June 20, 2021 3 min read
Discussions about the benefits of legalizing drugs as a whole and marijuana as a particular example, which have become major in recent years, would not be complete without examining the effects of drugs legalization in the places that have already made the decision to legalize them, decriminalize them or tolerate their use.
States that have made the decision to legalize marijuana or decriminalized drugs (e.g. Portugal) are often considered to be ‘bold’ to have made that decision. Legalization of drugs is also often seen as a liberal, if not a too liberal measure aimed at fighting the drug problems that societies face and the criminality which arises from those problems.
The most common reasons to make cannabis legal are that the plant is less harmful than other legal products (e.g. alcohol), that the economy can benefit if the sale of the plant is regulated, thus taxed, therefore, the government can control its use and use the tax money for the benefit of society, and last but not least, weed legality could make it easier for people with certain medical conditions to access the plant, which results to be beneficial to them because it eases their pain or makes them feel better in the condition in which they are. So, what is the actual benefit of legalizing drugs based on the experience of the places that already have legalized marijuana?
IFL Science, quoting a study byAddiction journal1, shows that the illegal drug market is in fact affected by the legalization of marijuana. The effect is evident in two ways – the price of illegal marijuana has dropped and the low-quality marijuana in the illegal market has been reduced. The study has been done gathering data from the U.S. states which have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. The decision to make cannabis legal, then, is not an isolated one, but affects the whole illegal substances market. This is evident from the fact that the potency of heroin, for instance, as well as its price have increased by more than 50% since marijuana has been legalized.
The connection between the legal and illegal drug markets is an interesting one to explore since it is not a frequent occurrence for a substance of this sort to move from the illegal to the legal market. However, the effect of weed legality on the illegal market reveals several things about the players on the illegal market. First, making cannabis legal has resulted in a drop of the amount of marijuana dealt by criminal organizations in the illegal market. Secondly, the fact that criminal organization deal less marijuana also seems to mean that they deal less of other drugs, such as opioids, as the seizures of these have decreased significantly in the states where marijuana is legal.
The simple question to be asked remains: What would happen if all drugs were made legal? Since the legalization of one leads to the drop of the illegal dealing of another, then maybe the legal dealing of all could reduce the illegal dealing of all. Nonetheless, the operations of criminal organization are not to be undermined, nor they can be easily predicted, as Mexico’s long War on Drugs proves. Furthermore, the effects of making cannabis legal need to be examined further and over more time, because the benefits of weed legality, for sure, are not only going to concern the market, but will have a wider social and personal impact.
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