New report says regulating marijuana may reduce harm

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      From taxation to age restrictions, a new report outlines the broad features of a legally regulated market for marijuana that bears many similarities to tobacco and alcohol control.

      The 29-page document, Breaking the Silence: Cannabis Prohibition, Organized Crime and Gang Violence in B.C., is the first of a series by a new coalition of academic, health, and legal experts calling for drug-law reforms.

      Members of Stop the Violence B.C. include Dr. Evan Wood, director of the Urban Health Research Initiative of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

      “Through a strict regulatory public-health approach, we could actually not only undercut organized crime but also reduce the health-related harms of cannabis,” Wood told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview. “There’s a whole science on how to treat different substances, to reduce rates of use. And our greatest success is tobacco.”

      Set for release today (October 27), the report shows how the huge illegal market, both domestic and international, for B.C. bud—estimated at $7 billion a year—has enriched criminal organizations and fuelled violence among gangs.

      It presents regulation as a public-health concept with the objective of starting a serious public discussion about alternatives to marijuana prohibition.

      “Stop the Violence B.C., along with several leading medical and public-health bodies, including the Health Officers’ Council of B.C. and the Canadian Public Health Association, support the notion of ‘regulation’ of cannabis rather than outright legalization,” the report states. “A regulated market for cannabis specifically refers to a legal market for adult recreational cannabis use, with strict regulatory controls placed upon it.”

      It notes that age restrictions similar to tobacco and alcohol regulations could limit access by youth to marijuana. Days and hours of sale can also be limited, like those for alcohol. Bulk sales may likewise be regulated to prevent diversion to minors. The report cites the practice in the Netherlands, where buyers can purchase only up to five grams.

      To limit public-nuisance issues related to weed use, the report points to the Dutch coffee-shop model as a way to restrict open consumption. It also suggests the imposition of severe rules prohibiting driving or operating machinery while under the influence.

      “Strict regulations on marketing and product branding would reduce exposure to advertising, which is known to affect rates of alcohol and tobacco use,” the report states.

      Purchasers could be issued prescriptions or permits, much like those being used in medical-marijuana dispensaries.

      “Taxation (i.e., increasing consumer price barriers) has been shown to affect levels of alcohol and tobacco use and could be applicable to cannabis,” the report also notes.

      Marijuana regulation also makes good economic sense. The report cites estimates of potential new revenue in California of between $990 million and $1.4 billion annually. It also states that nationwide regulation of cannabis in the U.S. would save $44.1 billion per year in law-enforcement expenses.

      In the interview, Wood pointed to another potential benefit. “We currently have this sort of forbidden-fruit phenomenon with cannabis being illegal,” he said. “And many people believe that young people are attracted to use cannabis for exactly that reason: because it’s illegal. A strict regulatory public-health framework that takes away the glamour out of it, that’s another mechanism through which we might be able to reduce rates of use.”

      The coalition also released results of a poll taken last month by Angus Reid Public Opinion showing strong support among British Columbians for taxing and regulating adult use of marijuana. Sixty-nine percent agreed that going after producers and buyers isn’t effective.

      “British Columbians are saying that they would prefer that we have a shift in drug policy,” UVic professor and coalition member Susan Boyd told the Straight in a phone interview from Vancouver.

      The study also addresses the question of whether or not regulation will increase the use of marijuana. It points to Portugal, where all drug consumption was decriminalized in 2001. The paper states that the rate of cannabis use in Portugal remains among the lowest in the European Union.




      Oct 27, 2011 at 9:42am

      All you need to do is watch the doc "Prohibition" by Ken Burns, and substitute "alcohol" for "pot" to understand the situation we are in today.


      Oct 27, 2011 at 11:34am

      Repealing federal prohibition of marijuana WILL reduce harm. There is a way to ensure the federal government doesn't raid anymore medical marijuana dispensaries. We need to remove its power via legislation. Pass H.R. 2306 and limit the federal government's power to enforcing only cross-border trafficking. Regardless of how you stand on the marijuana debate we can all agree it should be left up to the states and the federal crackdown is an abuse that Colorado should not have to tolerate.

      Tell your representatives ->

      "[Prohibition] attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes." - Abraham Lincoln


      Oct 27, 2011 at 12:01pm

      Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family member’s home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants for their aches and pains. It’s time to stop putting our own family members in jail over marijuana.
      If ordinary Americans and Canadians could grow a little marijuana in their own back yards, it would be about as valuable as home-grown tomatoes. Let's put the criminals out of business and get them out of our neighborhoods. Let's let ordinary Canadians and Americans grow a little marijuana in their own back yards.
      Americans: We can contact our Congressperson and Senators at to discuss HR 2306, the bill that would repeal Federal prohibition.
      Canadians: We can contact our Members of Parliament at
      And a big THANK YOU to the courageous, freedom loving legislators, governors, and countless others who are working so hard to bring this through! You’re doing a great patriotic service for all of Canada and America!

      Owen Marmorek

      Oct 27, 2011 at 3:53pm

      Jesus wore long hair, a beard and sandals. Need I say more?

      james green

      Oct 27, 2011 at 8:04pm

      I do not agree with Larry Campbell on much but he is right about pot.
      Legalize it, tax the hell out of it and educate about it and stop thinking prohibition works. Lives are ruined, gangs kill because of it, crime is up because of the laws and the demand stays strong.
      Making pot illegal only serves the criminals and takes up a massive amount of police time that could be spent serving and protecting us in our communities.


      Oct 28, 2011 at 3:24pm

      OK now if everyone can just be patient and wait to smoke until the law passes. I promise to destroy all my cannabis...of course I will cycle it through my lungs in the process.
      I don't agree with taxing the "hell" out of it like one of the others mentioned. That would simply put it back into the black market again. Taxing is fine but it needs to be affordable.

      david william dickinson

      Oct 29, 2011 at 7:11pm

      As the only harm from cannabis is getting busted, legalizing it will remove the only harm. From the point of the individiual, he or she is being punished for having done no wrong. From the point of view of society, the harm is purely financial. It's a ridiculous waste of taxpayer's dollars. So, by legalizing marijuana, we'll save taxpayers billions. This is all the "harm reducton" needed. We don't tax people for growing their own vegetables or herbs, so why should we tax them for growing weed? (And why is it called "weed"?) On the othe hand, we need to regulate alcohol (limit the hours it is sold, etc.) because, unlike cannabis, alcohol actually is harmful -- it's lethal in overdose, physically addictive, and causes violence. What's the adverse effect of smoking too much marijuana -- you might laugh too much???