legal, then that appeal would just diminish.

      You are right that legalizing marijuana wouldn’t necessarily make the use go up. As it stands right now, since marijuana is VERY illegal, there is a high demand on the black market. If we legalized it, then this black market would have it’s own recession.

      Even if marijuana use did go up, then so what? I don’t care if you light up a doobie…

      Interesting article. Keep up the great work!

    3. […] original post here: Real World Ramifications of Cannabis Legalization and … Share and […]

    4. Paul Revere says:

      The sky is truely falling. Isn’t it. 😉

    5. Lea says:

      Thank you Paul. One last effort to persuade my Chiropractor with your paper. Then I have to give up and seek out another contact.

    6. Black Pete says:

      I have long experienced the ill effects of marijuana being illegal. If not for that, it would not draw the user into the illicit world of heavy narcotics such as cocaine or methamphetamine. Simply put- marijuana COULD lead to heavier drugs simply because it is illegal WITH those drugs. If they sell soda and you buy a burger, at some point you are going to be offered to buy a soda. Apply this drug metaphor at your discression.

    7. Alex says:

      Just imagine how much legislation on there by the end of 2010. Does anyone else think the marijuana debate is increasing exponentially? Thoughts?

    8. 420 says:

      Can someone please explain to me why everyone likes decrim. Decrim is not good the cops still take your stash and if they keep on bagging you you still end up in court or jail. Away with decrim in with legalizing TWO TOTALLY DIFFERENT THINGS CANT EVEN USE THEM IN THE SAME SENTENCE NORML START EXPLAINING DECRIM BETTER TO PEOPLE

    9. Jed The head says:

      My hope is that this paper will be read and people will finally understand that this plant and the people that use it are not the enemy. We simply seek relief from what ails us or would like to relax with something that doesn’t eventually kill us. Is this to hard to understand? What happened to our constitutional right to Life,Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness? Who gave the government the right to arrest me for consuming anything? Does the government own our bodies? Can the ban us from consuming anything the see fit? What’s next high fructose corn syrup or high fat fast food.

    10. A Concerned American Citizen says:

      We can all do our part right now to cast a vote for legalization right here…


      It only takes a few seconds.