Prohibition Strategy "Fails" and Generates Greater Harm

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March 7, 2013
La República

English Translation

U.S. experts stressed that, on marijuana legalization policy, the world is watching Uruguay.

The specialists underscored that the model of prevention that treats marijuana as a crime is not the right way to implement a communication campaign about responsible marijuana consumption.

According to communications experts from the successful campaigns to legalize marijuana in Washington and Colorado (USA), the strategy of prohibition “fails” in its goals and creates more damage for consumers, their families and society as a whole. "It subjects families to inequalities and compromises the health of users," they said.

In this regard, they highlighted the experiences of the campaigns to legalize marijuana in the states mentioned above, where the legal language for state regulation was based on consultations with various actors and stakeholders in society (lawyers, doctors, etc.) to develop a project that would enable the public to understand that the campaigns were not trying to massively liberalize consumption, but rather to regulate it in a way that will benefit society as a whole and eliminate the “black” market. In this way, product quality can also be improved-- positively impacting the health of the consumer.

The experts noted that Uruguay has the advantage of not having [different] federal and state governments, which will allow it to freely develop action policies in favor of legalization. "The rest of the world is watching what is happening in Uruguay," they stated.

According to the specialists, the key concept in drafting marijuana regulations should be based on finding a way to communicate to the public what the law’s intent is. The last campaigns in Colorado and Washington to legalize marijuana were based on the idea that "money should go to schools and not the cartels".  The experts said that this concept was understood by the public, which shed its fear of the "myth" that legalizing marijuana would mean a marijuana store on every corner.

In Colorado, the recent legislation regarding home-cultivation allows users to grow up to six plants; the number was based on what is permitted under Colorado’s medical marijuana laws.

The price of marijuana in the illegal market is another factor that would be directly impacted by legalization, which discourages trade outside the regulated market. According to the experts, the price of marijuana "has been inflated by the black market"; therefore as more marijuana enters the legal market, more [illegal] trafficking will be discouraged. In the case of Colorado, the price of legal marijuana decreased 25% in the last three years and that trend is expected to continue with the enactment of the new legislation. It is estimated that the price of marijuana would drop 10-fold in a legal framework.

As for the quality of the product offered, Washington has a regulatory body (the same for alcohol and health), which regulates specific standards that must be met by the marijuana that will be offered for sale.

The reality in Colorado is similar in terms of medical marijuana, and a strict control exists on the quality of the product that ultimately reaches the consumer, from seed to final product. Asked about the impact of legalization on organized crime, the experts said that, given the recent passage of the laws in 2012, it is still too early to make assessments about it.

View the article in Spanish.

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