Originally published in 2016
Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, spoke at an economic conference in early June and provided very sound reasoning for marijuana legalization: Marijuana legalization is what’s best for the children of Canada. It sounds like a shocking statement, but Trudeau explains legalization should not be thought of as tax revenue builder or a window into a new industry, but as an act of safety. His ideas focus on two simple principles—that legalization will decrease the access that young people have to marijuana and that it will prevent billions of dollars from flowing into the hands of gangs and drug cartels.
Protecting Teens Through the Legalization of Marijuana
Canada’s already ranked number one in the availability of marijuana to the underage population. Trudeau believes that through regulation and control of marijuana, it’s possible to make it harder for young people to obtain cannabis. His argument is that the legalization of marijuana won’t increase access to marijuana. Rather, if it’s taken off the streets and put into stores, teens will have a more difficult time getting their hands on the plant.
Trudeau’s belief that legalization will reduce teen marijuana use does seem to have merit. A Washington University School of Medicine study showed that the number of teens with marijuana-related problems, dependency or trouble with family and school due to cannabis, fell by 24% between 2002–2013, during which 13 U.S. states legalized medical marijuana. The overall number of teens using marijuana fell as well. After recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado and Washington, U.S. federal data showed no significant increase in marijuana use among teens year over year.
Keeping Money Out of the Hands of Drug Cartels
Trudeau argues that creating a legal channel for marijuana will put the squeeze on the underground marijuana market. As is the problem that often results from prohibition, the industry has been driven into the hands of illegal cartels. Illegal drug cartels promote violence internally and abroad, and they can cause issues with border security. The illegal drug trade also comes with the proliferation of gang violence due to turf wars and rivalries. This is violence that can find both innocents and gang members caught in the crossfire.
Partial legalization has already helped reduce illegal drug trade in the U.S. A kilo of marijuana has dropped $30 to $50 on the black market in the past few years due to the legal cannabis production allowed in that country. Cartels have been hard-pressed to keep up with the quality of domestically produced marijuana in the U.S and in Canada, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s national drug threat assessment. U.S. border seizures have also dropped from four million pounds of cannabis in 2009 to one-and-a-half million pounds in 2015.
Cannabis Legalization Can Do What Prohibition Can’t
Keeping marijuana illegal has only served to magnify many problems. Many of the safety concerns that opponents of marijuana legalization have are coming true while marijuana remains illegal. The increased regulations provided by legalization will improve the safety of countries as a whole. With the addition of a possible decrease in availability for the under-aged population and the reduction of money moving into illegal industries, marijuana legalization looks like the best idea going forward for the future of Canada and the United States.
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