UK cannabis campaigners take note: in the US, change came from under – The Guardian


That can be MedMen, part of a national series of superior bud stores that constitute the normal currently that cannabis is authorised for medical and recreational use in California and 16 additional countries.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, may have pledged to set up an independent commission to research decriminalisation, but to anybody familiar with the largely postponed debate on cannabis in Britain, the proliferation of legal marijuana stores along well-trafficked thoroughfares is an equally exotic and unlikely sight. California is far from a perfect design to follow, not least because of its ferociously complex patchwork of regulations and conditions which vary from city to city, and other states have struggled with their own problems in preparing the infrastructure of some recently legal industry. Having set off down the road toward full legalisation almost 30 years ago, however, America does have some outstanding lessons to supply.

To begin with, contrary to the fears of drug alarmists, the ready access to cannabis products has not been proven to have some substantial effect on crime, addiction or traffic accident statistics. Rather, if established and regulated properly, the legal marketplace brings a formerly clandestine activity into the open and makes it simpler and more accountable.

Second, there’s no virtue in half-measures. Like Britain, most US states started off attempting to limit legalisation to clinical usage. Nevertheless, it was just after Colorado and Washington became the first states to open to lawful recreational usage in 2012 that any meaningful economy appeared to challenge the aged criminal networks.

A medical marijuana marketplace might have been a theoretical possibility, but also in practice government agencies have been reluctant to make one because many of the main decision-makers continued to feel that cannabis was — to use Boris Johnson’s term — a”harmful substance”. At exactly the exact same time, doctors with no instruction in the drug’s uses believed no compulsion to prescribe it, which is precisely what Britain has undergone as giving the green light to clinical usage in overdue 2018.

In a lot of ways, the UK is currently in which the US has been 20 years ago, when the only officially recognised distributor of medical cannabis was, improbably, a lab at the University of Mississippi in the ultra-conservative deep south who proved powerless to battle the long-established dominance of this black sector.

The lab did not manufacture suppositories or dyes or edibles.

A number of them would unroll the joints again to pick out seeds and other extraneous material which didn’t burn smoothly, and even then they complained that the cannabis itself has been of premium quality.

As of the early 2000s, only four individuals were getting this service — out of a public then pushing close to 300 million. Those dismal amounts are broadly in accordance with the findings of a report by a UK cannabis industry team last month which said NHS doctors had issued only three cannabis prescriptions in both years since legalisation, also private-sector doctors had written only a few thousand.

The amount three from around the Atlantic is that the most effective way to break an impasse of this kind is through pressure from under — much as Sadiq Khan is trying to pressure the authorities along with his commission. Building a legal cannabis industry from scratch would be a daunting prospect — considerably harder than it had been, for instance, for the United States to re-regulate the alcohol industry after the end of prohibition in the 1930s — and even governments have a natural propensity to prefer the status quo, yet expressive or unsatisfactory, to plunging into the unknown.

Since the 1990s, the pressure for change in america has come through popular referendums, called ballot initiatives, which have put pioneering states like California and Colorado to a collision course with the national authorities. Among the peculiarities of the US method, in fact, is that although a lot of the country has approved legalisation of cannabis, the national government nevertheless regards it as a controlled substance to be used only in closely defined circumstances. That, in turn, has compelled the new wave of entrepreneurs to run in a weird legal limbo, caught between state and national systems. A number of them are cash only, since the national government sets banking rules, and they are unable deduct most business costs against their federal taxes.

Still, the tide is slowly turning. Industry operators are no more in danger of being raided by federal agents, since they were in the 1990s and early 2000s, and industry lobbyists have been working steadily to unwind the rules.

Which contributes to lesson number four: that even under the very best of conditions the legalisation process is likely to be extended and complex. It’s no coincidence that in California the very observable companies are at the luxury end of this marketplace. Red tape and high taxes have frightened many other operators off, to the frustration of entrepreneurs in lower-income, African American communities which were hit hard by America’s long, punitive war on medication and so are now yearning for some modicum of justice. Instead, they see a black economy continued to flourish.

The point, however, would be to begin somewhere. From the first times, Washington told several nations — just as Downing Street has told Khan — which campaigning for wide legalisation has been a waste of time because they did not set drug policy. If the countries had surfaced, US customers would not have obtained access to this type of high-quality products and expert advice available at MedMen and other outlets. They would still be awaiting their canisters in the University of Mississippi — oreven more likely, scoring their hits on the road.


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