Legalization of Marijuana: The Current Situation

Scholars are increasingly exhibiting interest in matters concerning marijuana legalization especially considering laws related to healthcare. The increments in interest emanate from concerns that legalization of this drug is not in alignment with existing health-related laws according to the federal government (Kilmer et al., 2010). According to Hopfer (2014), the government has failed to fully support legalization because few studies have been conducted to prove its medicinal worth. Nonetheless, medical legalization of this particular drug is increasingly gaining support. A recent study conducted by Caulkins et al (2015) actually indicates that 73% of American citizens support legalization. This percentage is inclusive of 80% Democrats, 67% Republicans, and 69% Independents (Wilkinson et al., 2016). In countries like Canada, the government is currently seeking to work out legalization frameworks that satisfy both healthcare laws as well as the need to control and limit access. This means that existing laws in healthcare related to marijuana require amendment. Such a perspective recalls the question of who, how, and what current regulations negatively impact, and why such laws require amendment.

According to Hopfer (2014), medical legalization of this drug will eventually lower deaths caused by opioid painkillers. This means that failure to execute legalization and make the necessary law amendments will affect people that have to depend on this category of painkillers subjecting them to deaths emanating from the opioid epidemic (Blake & Finlaw, 2014). Since most of the opioid dependents are adults, current regulations hampering legalization will negatively affect the family institution leaving homes without bread-winners. Eventually, societies and nations will suffer economically having lost citizens that contribute to economic success. Notably, marijuana is proven to have the capacity to treat chronic pain (Kilmer et al., 2010). Since the drug is incapable of causing deadly overdoses as is the case with opioids current regulations if allowed to continue without amendment will deny millions of people the joy of living lives that are free from pain. This will have a negative impact on the joy of families and societies. Since people that are consistently disturbed by pain cannot produce the required levels of output in their places of work national economies will also suffer harm. As such, existing regulations need amendments to avoid distress at the individual, family, societal, and national levels.

Problem Source and History

The problem of slow response to legalization got the way it is as a result of a legislation that was passed in 1970. In this particular legislation, possession of the drug from federal law standpoint became illegal. However, in passing the legislation formation of the Controlled Substances Act failed to take into consideration the fact that marijuana could be useful for both recreation and medical purposes (Galston & Dionne Jr, 2013). According to Caulkins et al (2015), the problem of legalization has remained a controversial and weighty undertaking because this law determined that the drug exhibits high abuse potential and had no use in the medical arena. This explains why the problem has persisted. As Hopfer (2014) further explains, marijuana legalization has remained a controversial issue because policies developed to speed up legalization often contradict with the federal law instituted under the Controlled Substances Act. Later in 1996, voters in the California state went ahead to approve Proposition 215, which caused the drug to be legalized based on medical usefulness (Davis et al., 2016). Nonetheless, due to the existing federal law legalization could only be implemented at the level of states.

However, it is also important to note that problems encountered while attempting to legalize this drug had started way back in 1937. At this time, regulatory policies were authorized by the Congress in the form of the Marijuana Tax Act (Kilmer et al., 2010). From this time, the drug was treated by federal law as illegal regardless of the purpose of possession. Later, in 1952, the government took on more stern measures through the Boggs Act, which encapsulated stiff and mandatory sentencing for marijuana-related offenses (Kilmer et al., 2010). The history of federal laws related to this particular drug thus explains why the problem of legalization has persisted to the present day.

Creation of a New Statute

The problem at hand requires a multi-faceted statute that will result in a more ideal state in healthcare. This new statute will cover four key areas whose neglect has made it impossible to deal with existing regulations that oppose legalization. Such a perspective emanates from the fact that unless new statutes challenge grounds upon which federal governments oppose legalization there will be no progress in the agenda.

The first key component of this new statute will seek to enforce the protection of young adults from access and abuse. According to Covey, Wenzel, and Cheer (2015), marijuana legalization would have been easier if state-level policies took into consideration the fact that marijuana is easily accessible, and legalization would endanger youths. As such, this facet of the new statute would come up with age minimums required for legal access as well as prohibit the sale of products containing marijuana by unauthorized parties (Caulkins et al., 2015). More importantly, this facet of the statute will encompass education and enforcement (Galston & Dionne Jr, 2013). This means that the statute will have to encompass the role of provincial administrations to help enforce specific directives. In addition, educative campaigns will help enforce the statute by targeting youths in each state.

The second facet of the new statute will help align legalization to established public health and safety requirements (Caulkins et al., 2015). Consequently, clauses included will oppose impaired driving and exposure. From such a perspective the new statute will prohibit people from driving while under influence of the drug. Consequently, this clause of the new statute will be designed in such a way as to prevent health hazards emanating from vehicle or machinery use. In addition, better healthcare echelons will be achievable since this facet of the statute will align with tobacco smoking rules to limit public exposure in public spaces (Blake & Finlaw, 2014). This is necessary because legalization should not infringe the rights of people that do not desire to use the drug. As suggested by Hopfer (2014), the statute will also include limitations in matters concerning outdoor signage to ensure that advertising is prohibited to specifically authorized agencies.

The third aspect of this statute will help inform citizens concerning the product and recommended uses. Specifically, this facet will focus on communicating with the public through marijuana product labels. It will be compulsory that all products made out of the drug include health-related warnings, messages about harm reduction, and contraindications (Davis et al., 2016). More importantly, this part of the new statute will enforce training to ensure that sales staff dealing in marijuana and its products have the capacity to educate their customers. Additionally, this third clause of the statute will incorporate the need to develop mandatory and comprehensive strategies to help consumers differentiate between disallowed and harmful marijuana products and those that are not certified by authorities (Wilkinson et al., 2016). Moreover, this facet will encompass strict laws to govern marijuana-related adverts. Specifically, promotional activities will be required to describe to the public the merits and demerits of consumption. Such a perspective borrows from an opinion provided by Covey, Wenzel, and Cheer (2015) that states that dealing with marijuana legalization need to be stringent concerning evidence-based health adverts to ensure that people have sufficient and reliable information before they opt for marijuana and its products.

Finally, the statute will encompass establishment as well as enforcement of strict production, sales, and distribution systems (Galston & Dionne Jr, 2013). According to Blake and Finlaw (2014), federal law will remain an insurmountable obstacle as long as legalization agendas do not recognize the need to have federal authorities oversee marijuana production and distribution. Incorporating this third facet in the new statute will also ensure that citizens consume quality marijuana and related products that have been tested and approved.

Statute to be Changed: The Controlled Substances Act

From the perspective of an advocate for marijuana legalization, the Controlled Substances Act that came into effect on 1972 (Caulkins et al., 2015) should be changed in order to make room for a more perfect healthcare world. Notably, this particular statute has made it difficult for legalization to take place since it officially allowed the federal government to prohibit the use of the drug under any circumstances. As such, as the statute is in its current state legalization remains an uphill task because the statute does not recognize the fact that marijuana is helpful in the medical arena. It is also important to note that this statute came into existence because there was no medical proof at the time to suggest the usefulness of the drug from a medical perspective (Kilmer et al., 2010). Consequently, this law should be altered in light of medical discoveries that have taken place since its inception. According to Davis et al. (2016), marijuana has proven useful in reducing prescriptions associated with opioids resulting in reduced cases of overdose deaths. Therefore, altering this statute will create room for improvements in the medical arena. Further evidence suggesting the need to amend this particular statute indicates that in states where the drug has been legalized rates of opioid prescriptions have declined by approximately 6.8 percent (Caulkins et al., 2015).

Implementation of the statute change

The required change in the statute will be implemented by creating structures to exert control over the marijuana business from production to sales. However, such changes cannot become a reality without the involvement of the Congress. This means that organizations and individuals advocating for legalization will have to find means of exerting more pressure on Congress to have them reconsider the statute in light of recent health-related discoveries (Dilley et al., 2017). Consequently, healthcare institutions must be involved to give more credit to arguments made by legalization advocates. All of these three parties must take the responsibility of creating and suggesting systems that provide the government with an assurance that it will have complete oversight over the processes of production, sales, and distribution (Caulkins et al., 2015). Nonetheless, even with the contributions of advocates, health institutes, and Congress opposition is likely to surface.

One of the expected sources of opposition is the government. According to Hajizadeh (2016), the government will always oppose legalization because there are not enough studies to provide sufficient evidence that marijuana is actually beneficial from a health perspective. This means that the barrier of insufficient medical evidence will have to be overcome in pursuit of marijuana legalization. Notably, this is a huge obstacle in light of the fact that the harms caused by the drug have already been proven whereas medical benefits are still under trial (Caulkins et al., 2015). Availability of such information, therefore, indicates that the government will be justified in opposing legalization. In addition, the opposition is likely to arise from professionals in the medical field as well as health institutions. According to Blake and Finlaw (2014), more than 53% of American medical professionals believe that there is currently insufficient evidence to suggest that cannabis can enhance health well-being when legalized. This presents the obstacle of uniting the medical front to help amend the statute in question.

Nonetheless, changing the statute will require these obstacles to be overcome. One of the best ways in which the barrier of insufficient evidence can be overcome is by urging the government to invest heavily in data collection. As Hajizadeh (2016) opines, unless the government decides to invest in extensive research to acquire information relevant and vital to determining alteration of existing statutes the legalization dilemma will be perpetuated to succeeding generations. This means that legalization advocates, health institutes and professionals must form a joint front to explain the need for resources for the sake of providing information relevant to statute amendments as far as marijuana legalization is concerned. As such, the obstacle presented by insufficient evidence can be dealt with by convincing the government to invest proactively having in mind a joint public health perspective (Dilley et al., 2017). Notably, such an investment approach will as well require parties concerned to advise the government in matters concerning priority investments that can help acquire a range of evidence touching on treatment and planned responses in cases of problematic use (Covey, Wenzel & Cheer, 2015). Additionally, this hurdle can as well be combatted by means of multiple-sector collaboration to push the government to proactive investment in marijuana medical use and related outcomes.

The second obstacle entrenched in uniting the medical front to help amend the statute can be solved by dealing with the issue of occupational health safety (Covey, Wenzel & Cheer, 2015). According to Hopfer (2014), health institutions and medical professionals have fallen apart as far as the issue of marijuana legalization is concerned because they are divided into the lines of occupational health and safety. Simply, this observation means that the majority of them are concerned about the lack of strategies to ensure that consumers will not affect workplace productivity and health-related guidelines. As such, medical institutions and health professionals can be brought together to help amend the statute by designing strategies to cater to health matters and productivity in places of work.

References

  1. Blake, D., & Finlaw, J. (2014). Marijuana legalization in Colorado: Learned lessons. Harv. L. & Poly Rev., 8, 359.
  2. Caulkins, J. P., Kilmer, B., Kleiman, M. A., MacCoun, R. J., Midgette, G., Oglesby, P., … & Reuter, P. H. (2015). Considering marijuana legalization: Insights for Vermont and other jurisdictions. Rand Corporation.
  3. Covey, D. P., Wenzel, J. M., & Cheer, J. F. (2015). Cannabinoid modulation of drug reward and the implications of marijuana legalization. Brain Research, 1628, 233-243.
  4. Davis, J. M., Mendelson, B., Berkes, J. J., Suleta, K., Corsi, K. F., & Booth, R. E. (2016). Public health effects of medical marijuana legalization in Colorado. American Journal Of Preventive Medicine, 50(3), 373-379.
  5. Dilley, J. A., Hitchcock, L., McGroder, N., Greto, L. A., & Richardson, S. M. (2017). Community-level policy responses to state marijuana legalization in Washington State. International Journal of Drug Policy, 42, 102-108.
  6. Galston, W. A., & Dionne Jr, E. J. (2013). The new politics of marijuana legalization: why opinion is changing. Governance Studies at Brookings, 1-17.
  7. Hajizadeh, M. (2016). Legalizing and regulating marijuana in Canada: A review of potential economic, social, and health impacts. International Journal of Health Policy and Management, 5(8), 453.
  8. Hopfer, C. (2014). Implications of marijuana legalization for adolescent substance use. Substance Abuse, 35(4), 331-335.
  9. Kilmer, B., Caulkins, J. P., Bond, B. M., & Reuter, P. H. (2010). Reducing drug trafficking revenues and violence in Mexico. Rand Corporation.
  10. Kilmer, B., Caulkins, J. P., Pacula, R. L., MacCoun, R. J., & Reuter, P. (2010). Altered state?: Assessing how marijuana legalization in California could influence marijuana consumption and public budgets. Santa Monica, CA: Rand.
  11. Pacula, R. L., & Smart, R. (2017). Medical marijuana and marijuana legalization. Annual Review Of Clinical Psychology, 13, 397-419.
  12. Wilkinson, S. T., Yarnell, S., Radhakrishnan, R., Ball, S. A., & D’Souza, D. C. (2016). Marijuana legalization: impact on physicians and public health. Annual Review Of Medicine, 67, 453-466.
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