Debate about cannabis has taken center-stage across the world after Canada took the bold decision to legalize recreational marijuana on October 17 this year. As people observe events in Canada, the true lessons about marijuana may lie in Europe, the Netherlands in particular. Several lessons are plain to see for those who are willing to observe how the Dutch have handled the issue of cannabis.
Neutral Observation is Important
While Nixon’s government declared all-out war on marijuana and other psychoactive substances, the Dutch opted for another approach. They decided to neither outlaw nor legalize cannabis. They “tolerated” it and observed what it would do to its users and others involved in the “industry”. That observation led the authorities to conclude that marijuana didn’t pose a serious-enough public safety risk to warrant the allocation of law enforcement resources to fight it.
Lesson number one? First observe a substance you are interested in before you make any policy decisions about it. You will rarely go wrong if you take this approach.
Tolerance Disarms Counterculture
Every community will have a group of people that will want to identify with what is illegal. The hippies are an example of a counterculture movement that swept across the U.S. decades ago. The youth are another section of the community that will be drawn to anything illegal “just for just”.
Counterculture has the irresistible “cool factor” attached to it, and declaring a substance illegal instantly gives it a cool factor. See how the U.S. FDA is having sleepless nights due to the explosion in the use of electronic cigarettes by minors.
The Dutch decided to tolerate cannabis, so it was no longer a substance of choice for those who wanted to rebel against society. It wasn’t cool to light a joint. That provides cannabis lesson number two for the world.
Tolerance Limits Criminal Involvement
The Dutch don’t have a huge cannabis black market to gobble up law enforcement resources because “coffee shops” openly sell marijuana to their clients. The government controls how much stock each establishment can have, and it imposes taxes on each gram of cannabis sold.
Law enforcement just steps in once in a while to confirm that the sellers aren’t breaking any of the rules regulating the sale of cannabis. Why would anyone buy from the black market when the same product can be procured openly? Lesson three, criminalizing cannabis will only magnify law enforcement headaches without stopping the criminal enterprises involved.
Science Prevails Where Legalization Occurs
Is cannabis legal in the Netherlands? No. Is it illegal? The answer again is in the negative. Cannabis is somewhere between legal and illegal, it is tolerated. This kind of legal regime has made it hard for the scientific community to study cannabis in the Netherlands. Consequently, the country has very little to show for all its decades of cannabis tolerance. Countries like Canada that legalized medical marijuana may have more knowledge about the plant than the Netherlands where it has been available for decades.
Lesson four? Legalization is the only way through which the scientific community can devote the immense resources needed to conduct studies about cannabis. This fourth lesson, along with the other lessons, may be why companies like ChineseInvestors.com (OTCQB: CIIX) and Choom Holdings Inc. (CSE: CHOO) (OTCQB: CHOOF) would like to see different jurisdictions enacting laws to regulate the cannabis industry so that it grows in a responsible way instead of letting it thrive underground.
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