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What is Cannabis Decriminalization and Why Progress Is Still Slow


House leaders, senates, political figures alike are all talking about the decriminalization of cannabis. It still seems to be moving at a snail’s pace. Bills are introduced and then stalled. Those on the side of the law just don’t think we are ready. Just because cannabis has been legalized in a lot of places all over the world, sadly doesn’t change what people may think of the drug.

Even the use of medical marijuana is currently legal in 12 states, including California. But federal laws, which can override those of the states, still classify cannabis as a highly addictive substance with no medicinal value, thereby rendering the use, sale, and cultivation of the drug illegal. Knowing the countless benefits medical cannabus holds for so many makes it crucial that the federal government catches up with what’s in the rest of the country.  

Structural and societal changes would be needed before any decriminalization could be made, is what some who feel we aren’t ready for drug decriminalization have to say. All levels of government and stakeholders would have to establish regulations for issues such as the use of drugs in public spaces, the use of drugs in areas near minors, discarded needles or other debris, and public complaints. Until that happens, we may be at a standstill.

The Benifits of Decriminalization

There are many skeptics who have their reasons for not wanting the push for decriminalization, but the benefits speak for themselves. For example, Portugal has decriminalized possession of all drugs back in 2001. Although their consumption hasn’t changed much, disease and overdoses rates are way down and drug treatment rates have increased. Decriminalization would curb the death toll by making sure drug users are not using alone. Other benefits include:

• Saving money by reducing prison, jail costs and population size
• Free up law enforcement resources to be used in other, more pressing areas
• Prioritize health and safety over punishment for people who use drugs
• Reduce the stigma associated with drug use so that problematic drug users are encouraged to come out of the shadows and seek treatment and other support
• Remove barriers to evidence-based harm reduction practices such as drug checking, heroin-assisted treatment, and medical marijuana

What is being done?

Legislation on cannabis has stalled in recent years due to a lack of bipartisan support, but Democrats have been more optimistic this year as they control both chambers of Congress and the White House—and as more states have moved to legalize the drug. A Democratic bill titled the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement Act cleared the House Judiciary Committee last year and would remove the federal prohibition on cannabis, expunge prior convictions and establish a tax on cannabis.

People that are incarcerated for past drug charge offences regarding marijuana should be expunged and many politicians are in agreement with that. Drug possession is the most arrested offence in the U.S. with an arrest every 23 seconds. A new poll shows that more than half of Americans feel that President Joe Biden has made little to no progress on a key campaign pledge to decriminalize cannabis during his first year in office.

Besides decriminalization, he also said on the campaign trail that he’d move to reschedule cannabis and grant clemency to people with federal marijuana convictions — and none of that has happened yet.

The biggest concern out of mouths is the fact that cannabis is labelled as a “gateway drug” There is still not enough data on cannabis use and whether it is a gateway drug to be able to make a decision to decriminalize it. Are we ready, or are there too many things to still consider?


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